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Penser la creation comme jeu.

By Francois Euve. Cogitatio Fidei. Paris: Cerf, 2000. Pp. v + 408. Fr. 190.

Relying on his backgrounds in theology and physics, Francois Euve of the Jesuit theological faculty at Centre Sevres in Paris offers an ambitious and rich work urging us to rethink the Christian theology of creation within the paradigm of play or game. On his way to treating the specifically theological issue, E. presents a panoramic view of the notion of play in science, philosophy, Scripture, and theology.

While admitting that explicit use of play in the Bible is rare, E. offers long discussions of his central text from Proverbs 8:22-31 as well as from related passages such as the dance of David and the laugh of Sarah. In the New Testament, Christ's parables, always presented enigmatically, also display something of the ludic spirit, urging listeners see creation in a new light. From the Bible, E. goes on to conduct an extensive examination of the notion of play/game in the history of thought, from Heraclitus, Clement of Alexandria, and Maximus the Confessor to Hugo Rahner, Johan Huizinga, and Harvey Cox, with the intention of convincing us that the notion of play offers a worthy model by which to understand the world.

It is precisely this model of play/game that E. thinks is useful in both science and theology. Contemporary science, for example, has moved beyond positivistic models with their Laplacean ideal of mechanistic science, replacing them with paradigms emphasizing the aleatoric and random elements of knowing. Theology, too, should move away from models utilizing dominative, manipulative reason. The theme of play, E. argues, started to disappear with the Scholastics, where, under the influence of Aristotle, the emphasis was on efficient causality. This emphasis led to an image of God as primarily the architect or artisan of the universe, an image that intensified during Baroque Scholasticism with the theological result of a growing distance between the acts of creation and salvation.

The recovery of the notion of play/game should guide current theological thinking because play, as opposed to determinism, is a model allowing suppleness, imagination, freedom, gratuity, and festivity. E. thinks that play is a way to redeem calculative reason in much the same way as Adorno saw art as the only possible way to redeem technocratic thought. Indeed, the model of play should illuminate an appropriate understanding of what theological truth really is. In a world viewed sub specie ludi, rationalism of every kind is overturned, making room for a certain flexibility of theological discourse more acutely aware of the ungraspable nature of its object. With specific reference to creation, E. argues that God should not be thought of, even tangentially, as the Grand Horologer or engineer of the universe. Rather, God is primarily engaged in a relationship with us; God's creation is not a technological production but a gratuitous, salvific act. The notion of play allows the mystery at the heart of creation, as well God's partnership with us in the development of the world, fully to emerge.

Taking account of recent currents in contemporary philosophy of science and theology, E. is a skillful cicerone guiding us on long tours of the notion of play/game in an erudite and well-written book. At the same time, certain reservations should be lodged. Most significantly, efficient causality, which has had a very important role in theology, is virtually always equated with determinism and rationalism. Moreover, E. fails to mount a plausible case against causality and ends by dismissing it rather offhandedly. Little account is taken of the fact that efficient causality ensures that there is some similitudo between Creator and creation, a proportion undergirding significant theological themes, e.g. analogical language. E. speaks at times of a plurality of models, and one could surely supplement the traditional image with the notion of play/game, but E. intends to supplant rather than supplement and ultimately fails to deliver. Second, clearly E. thinks a new image of God must be developed in the light of the model of play. Divine omniscience and immutability must be completely rethought if not jettisoned. Once again, however, E. spends little time examining the traditional attributes and, as with efficient causality, he is more dismissive than disputative. Finally, although E. adduces a wide range of thinkers on the issue of game/play, H.-G. Gadamer is missing from the group. This is surprising since Gadamer wishes to make "play" a significant clue to the kind of ontology he defends in opposition to the transcendental foundationalism of the Enlightenment, a project similar to E.'s own.

Despite these reservations, E.'s well-wrought work merits commendation.
Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.
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Author:Guarino, Thomas G.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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