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The discourse between nature and grace finds its linguistic and existential podium in the political condition of human beings. As Caitlin Smith Gilson shows, it is in this arena that the perennial territorial struggle of faith and reason, God and man, man and state, take place; and it is here that the understanding of the personal-as-political, as well as the political-as-personal, finds its meaning. And it is here, too, that the divine finds or is refused a home.
Any discussion of “post-secular society” has its origins in this political dialogue between nature and grace, the resolution of which might determine not only a future post-secular society but one in which awe is re-united to affection, solidarity and fraternity. Smith Gilson questions whether the idea of pure nature antecedently disregards the fact that grace enters existence and that this accomplishes a conversion in the metaphysical/existential region of man’s action and being. This conversion alters how man acts as an affective, moral, intellectual, social, political and spiritual being. State of nature theories, transformed yet retained in the broader metaphysical and existential implications of the Hegelian Weltgeist, are shown to be indebted to the ideological restrictedness of pure nature (natura pura) as providing the foremost adversary to any meaningful type of divine presence within the polis, as well as inhibiting the phenomenological facticity of man as an open nature.
“In this intriguingly diverse reflection Caitlin Smith Gilson ably grasps the new spaces in which all serious and viable theology now operates and has always covertly operated: the space ‘between’ nature and grace, and the space ‘between’ the metaphysical concerned with being, and the metapolitical concerned with cosmic order and morality. She also realizes how it is often literary drama which has been able, as with Calderon, to ‘stage’ these tensions, or a poetic thought like that of Leon Shestov which has been able to insist (beyond ‘philosophy’) on both the unfathomability of nature and upon its ultimate ethical bearing. In order to witness at once to the structure of reality and yet to the good, revelation as truth requires to be ‘staged’ in a Christian polity of ‘chaste anarchy’ that is at once required and yet seemingly ‘impossible.’ Thus, as for both the Russian and the Atlantic margins of Europe, the question of an eschatological Rome is finally, as Gilson so insightfully realizes in the wake of Shestov, precisely what links the seemingly different questions posed by Athens and Jerusalem. Outside this question, given the instance of Christian revelation, there can be no serious pondering of either given reality or divine imperative, and because it lacks this pondering, which discloses the hidden co-composition of ontology with political practice, secularity is unable to recognize itself. Gilson thereby points us towards the only viable future theological agenda, in contrast to any sterile and now faintly ridiculous pursuit of either ‘pure’ doctrine, or the ‘pure’ philosophy of religion.” — John Milbank, Research Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics and Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham, UK
“This is a singular book whose author has an insightful philosophical voice and an engaging theological voice. Caitlin Smith Gilson is intellectually passionate and existentially engaged with themes that spill over the normal academic divisions between theology, politics, philosophy and poetics. It is written with nice touches of irony and humor, and is marked by a very apt sense for citation. More than just a scholarly report on research done by others, it a serious first-order engagement with the matter itself. There is something poetic, rhapsodic, inspired even about this work. At times it communicates to one as something like a song of mindfulness, in both the philosophical and theological registers. Caitlin Smith Gilson’s voice should be heard. Warmly recommended.” — William Desmond, Professor of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium, and David Cook Chair in Philosophy, Villanova University, USA
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