According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, July 26, 2013

Phase III - Building a Postmodern Theology that is both Weak and Apocalyptic




Initially entitled:

Comparisons between Postmodern Christianity, Radical and Liberal Theology
 
by R.E. Slater
July 26, 2013
 
As Americans, we have read our view-of-the-world from an American perspective within the pages of Scripture. A perspective that is robust, militant, and rigorously individualistic. So when reading the Bible, or thinking of the God of Scriptures, we tend to believe God as robust (He can do anything as a controlling force in the universe and in our lives); that God is militant (God's truth-and-righteousness will win out as we, His divine minions, bow to His almighty will and rage economic, political, and ideological warfare upon the world-at-large); and God is rigorously individualistic (God will do what God will do, ultimately encapsulated in our conscripted reading of the Hebraic idiom "I AM whom I AM").

Our American churches have likewise acquired this selective method of reading God's Word within its congregations gained from the perspective of all our past wars and industrial feats of technical prowess. Beginning with the American Revolution and proceeding forwards through the 20th century's major world wars, America has shown a commitment to a number of regional warfares waged upon cultures vastly different from our own. Each war demanding newer technologies, more efficient distribution and logistical solutions, and a populace at one with itself in the face of its perceived enemy. In effect, America has been fighting for the human rights, liberties and equality, of not only itself, but for other societies as well, through its democratized republic full of purpose-and-will. Similarly, we have read these primal American idealisms backwards into Israel's Old Testament struggles with her surrounding heathen neighbors as they fought-and-warred with one another over the many, many, long centuries.

Certainly, we do not wish to discount the American ideal of Life, Liberty, and Equality. And indeed, from the reports we've read, many who live beyond America's borders would wish those majestic qualities upon themselves benighted within oppressive countries of totalitarianism, hopeless states of unending abject poverty, and the cruel forms of slavery everywhere abounding. Moreover, we are not so naïve as to disbelieve that these forms of oppression, poverty, and slavery do not also exist within America's borders itself, even though we still tend towards the idealisms of Americanism as expressed by our national motto of Life, Liberty, and Equality for All. And because of its importance to us, these idealisms have also influenced our reading of the Bible, our understanding of God, and how we might conduct ourselves in this world as we  have perceived and constructed it.


Hence, our more popular theologies found within American churches tend towards a high view of Calvinism that emphasizes God's strength, power, and will; an absolutist call of Christ to enforce our perspective of God and Scriptures upon all nations, religions, and faiths unlike ourselves; and a strict humanism that is both secular and individualistic as a means to encompass our views and objectives. Which brings us to the idea of postmodernism. An idea that rejects modernity in its egresses; that disdains the secularity our American churches have embraced; that wishes to temper our view of an all-controlling God in the face of natural disasters which have left us horrified by the suffering left in their wake; that cannot comport with man's wickedness and evil when small children are shot and killed; or, when sex slavery is dismayingly discovered running rampant throughout our American cities; and questions whether we Americans are truly the Masters-of-our-Fate in the strident courses of our business ethics when money and politics are involved.

Postmodernity looks at modernity's shortcomings and says that maybe there is another way. We see that in our kids who have endured two recent Global Recessions (2001-2004 and 2008-2010); lived in a constant state of terrorism and terroristic acts (both within our American homeland and abroad); grew up with the knowledge that American is at war with somebody over something at all times; have seen the failures of their homes broken beneath the weight of workaholic mom-and-dads, domestic abuse and anger, and the shallowness of material wealth; and the results of addictions within a society placing a heavy emphasis on hedonistic behavior. These kids then do something amazing. Something which is totally unexpected by us, their parents, teachers, coaches, civil magistrates, and youth workers. They become unlike us. They center on the truer values of ethics again. They reach out in compassionate projects of service to those in need. They see the circus of career, job and dollar, and ask if whether life might offer more than these things. They show to us a color-blindness towards race, gender equality, and same-sex marriage. And they become intensely interested in the ecological health of this world that is burgeoning with over-population and the scarcity of resources, time, and production.

