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Notes from Emergent Theological Conversation…

January 5, 2008

pvcaxf41h3ca1lpl2acaj92to6cayt0iswca6mj001ca5qa1baca8ptrufcake3z5jcae7qe5ecat1pgrjcaenrga7cavjexc1cawnt9necata6516carq3x85ca9ql8zica5se2csca6uqbh1cajv0c05.jpgI am moving closer to a post on the relationship between U2 and Christendom.  However, I need to take a detour.  Before I explore this relationship (U2/Christendom) and offer interpretive observations, I want to disclose some of the philosophical framework that I am engaging.  To put it in Emergent (post-modern) terms, I am bringing out into the open the conversation I have been a part of (hermeneutical community). 

Here are some of my notes and reflections from the Emergent Theological Conversation that took place at Eastern University last April.  John Caputo (What Would Jesus Deconstruct?:  The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church) and Richard Kearney talked about the conversation between postmodernity and Christianity among other things.  I offer these at the peril of ideas being misinterpreted.  There is always more in the context than can be communicated through chicken scratch notes.  But for what it’s worth, here goes:

 4/17/07

Two questions out of last evening’s session.  Both related to the prophetic postmodern movement–moving past deconstruction to affirmation.

1.)  What does the affirmation look like?  How does it find a footing epistemologically?  If it is rejecting the larger utopian schema/construct of truth (God’s perspective)-how does this stream root the narrative of the flesh and blood God in an earthly realm without becoming universalist? 

2.)  What is the cosmic vision (meta-narrative) of the prophetic postmodern voice?  If nihilism is the bad postmodernism, what is the counter/constructive expression?

Is it more a shift in tone of voice–talking about God’s perspective with less certitude (Fundamentalist posture)… more humility.  More concerned about the expression of it in the realm of material history than in the realm of abstract ideas.  Ethics and politics become more important than dogmatics.  But what can we say about dogmatics?  Do they not provide some orientation to God’s redemptive activity in history?

Anabaptist movement could be described as a movement of the Spirit–deconstructing the encrusted forms and systems that had become idols (in Western Christianity).  How might Anabaptist stream need to be open to deconstruction–bursting through to deeper reality; not fixated on specific incarnated forms in history?

What is deconstruction?

  • bursting through; not a tearing down
  • Hebrew Jesus:  did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.

Luther:  deconstruction of Aristotelian overlay on Christianity…to get back to the New Testament

Heidegger:  get through the hardened crust (meta-physical in which Christianity was encased)

  • to get to the living heart…the pulse.
  • deconstruction of history of ontology.
  • to break something open as to release it

Deconstruction=hermeneutics of the Event

  • moving from monolithic conception of things in a way that dismantles constructs in order to get to (uncover) what’s inside
  • modesty
  • creative paradoxes
  • knowledge of God can never be fixed/fixated

We ourselves (temporal reality) are deconstructed over time.  Jesus deconstructs himself–so he can remain alive.

  • “Who do men say that I am.”
  • resists 3 wilderness temptations (Dostoevsky–Grand Inquisitor, Sevilla)
  • tells Mary Magdalene:  “Don’t hold on to me.”
  • therapist/counselor:  often begins by asking you to tell your story.  First thing they will do is help you to deconstruct your story–where your identity is fixated

The Cross stands in judgement of and destabilizes all institutions.

  • Caputo–the Church (institutional expression?) is “Plan B”
  • The Church is contingent:  they were expecting a very imminent 2nd coming, but got the Church (digging in)
  • Does not mean the Church is negligible or nothing
  • Church keeps systemitizing, codifying, (mortifying) the memory of Jesus

The Event (Jesus/Incarnation of Living Word) is undeconstructable pulse of what is going on–continual construction

  • “On the way”
  • truth that is trying to become true
  • Becoming
  • the notion of Truth is a dangerous idea

Event of Truth:  Truth is never adequately inacted (incarnated), realized in institutions (systems)

Jesus is found in the least of these (Matthew 25)

  • the only thing excluded is exclusivism
  • radical generosity

Postmodernism has taught us that epistemic humility is necessary.  “We see in part, as through a glass darkly.”  We need to acknowledge this.

