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Posted January 10, 2005

Book: A Search for God in Time and Memory
Author: John S. Dunne, CSC
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, pp. 232

An Excerpt from the Book:

A Search for God in Time and Memory is an experiment in religious thought. While Catholic in scope and in historical perspective, it bypasses religious authority and official documents to find its sources in life experiences of individuals. “It is a search, “says John S. Dunn, “which will carry us on quests and journeys through life stories, through hells, purgatories and heavens, through ages of life, through stories of God.”

The quest begins with an examination of one’s own life, with an awareness of patterns of its past and the contingencies of its future. The point of individual departure then is to seek comparison and perspective from the lives of great writers and philosophers, finding resonances between their lives and one’s own and returning at last to one’s own standpoint. It is in this process of “passing over” that one discovers the greater dimensions of man, those which reach beyond the self and the individual life story. This process is ultimately how man “brings time to mind, how he searches through time and memory, for passing over avails him of the time and memory of others, and coming back leaves his own time and memory enriched.

In analyzing the stages of life --- childhood, youth, manhood, and age --- as they appear in modern autobiography, he discovers beneath these life experiences the possibilities of companionship with God in time and “the face underlying all, that of the compassionate God and the compassionate Savior.”

An Excerpt from the Book:

The prime turning point in a life is the point where a man goes over, if and when he does, from God as unknown and uncontrollable to God as Abba. The prior state is simply an awareness of the unknown and uncontrollable, the knowledge of ignorance. The adage “act as though everything depended on you and pray as though everything depended on God” describes what prayer is like before going over. The man controls everything that he can control in his life, at least in the area of his chief concerns, but then realizes that some things are beyond control such as death and circumstance. He fears the uncontrollable, and so he prays. If he were to cease believing in God in this manner, however, he would not change much. He would still act as though everything depended on him; he would merely cease to pray and would consider it impossible to do anything about the unknown and uncontrollable. Going over to a trust relationship with God from either of these states would involve a change that is quite radical. It would mean relinquishing control of his life in the central area, where he cares and where he also is able to exercise control. Looked at from the outside and before trusting, this means, so to speak, “taking a chance” on God, an awful chance. From the inside and in the act of trusting, it means experiencing the trustworthiness of God.

Table of Contents:

1. Time Out of Mind

Bringing lifetime to mind

The quest of the earthly Jesus

Bringing deathtime to mind

The quest of the Risen Jesus

2. The Life Story

Paul and the story of deeds

Augustine and the story of experience

Kierkegaard and the Story of appropriation

3. The Alienated Man

The loss of spiritual meditation

The new Hell; despair

The new Purgatory: Uncertainty

The new Heaven: Assurance

4. The Autonomous Man

The loss of temporal meditation

The new childhood: the Father of Man

The new youth: the unfinished man and his pain

The new manhood: the finished man among his enemies

The new age: the child of the man

5. The Search Through Time and Memory

Life stories and stories of God

Stories of the past: once there was a God

Stories of the present: now there is no God

Stories of the future: someday God will be

Time within Mind