Yes, postmodernism is here (and more likely merged into a form of post-postmodernism by now). And yes, with its coming some important questions have arisen as to whether our Americanized view of God and the Scriptures might be a little askew of where they should be for the church today. Thus my interest in producing Relevancy22 beginning in the late spring of 2011. Phase I found my first six months questioning my Evangelic roots as I witnessed well-meaning Christians venting Calvinistic and Reformed views upon Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. It was not pretty and gave me time to reflect and react upon the state of Evangelicalism itself rather than on Rob's book in particular. At which time I chose to balance the subject off by speaking to the themes of God's love (relational theism), arminianism (which emphasizes prevenient grace and human free contra Calvinism), a non-coercive divine sovereignty (as opposed to meticulous sovereignty), missional pluralism (reaching beyond our enculturated gospel) and many other classic doctrines gone askew in the hands of an over zealous Evangelicalism within whose womb I had grown up. It gave me a chance to percolate and become up-to-date with Christianity's more popular forms of expression.

After the first six months I slipped into what I would call Phase II and began writing about a more expansive expression of Christianity that was less sure about things, more in doubt of itself, and more willing to explore supposedly "non-classical" doctrine as it was deemed by those who were clearly laying claim to a very narrow selection of preferred dogmas.... Even though they were just as clearly wrong though I knew it not at the time I began. This was my deconstructive phase where I more-or-less moved towards a form of Emergent, Postmodernism in a re-interpretive (or reconstructive) understanding of God and Scriptures. And which, in many ways, I am still even now pursuing. However, in my continued interest in enlarging my personal and interpretive hermeneutic of Scriptures, I have come to what I might call Phase III of this re-interpretive project to re-write a more current postmodern understanding of God and the Scriptures (that is, a Postmodern Theology if you well).

Hitherto I have written only a few articles about God's weakness (known as "weak theology") and our correspondent responsibilities as followers of Jesus in light of God's preference that His Church now act in His place as His divine substitute, answer, and source of repentance, reclamation, rebirth, renewal, and resurrection . Nor have I written enough (if anything) about eschatology - especially from an apocalyptic angle that is radical and revolutionary (if not even anarchistic to our global societies' posthuman secularisms). Moreover, I wish to continue to explore a kind of anthropologic hermeneutic that synchronizes God's Love and Divine Sovereignty with Jesus' radical presence, death, and ministry through the Holy Spirit. For this I will need to look into Radical Theology as expressed most recently through the past 150 years of German Idealism before mashing it into an Emergent, Postmodern framework of discussion. (By definition, a radical theology is any faith teaching that clashes with the standard faith teaching of the time.... You see this with the prophets in the OT, with Jesus in the NT (John the Baptist, the Apostles, and early Church), and with any believer wishing to speak to the egresses of the believing community. Radical Theology is not new - but in its contemporary forms is always new - as it recalls one-and-all back to God's heart of purpose and living.)
 
Thus, as I have time to research and write, I wish to explore the ideas of Hegel, Ricouer, Heidegger, Tillich, Derrida, Zizek, and Caputo. Now don't be alarmed because even Karl Barth needed to interact with the Continental Philosophers of his day in order to produce his guiding theologies that God had laid upon his hear for the church-of-tomorrow. And having done that, had produced innumerable theologians who have spawned countless workers for the harvest of the gospel. But if we do not think through these issues, than Christianity will become irrelevant to the countless masses of men and women seeking a better spoken biblical theology than the one we are presently seeing in print and in media (mostly what I see disturbs me - thus my passionate articles and blog).

Hence, we have laid before us a worthy task if done right. And if not undertaken, than I'm afraid that we will see some lesser mutations of God's Word become popularized to the harm of Christian orthodoxy's sustainable presence. And yes, it is true, that we will be moving from Christian orthodoxy's Medieval classical expressions of itself (founded upon Greek thought at the time) even as we also move away from its Reformational and Evangelical expressions of itself (founded upon the Enlightenment and later-arising Modernity), to a Postmodern expression for the 21st Century. Thus we will be no less guiltless of interacting with our present world than past godly men and women who had wished to do the same however the spirit we might ascertain. And though creedalism and confessional theology is a bad word among postmodernists, I also realize that we are symbolic creatures that will need help in remembering who God is, and what He intends. Thus, as a historic Christian I do not wish to forgot those past statements of classically-inspired orthodoxy and creedal-sacramental confessionalism, but to build on top of them towards a newer, more contemporary expression for today.

