What caught my eye in deciding to ask the publisher for a review copy was the subtitle. I received more than I had bargained for! At least I confess at the outset: I am not by any means a sophisticated reader in philosophy. Brian Gregor is. Another work that establishes that self-realization firmly is by the brilliant theologian David Bentley Hart, entitled The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (2003).
Enough said. With that disclaimer, I shall proceed with the review.
Chapter 1 begins with the very question of justifying religious faith through philosophy. The question posed is:
How should philosophy approach a reality that claims to be irresolvable scandal for philosophical thinking (p 1)?
The book explores that question with a specific problematic, “whether philosophy can think the cross of Jesus Christ… (p 1) For the cross of Christ is “central to Christian faith as both a historical event and a fundamental figure of Christian discourse (p 1).” The author writes that
Our task will be to consider how philosophical thinking can face the cross honestly, so that it is transformed by the cross rather than transforming the cross in order to fit its philosophical agenda. We are investigating, in other words, the possibility of an authentically cruciform philosophy… What does the cross of Christ – as both a historical event and a figure of Christian discourse – mean for thinking about the human being and what it means to become a self (pp 1 & 2)?
Several further related questions are posed “that will occupy us in these pages (p. 2)” the author avers.
Throughout the book, “two competing accounts of human being, identity, and selfhood. (pp. 2 & 3)” will be held in tension. The sheer particularity of the cross that “claims to be the locus of true self-understanding for the human being (p. 3).” is a scandal par excellence for Jew and Greek. So Gregor asks: "Is the cross a reality that philosophical thought cannot adequately think? If so, what can the philosopher do with the scandalous, unsurpassable, irresolvable reality of the cross?" (p 5)
Gregor asks further, "What does the cross of Christ mean for our understanding of what it is to be human, and to be oneself?" (p 8)
Gregor’s main interlocutors will be philosopher Paul Ricoeur, but with discussions too of Martin Heidigger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Charles Taylor. From the theological side, Dietrich Bonhoeffer will be mainly discussed. Bonhoeffer and Ricoeur make excellent dialogue partners for several reason, claims the author, adduced on page 8. Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Luther are also dialogue partners, along with other Lutheran thinkers.