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The Western philosophical tradition and mainstream Christian theology have a common flaw: both have failed consistently to appreciate poetic truth. Plato proposed to ban Homeric poetry from his utopia, while St.Augustine wished to 'shun the company of poets entirely'. However, nineteenth and twentieth-century philosophy has seen a move towards rejection of this prejudice, pioneered largely by Heidegger and Nietzsche. In this groundbreaking theological work, Andrew Shanks argues that the rebellion of Heidegger and Nietzsche is also deeply flawed and proposes an alternative strategy for reconciling Christian theology with poetic truth. Heidegger's ideal prophetic poet, Friedrich Holderlin, is rescued from the Heideggerian interpretation through being set alongside his equally prophetic contemporary, William Blake, and also alongside Nelly Sachs, arguably the greatest religious poet of the twentieth century. What is Truth forges an essentially new form of 'mythic theology', opening up a fresh approach to the very deepest nature of poetic truth. In a culture where the status of institutional religion is in decline, there is a pressing need for new theological strategies.
Above all, theology needs to seal a new pact of alliance with the very boldest forms of prophetic poetry. In arguing for a fresh 'theological poetics', What is Truth? represents an eloquent and original first step towards meeting these needs.
Andrew Shanks is a Church of England priest in North yorkshire. He is the author of God and Modernity (Routledge, 2000), Civil Society, Civil Religion (Blackwell, 1995) and Hegel's Political Economy (Cambridge University Press, 1991).