But it will also require a more expansive hermeneutic than the one we presently are witnessing under Evangelicalism's more popularly acclaimed literalistic (if not dogmatic) reading of God's Word that is restricting today's church to time-bound, modernal interpretations of Scripture.... Interpretations that I've reacted to over these past two years to little avail.... But if done right, might allow us to see God better, along with better envisioning God's will for His Church today in this life of ours. While perhaps avoiding the many nuanced expressions of a segmented Christianity fractured by too many conflicted dogmas and stylisms; interpretive preferences and bigoted statements; and generally refusing to embrace the radical reversalisms found in Jesus' teachings and ministries. At least this is my hope as I explore Weak Theology and Apocalypticism for the postmodern orthodox church of the 21st Century.

By God's grace I have awaken from my dogmatic slumber and would wish the same for God's church today as it arises to the conflicts lying within herself and this world's conflicted needs. And by God's grace I wish to begin by re-introducing postmodernism's relationship with radical theology in comparison with liberal theology from a more positivistic plane of biblical discussion than from the more cursed anathemas that the church has heaped upon either. At the last, I am learning not to be afraid of words as I once was taught. For I am finding words to be quite helpful when re-contextualized outside of the phrases of religious men and institutions. Words that can help provide the freedom of expression I could not find earlier until creating mine own. And especially when formed around the person of Jesus and His Word rather than around the extra-biblical dogmas and folklored, Christianized religion I grew up within. It has not been for naught these past two years of writing that I have written about my faith in a more expansive form than formerly presented in mine own life of study, worship, and observation. And if you have not yet had a chance to catch up then mark this date because Phase III has begun as we build towards a postmodern theology that is both weak and apocalyptic and unafraid to rethink what a biblical Christianity might really mean shed of its pretentious statements and debilitating words. Thank you for your consideration.
 
R.E. Slater
July 26, 2013
 



 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Postmodern Christianity
 
from Wikipedia
 
Postmodern Christianity is any form of Christianity which has been influenced by postmodern philosophy. Although it is a relatively recent development within Christianity, some Christian postmodernists assert that their style of thought has an affinity with foundational Christian thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, and famed Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart and Angelus Silesius.
 
In addition to Christian theology, postmodern Christianity has its roots in post-Heideggerian continental philosophy, developed ca. 1960s to present.
 
Some people who eschew the label "postmodern Christianity" because the meaning of the term "postmodern" is frequently debated, even between those who use the label. Therefore some say [who?] it has almost no determinate meaning and, in the United States, serves largely to symbolize an emotionally charged battle of ideologies. Moreover, such alleged postmodern heavyweights as Jacques Derrida and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe have refused to operate under a so-called postmodern rubric, preferring instead to specifically embrace a single project stemming from the European Enlightenment and its precursors. Nevertheless, postmodern Christianity and its constituent schools of thought continue to be relevant.
 
 
Liberal Christianity
Main article: Liberal Christianity
 
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, has an affinity with certain current forms of postmodern Christianity, although postmodern thought was originally a reaction against mainstream Protestant liberalism. Liberal Christianity is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically informed movements and moods within 19th and 20th century Christianity.
 
Despite its name, liberal Christianity has always been thoroughly protean. The word "liberal" in liberal Christianity does not necessarily refer to a leftist political agenda but rather to insights developed during the Enlightenment. Generally speaking, Enlightenment-era liberalism held that humans are political creatures and that liberty of thought and expression should be among the highest human values. The development of liberal Christianity owes much to the works of philosophers Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schleiermacher. Overall, liberal Christianity is a product of a continuing philosophical dialogue.
 