  • hyper-reality must be uncovered.  It is always illuding our grasp
  • Inbreaking of the Kingdom of God (now–not yet)
  • the Other:  the other of language
  • Deconstruction is the critique of idols…the pretension to righteousness…the having of the Truth (possessed institutionally, systemically)  Like Fr. Demetrius has said many times–we don’t have God in our pocket (we are always uncovering more of the reality of who God is)

Deconstruction is on the side of the Yes…the Amen; not the no

Often Word holds primacy over the flesh; and we don’t even see real (the suffering of real people)

What do we do with the residue of event?  And not reify it into sacred texts…dogma?  (What is the danger of this?  For example–bibliolatry, worshipping the form and missing the substance)

Endless hermeneutics:  finite minds can never grasp the fullness of the real (e.g. 4 gospels)

Paul Riccour:

  • important thinker on religion/hermeneutics
  • basic motiff:  everything is mediated through language and symbols
  • second naivete-after detour
  • hermeneutics of suspicion:  you’ve got to let Marx, Freud and Nietzche into religion to deconstruct and then what is left is real.
  • primacy of action over text

Being and Time, Heidegger (1927):  most important philosophical work of 20th century

  • we are linguistic beings who inherit presuppositions
  • there is no such thing as neutrality of consciousness
  • goal is not to get rid of presuppositions, but to penetrate through more deeply

Anecdote:  Big evangelical megachurch pastor characterizes emergent leaders as dangerous because of hermeneutics of humility.

The postmodern is irresistably post-secular.

  • priority of love and justice over doctrine and dogma
  • new monasticism
  • “on the ground” faith
  • not anti-intellectual
  • robust intellectual inquiry and lived expressions of love and justice (faith)

Trinity is deconstructing

  • perichorises:  lovingly giving place to the other
  • Mary’s womb contains the uncontainable

All religions are pointing to the ultimate undeconstructable reality-Love.  All attempts to get there are provisional and in need of deconstruction. 

Interconfessional hospitality (ecumenical dialogue) is not relativism. 

Question:  Does the Cross deconstruct not only itself, but other religious systems?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. dawn permalink
    January 5, 2008 10:49 am

    Who is Heidegger?

    I found the comment “postmodern is post-secular” helpful.

    And the concept that deconstruction is not “tearing down,” or even getting to the base/foundation of things, perhaps, as I have thought of it. Rather it is the concept of “bursting through” . . . a helpful visual.

    And you ask:

    Does the Cross deconstruct not only itself, but other religious systems?

    If the Event is undeconstructable and all religions are pointing to the ultimate undeconstructable reality-Love – or what happened on the Cross – then using the idea of “bursting through,” then, yes, I suppose this could be concluded??? But not everyone who are part of other religious systems can fully comprehend the Cross initially, because the truth is that we have many constructions which have provided the framework for even our understanding of The Event and The Cross. That is why I am interested in Heidegger – what are his views of ontology. That is where one needs to start to understand the Cross. So, I don’t know, call that a reverse construction? Or maybe further deconstruction (which according to these notes is impossible) I don’t know.

    Either way, some of these notes were helpful and interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reflections on the topic.

  2. January 5, 2008 7:17 pm

    Wonderful notes. Thank you!

  3. January 7, 2008 2:42 pm

    ok, i’ll bite. so what’s with roger clemens?

  4. just an apprentice permalink
    January 7, 2008 2:53 pm

    Joe,
    Just wondering if the perceived legacy of said pitcher is real, or if it is an illusion that needs to be deconstructed in light of the allegations in George Mitchell’s report.

    Which is real? the unparalled legendary hall of fame fireballer, or the cheater who gained an advantage artificially.

  5. just an apprentice permalink
    January 7, 2008 2:56 pm

    I submit that is happening in baseball now with the probe into the use of illegal substances is essentially deconstruction.

    It is a pressing through the illusion to what is beneath the surface. What is left after deconstruction is better than the illusion, the scam.

    Don’t know if the scholars would agree, but that is my take.

  6. January 9, 2008 9:53 am

    good point brian. alot of times we only see charicatures of people. these false images that project only specific pieces of people. we never get to see them as a whole. therefore we never truly get to who they are.

  7. RMVD cousin permalink
    January 9, 2008 11:52 am

    Comments on where above twas said…
    Postmodernism has taught us that epistemic humility is necessary. “We see in part, as through a glass darkly.” We need to acknowledge this.
    · hyper-reality must be uncovered. It is always illuding our grasp
    · Inbreaking of the Kingdom of God (now–not yet)
    · the Other: the other of language
    · Deconstruction is the critique of idols…the pretension to righteousness…the having of the Truth (possessed institutionally, systemically) Like Fr. Demetrius has said many times–we don’t have God in our pocket (we are always uncovering more of the reality of who God is)
    ……
    one trigger phrase above…
    hyperreality is always alluding our grasp…
    Phl 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
    Phl 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
    Phl 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
    Phl 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

