Response to James M. Gustafson

  • Hans Jonas
Part of the The Hastings Center Series in Ethics book series (HCSE)


A difficulty in commenting on Gustafson’s chapter lies in its more interpretative than positional stance, which allows few clues as to where the author himself stands—what he wishes to be identified with in the theological spectrum he so skillfully and impartially spreads out before us. The choice to interpret the agenda rather than enact it for us is, of course, entirely legitimate, but it leaves the commentator somewhat short on issues to come to grips with. Conceivably, the choice itself, perhaps less than free, might be a matter for comment if it could be taken to reflect the troubled state of theology in our time: its loss of self-confidence and its infection by the prevailing scepticism, histor-icism, cultural relativism, and so on. Some of Gustafson’s own stated “assumptions” seem to point in that direction. However that may be (and such a reading of his reticence may be quite mistaken), the nontheologian and secularist would for argument’s sake have welcomed something more assertive to envy and feel challenged by, something more positive to salute and get his teeth into.


Christian Theologian Trouble State Metaphysical Issue Ultimate Power Positional Stance 
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  1. 1.
    His own illustration of “construing the whole theologically” by Jonathan Edwards’ Dissertation Concerning the End for which God Created the World (p. 191) does not tell me, for God’s “infinite fulness” at which the world, having emanated from it, also finally aims, does not readily define ethical norms.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    I attempted this first in an address to the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1967, entitled “Contemporary Problems in Ethics from a Jewish Perspective”; now included in my Philosophical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), pp. 168–82.Google Scholar

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© The Hastings Center 1981

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  • Hans Jonas

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