In the 19th century, self-identified liberal Christians sought to elevate Jesus' humane teachings as a standard for a world civilization freed from cultic traditions and traces of "pagan" belief in the supernatural.[1] As a result, liberal Christians placed less emphasis on miraculous events associated with the life of Jesus than on his teachings. The effort to remove "superstitious" elements from Christian faith dates to intellectual reformist Christians such as Erasmus and the Deists in the 15th–17th centuries.[2] The debate over whether a belief in miracles was mere superstition or essential to accepting the divinity of Christ constituted a crisis within the 19th-century church, for which theological compromises were sought.[3]
 
[As an extreme example],the Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson's effort to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.
 
Many 20th century liberal Christians have been influenced by philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Examples of important liberal Christian thinkers are Rudolf Bultmann and John A.T. Robinson.
 
 
Christian existentialism
Søren Kierkegaard

Christian existentialism is a form of Christianity that draws extensively from the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard initiated the school of thought when he reacted against Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's claims of universal knowledge and what he deemed to be the empty formalities of the 19th century church. Christian existentialism places an emphasis on the undecidability of faith, individual passion, and the subjectivity of knowledge.
 
Although Kierkegaard's writings weren't initially embraced, they became widely known at the beginning of the 20th century. Later Christian existentialists synthesized Kierkegaardian themes with the works of thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and Martin Buber.
 
Paul Tillich, Lincoln Swain, Gabriel Marcel, and John Macquarrie are examples of leading Christian existentialist writers, building upon a legacy of neo-orthodox thinkers like Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, who similarly disdained the propositionalism of traditionalist Protestantism.
 
 
Continental philosophical theology
 
Continental philosophical theology is the most recent form of postmodern Christianity. The movement was fueled heavily by the slew of notable post-Heideggerian philosophers that appeared on the continent in the 1970s and 1980s. Groundbreaking works such as Jean-Luc Marion's God Without Being and John D. Caputo's The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida ushered in the era of continental philosophical theology.
 
Radical orthodoxy
Main article: Radical orthodoxy
 
Radical orthodoxy is a form of continental philosophical theology that has been influenced by the phenomenological writings of French Catholic philosopher Jean-Luc Marion.
 
Radical orthodoxy is a style of theology that seeks to examine [and maintain] classic Christian writings and related Neoplatonic texts from a contemporary, philosophically continental perspective. The movement finds in writers such as Augustine of Hippo and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite valuable sources of insight and meaning relevant to modern society and Christianity at large.
 
John Milbank and James K.A. Smith are leading proponents of radical orthodoxy.

[Radical orthodoxy is substantially different from Radical Theology. The former wishes to resurrect classical Christian doctrine in postmodern dress, while the latter wishes to push on beyond classical Christian expression using postmodern thinking and hermeneutics. - res]
 
 
Hermeneutics of religion
 
The hermeneutics of religion is another form of continental philosophical theology. The system of hermeneutic interpretation developed by Paul Ricœur has heavily influenced the school of thought. A central theme in the hermeneutics of religion is that God exists outside the confines of the human imagination. Richard Kearney is a prominent advocate of the movement.
 
Non-dogmatic theology (weak theology)
Main article: Weak theology
 
Weak theology is a manner of thinking about theology from a deconstructive point of view. The style of thought owes a debt to Jacques Derrida, especially in light of his idea of a "weak force." Weak theology is weak because it takes a non-dogmatic, perspectival approach to theology. Proponents of weak theology believe that dominant contemporary explications of theology are inherently ideological, totalizing, and militant. In response, weak theology expresses itself through acts of interpretation.
 
According to Caputo, the distinctive reinterpretive act of weak theology has resulted in the notion of the weakness of God. In the body of thought, the paradigm of God as an overwhelming physical or metaphysical force is regarded as mistaken. The old God-of-power is displaced with the idea of God as an unconditional claim without force. As a claim without force, the God of weak theology does not physically or metaphysically intervene in nature. Weak theology emphasizes the responsibility of humans to act in this world here and now. Because God is thought of as weak and as a call, weak theology places an emphasis on the "weak" human virtues of forgiveness, hospitality, openness, and receptivity. In each of these virtues, a metaphoric "power of powerlessness" is at work.
 
John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo have recently completed works that further develop the idea of a weak theology. Earlier, liberation theologians such as Jurgen Moltmann also dealt with concepts such as the kenotic, or self-emptying nature of God in Christ.