    Well now , calling it hyper reality is that just a way to avoid using the word metaphysicsJ.. I prefer metaphysics.. anyways … so called hyperreality would be having the mind that was I Christ jesus, it seemeth to me and thus it does not allude our grasp if we properly grasp it ..namely look not every man on his own things, but very man ALSO on the things of others…. In a sense love your neighbor as yourself.. do unto others as you would have them do unto you… and consistent with such too I would think is to consider the needs of others before one’s own… ah but why does that reality so often allude our grasp ..because we are self grasping ..seeking glory for ourselves rather than giving all glory to god…. Tho one might fool oneself one is giving all glory to god…
    And what is glory .. I like the definition ..the ability to serve … when we serve ourselves first above others we lose our proper connection with the whole… and why would one do that… looking for short cuts for self aggrandizement at the expense of others and trying to justify this…. By the by methinks reincarnation is compatible with the bible and when in romans 5th chapter it says that thru one mans sin, death entered the world and death entered men coz all men had sinned … they were already in a state of sin… namely mankind as created by the elohim in chapter 1 who were androgenous..male and female…
    Where later in romans it speaks of being concluded in unbelief… as a way for god’s mercy to work… for all fall short…

    But back to grasping this hyperreality… my translation of a poem by franz grillparzer..

    First in german
    Wie viel weißt du, o Mensch …

    Wie viel weißt du, o Mensch, der Schöpfung König,
    Der du, was sehbar siehst, was messbar misst,
    Wie viel weißt du! Und wieder, ach, wie wenig,
    Weil, was erscheint, doch nur ein Äußres ist.

    Und steigst du in die Tiefe der Gedanken,
    Wie findest du den Rückweg in die Welt?
    Du armer König, dessen Reiche schwanken,
    Der eine Krone trägt, allein kein Zepter hält.

    Zu dem Gewölb von deinen strengen Schlüssen
    Stellt sich der Schlußstein nun und nimmer ein,
    Und die Empfindung, Flügel an den Füßen,
    Entschwebt der Haft, und ruft hinfliegend: Nein!

    Denn etwas ist, du magst’s wie weit entfernen,
    Das dich umspinnt mit unsichtbarem Netz,
    Das, wenn du liebst, du aufschaust zu den Sternen,
    Dich unterwerfend dasteht: das Gesetz

    Aus: Franz Grillparzer, Werke. Erster Band, München 1950.

    Then a line by line kind of translation J
    Wie viel weißt du, o Mensch …
    THE ABOVE IS THE TITLE ..JUST TAKING FROM THE FIRST LINE
    OF THE POEM

    Wie viel weißt du, o Mensch, der Schöpfung König,
    HOW MUCH DO U THINK U KNOW OH HUMAN KIND..
    KING OF CREATION..

    Der du, was sehbar siehst, was messbar misst,
    U WHO CAN SEE THE VISIBLE AND MEASURE THE MEASURABLE
    Wie viel weißt du! Und wieder, ach, wie wenig,
    YES THAT IS A LOT U KNOW BUT THEN AGAIN SO VERY LITTLE
    Weil, was erscheint, doch nur ein Äußres ist.
    BECAUSE WHAT IS VISIBLE BE ONLY THE OUTER ASPECTS

    Und steigst du in die Tiefe der Gedanken,
    AND WERE U 2 DESCEND TO THE DEPTH OF THOUGHT
    Wie findest du den Rückweg in die Welt?
    HOW COULD U EVER FIND YOUR WAY BACK TO THE WORLD
    Du armer König, dessen Reiche schwanken,
    O U POOR KIND WHOSE REALM IS SO UNSTABLE
    Der eine Krone trägt, allein kein Zepter hält.
    U WHO HAVE A CROWN BUT HAVE NOT THE RULING PRINCIPLES

    Zu dem Gewölb von deinen strengen Schlüssen
    DESPITE ALL SUCH INTENSE EFFORTS TO CONSTRUCT AN VAULTED ARCH AND COVER
    Stellt sich der Schlußstein nun und nimmer ein,
    U CAN NOT NOW OR EVER PLACE THE PERFECTING KEYSTONE
    Und die Empfindung, Flügel an den Füßen,
    AND THE TRUE SENSITIVITIES OF LIFE.. THAT GIVE WINGS TO YOUR FEET
    Entschwebt der Haft, und ruft hinfliegend: Nein!
    WILL AVOID SUCH GRASP AND CALL BACK AS IT LEAVES YOU..
    IN SUCH A MANNER IT CAN NEVER HAPPEN

    Denn etwas ist, du magst’s wie weit entfernen,
    BECAUSE OF WHAT IS AN ETERNALLY PRESENT HOPE
    NO MATTER HOW DISTANT IT MIGHT SEEM
    Das dich umspinnt mit unsichtbarem Netz,
    WHICH SURROUNdS YOU WITH ITS INVISIBLE SUPPORTING NET
    Das, wenn du liebst, du aufschaust zu den Sternen,
    WHICH WHEN U LEARN REAL LOVE AND LOOK UP TO THE HEAVENS
    Dich unterwerfend dasteht: das Gesetz
    YOU WILL THEN SEE IT AS IT IS CASTE DOWN ETERNALLY..
    DIVINE LAW./

    ANOTHER POINT WHERE SOME OF THE THINGS SAID ABOUT
    Inbreaking of the Kingdom of God (now–not yet)

