Recensions et comptes rendusPhilosophie

John C. Médaille and Thomas Storck, Theology: Mythos or Logos? A Dialogue on Faith, Reason, and History. Tacoma WA, Angelico Press, 2020, 178 p., 13,9 × 21,5 cm, ISBN-13: 978-1-62138-663-6

  • Matthew Allen Newland

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  • Matthew Allen Newland
    Adjunct Faculty, Humanities Department, State University of New York at Jefferson

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Cover of Lonergan, Ethics and the Bible, Volume 75, Number 1, January–April 2023, pp. 1-155, Science et Esprit

In this book, the authors John C. Médaille and Thomas Storck take it upon themselves to carry on the discussion, with Médaille taking up the unenviable task of defending Euthyphro (as Euthyphro himself was not up to the mark). Over the course of their correspondence (the 16 letters which comprise the book, along with the full text of Euthyphro, included at the end as an appendix), the discussion continues. Theology: Mythos or Logos? is interesting as an epistolary text, a contemporary dialogue between two more evenly matched minds; while Euthyphro himself lacked the ability to respond effectively to Socrates’ questions on the spot, the format of this book allows both participants to respond at length, and with deliberation, each taking the time to think carefully about the other’s words before responding. The discussion begins with Médaille offering an understanding of theology based, not on reason, but on some other form of experience. Médaille notes the drastic difference between the objects of worship and the gods of philosophy; after all, “[h]ymns to the pure ideas are rather rare, and liturgies that invoke the primum mobile are not well attended.” While such ideas of divinity may flow reasonably from logic, they are not the sort which human beings tend to sacrifice to or worship (p. 15). It is through the power of stories, which Médaille says are more fundamental to human understanding than facts, or principles of reason, that gives religion its power or voice, through which the gods (or God) enter into human life. And this is true for all of us, for we all base our lives around stories: “So there are no ‘mere stories’; there are only good and bad stories, better and worse stories” (p. 60). For indeed, what things we count as “facts” or consider “reasonable” depend largely on the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, our world, and its history. Socrates, therefore, is asking the wrong kinds of questions to Euthyphro, and Euthyphro’s failure to respond in terms of Socrates’ questioning comes as a result of his attempt to respond to it “reasonably.” Euthyphro’s real mistake, then, comes from his frustration and eventual departure at the end of the dialogue (“Another time, Socrates; for I am in a hurry, and must go now”) (15e); as Euthyphro himself realizes that his answers are insufficient for addressing Socrates’ questions, and he feels his reasoning to be inadequate. This is not really the case, though; Socrates is asking Euthyphro the wrong sort of question, Médaille says, and Euthyphro fails to call him on this; as a result, Euthyphro responds to Socrates’ irrelevant questions with ineffectual answers. By putting stories as more fundamental to one’s understanding and worldviews than reasons (or “reason”), Médaille finds a way to respond to Socrates’ questions, and defend Euthyphro’s position in more appropriate terms. Médaille sees religious behavior, including prayer, sacrifice, and the incorporation of religious stories into everyday life (rituals and holy days commemorating past or legendary events), as a universal trait of humanity: in nature a world “imbued with life and spirit,” we propitiate it with ritual and sacrifice, giving back to it (p. 133). From before recorded history, this has become a universal part of our relations with the world, a shared aspect of our many mythology narratives, by every culture, “in one form or another” (p. 133). But Médaille notes that this personal, relational response to nature/spirits/the gods/the sun/whatever object of worship, is revered by any particular culture and is not a product of reason or rationality; the abstract idea of God found in philosophy (the proofs for God’s …