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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

THE WORD ON THE WORD Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology (Clarendon Press) £12.50.

Some books embarrass the reviewer by the poverty of their contents, others by the fact that they seem to offer too much. There is no doubt into which category this work falls: it is so full of insights as to provoke a multitude of reflections. As the subtitle tells us, its subject is the nature of theology, in other words it is an enquiry into the possibility of speaking about God, and into some of the particular difficulties which have afflicted this enterprise in the two centuries since the Enlightenment. It involves a criticism of the way in which theology as an academic discipline has tended to be divorced alike from prayer and from poetic intuition, and of the way in which truth itself has been understood too narrowly as the object of discursive reasoning alone.

In the introduction Andrew Louth modestly suggests that Discerning the Mystery is an essay intended to initiate further discussion. The discussion has already started within the pages of his book. The reader finds himself being drawn into a long and fascinating conversation in which poets meet philosophers, philosophers meet theologians, and theologians encounter historians and literary critics. Claudel, Goethe, T. S. Eliot, Gadamer, Polanyi, Marcel, Lossky, de Lubac, Torrance, to mention only some, all make their contribution. It is a conversation which develops within the pages of the book. In the last chapter we find the author involved in a penetrating criticism of the one-sidedness of part of the earlier stages ...

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