12. 12 November 1985


Dear Nancy,

Thanks for the latest budget; very interesting, promising, encouraging, etc.

   But I don't even agree with your first page. I fear I'm a terrible burden to you. I nodded sagely when I read 'I think you were wiser ...' etc. But when I looked again it said 'I think you were wider!' (i.e. of the mark). Well, save the mark, that's not my view exactly.

   We agree that theology is rational talk about God, or the divine or the like. We agree that talk about attributions, dates and so forth is rational (though I deny absolutely that it is peripheral, as you say). We agree that logical talk is rational though I deny that it can be held a priori not to go far enough – that means you've already decided something or other in advance of the projected investigation).

   But then at some stage – the next, so far as I can see, without intermission or intermediary, we come to Christian theology, which is, I am sure, quite irrational, because it takes for granted that a supernatural (i.e. irrational) religion, a whole supermarket full of incredible merchandise, is worth talking about. Why should anyone buy any of it?

   The 'proofs' of God you mention are Christian proofs, i.e. you 'nave to begin by believing them. It's not acoincidence, surely that they all seem to derive from Thomas Aquinas? Watch out: This is not Christian but Catholic theology! You'll be travelling to Rome instead of Florence.

   I'm sure, on the other hand, that you're right about Bultmann, who surely had to be a Protestant theologian. Of course he's the father in God (alias Nobodaddy) or guru of the Bishop of Durham. And it may well be that there's a great new spiritual resurgence yet to emerge from Christian Existentialism (which gives us much more common ground, by the way, because Kierkegaard, rather admired by me, is literature, a field in which I reckon to be less recalcitrant and more cooperative). This seems to me a likely and lively line to take. However: won't Christians feel that too much truth has been sacrificed, and won't atheists, humanists, etc. feel that too much nonsense remains? If there were good firm ground for an acceptable synthesis, or even a meeting place, this approach could be most rewarding. The practical problem as I see it would be, as regards Christian New Testament belief, why any of it should, or why all of it shouldn't, be demythologised.

   Perhaps you're about to found a whole new movement with something in it for everyone, the persuading of all persuasions. Suggested title: The Complete Mythconception.

  Love as ever, E.