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Fall 2003 · Vol. 32 No. 2 · p. 249 

Reader Response to David Faber

Duane K. Friesen

Response by Duane Friesen to David Faber’s review of Friesen’s book, Artists, Citizens, Philosophers: Seeking the Peace of the City (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2000).

I thank David Faber for his review of my book in the spring 2002 issue of Direction (31/1, 110-12). There is, however, a major misunderstanding to which I would like to respond.

Faber claims that the book is “marred by Friesen’s use of the theology of Gordon Kaufman to ground his account,” namely Kaufman’s Kantianism. Faber does not adequately take into account how I distinguish myself from Kaufman. I do agree with Kaufman that our language about God is human symbolic language and that, therefore, we need to be aware of our limits when we speak about God. But that does not make me a Kantian. Contrary to what Faber says, I do believe that God is real (not just a human construct), and that God is a personal reality whom we can know and experience. Faber does not discuss in his review the fourth chapter on the Trinity where I refer to God as a transcendent, loving, and creative power in the universe, hardly a Kantian view of God.

Even more important for readers to understand me is that they see how my book stands over against Kant in two very fundamental ways:

  1. I argue for a concrete, embodied Jesus who is the revelation of God we know as love, and who calls us to a life of discipleship. This is in sharp contrast to Kant who developed an abstract ethic that is known by reason apart from a concrete, bodied Jesus of history. My criticism of H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture (New York: Harper, 1951) is his Kantian, abstract Christology which detaches Christ from history and thus falsely sets up the problem of Christ and culture. A concrete, bodied Christology is the basis for the focal practices that define Christian identity (chapter 5), how Christians generate a political ethic from a concrete vision of the church (chapter 7), and the framework for “witness” to people of other faiths (chapter 8).
  2. I emphasize that the Christian faith is rooted within an historical particular community, the church, over against a Kantian rationalistic universalism which abstracts faith from historical particularity. As Glen Stassen points out in the foreword: “He [Friesen] develops criteria and a method for validating faith within the limits of historical particularity, as Kaufman would want him to, but he follows Yoder in rejecting Kantian dualisms, Kantian rationalisms and universalisms, and Kantian agnosticism about the content of revelation” (9).

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