Original Research - Special Collection: A.G.van Aarde Festschrift

Shifting frontiers of transcendence in theology, philosophy and science

Cornelius W. du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 67, No 1 | a879 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v67i1.879 | © 2011 Cornelius W. du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 June 2010 | Published: 11 April 2011

About the author(s)

Cornelius W. du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa


This article dealt cursorily with developments in theology, philosophy and the sciences that have contributed to what one might call horizontal transcendence. The premise is that humans have evolved into beings that are wired for transcendence. Transcendence is described in terms of the metaphor of frontiers and frontier posts. Although the frontiers of transcendence shift according to the insights, understanding and needs of every epoch and world view, it remains transcendent, even in its immanent mode. Diverse perceptions of that frontier normally coexist in every era and we can only discern a posteriori which was the dominant one. Frontiers are fixed with reference to the epistemologies, notions of the subject and power structures of a given era. From a theological point of view, encounter with the transcendent affords insight, not into the essence of transcendence, but into human self-understanding and understanding of our world. Transcendence enters into the picture when an ordinary human experience acquires a depth and an immediacy that are attributed to an act of God. In philosophy, transcendence evolved from a noumenal metaphysics focused on the object (Plato), via emphasis on the epistemological structure and limits of the knowing subject (Kant) and an endeavour to establish a dynamic subject-object dialectics (Hegel), to the assimilation of transcendence into human existence (Heidegger). In the sciences certain developments opened up possibilities for God to act in non-interventionist ways. The limitations of such an approach are considered, as well as promising new departures – and their limitations – in the neurosciences. From all of this I conclude that an immanent-transcendent approach is plausible for our day and age.


transcendence; frontiers of transcendence; filters of transcendence; transcendence in theology; transcendence in philosophy; transcendence in science; Kant and transcendence; Hegel and transcendence; Heidegger and transcendence


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