    In a sense this hyperreality is in our grasp in that good ole aortic sp? Future tense unique to the bible … something that we have now but not fully till when we transcend time as in revelations
    When chronos ceases to be chapter 10 verse 6
    And enter the kingdom of god… maybe too the kingdom of heaven..? kind of that scofield distinction between the two…
    There male and female is not as here ..we are I think all called sons of god and one with the father…

    AH NOW OF THE ORIGINATORS OF POSTMODERN .. HOW MANY BELIEVED IN THE RESURRECTED JESUS… AND WAS MUCH OF IT SEEN AS COULD BE ADAPTED TO SUCH AND WHO STARTED SUCH … MAYBE THE SITE MENTIONS SUCH ALREADY…
    AH AND WAS THERE SOMETHING SIMILAR TO POSTMODERN BEFORE POSTMODERN THAT DID ESSENTIALLY THE SAME THING…. MAYBE EVEN BETTER :)?

    I THINK IF NO ONE BUMPS ME OFF THE COMPUTER ..I MIGHT CHECK THAT OUT ….

    HMMM I GOOGLE THIS ON CAPUTO
    Leading postmodern thinker John Caputo writes, “The cold, hermeneutic truth, is that there is no truth, no master name which holds things captive.”{4} Both men summarize the postmodern belief that objective truth does not exist and therefore, we conclude that all truth claims are equal even if they are contradictory.
    .. DID THEY MAYBE TAKE THAT OUT OF CONTEXT…
    PUT THE WRONG SPIN ON IT…
    ?
    when jesus said i am the truth….
    how would caputo handle that…
    as a guess. that truth need me a dynamic active expression
    I WOULD ADD BUT IT IS MAINTAINED BY BEING ONE WITH GOD THE FATHER AS JESUS WAS… AND SHOWS THE WAY FOR ALL TO BE ONE WITH THE FATHER….
    THAT THE FATHER IS THE ABSOLUTE SOURCE FOR BEING PROPERLY ACTIVE …. HOPEFULLY CAPUTO WOULD BE OF SIMILAR ….
    AND ALSO THE FATHER IS THAT WHICH CAN REDEEM ALL THOSE WHO REBEL … BUT I BE STARTIN TO GET A BIT SUSPICIOUS OF CAPUTO BEING A LITTLE TOO…. POSSIBLY

  8. January 10, 2008 12:10 am

    Great post brother.
    Keep them up.
    I really enjoy reading your blog.
    I have added it to my favorites and will be reading it regularly.
    I want to invite you join in any discussion on my blog as well.
    God bless and you hope God showers you witha all the riches of his wondereous grace.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  9. rmvd cousin permalink
    January 12, 2008 4:43 pm

    sigh seems i cannot post at preachermans site without some google thingie… registration…
    but i didnt find that out till i had typed it up…sooo..since i had typed it up and it says something about pomo postmodern… maybe it will pass muster here ,soooo..gonna past and send
    following some chain of blog links.. i arrived here today and find it as having a dynamic that i judge as one that i like better in some ways than most in my recent plunge into the blog world:)… now bout judging …as i read thru the comments it covered much of some of my points on judging..so now i might for one thing leave a point or 2 of mine bout the dogma of most modern denominations… methinks the greek new testament does not make hell eternal … for word study on this one might check out tentmaker.org… another point i lean towards universal salvation at some point in time… mind you not the animals :)…. one tool for universal salvation methinks be reincarnation… my language kind of suggests i am online from the other side but not the case at the moment :) ….. SHIFT TO NOTHER FOCUS… i dont remember if specific mention was made of paul’s recommendation that if a certain someone did not repent , he should be denied church membership… ramble ramble ..myself i think it proper not to admit as members those who do not believe in the resurrected christ…now that is very biblical methinks… but i wonder bout some of that emergent pomo chruch ..postmodern ..john caputo etc…
    there i am thinking many might agree with this … enuf already… :P good time to stop :)

  10. RMVD COUSIN permalink
    January 15, 2008 3:35 pm

    SOO NOW BOUT POSTMODERN AND UNDERSTANDING GOD PERFECTLY…
    THOUGHTS ON ECCLESIASTES 3:11
    there is an interesting discussion beginning with this as a first page in a series of about 6 pages or so
    http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2007-November/034298.html —to follow thru click where it says next message still it stops giving” [b-hebrew] Ecclesiastes 3:11 ” as the next message…
    my take is that other translations do not pick up what the young’s literal translation does is a kind of an indication of lack of maturing in the word and not accessing the holy spirit on the issue, as jesus says in the last supper discourse..something like ..the holy spirit teaches all things… WELL NOW HERE BE THE YOUNG’S TRANSLATION
    Young’s Literal Translation
    The whole He hath made beautiful in its season; also, that knowledge He hath put in their heart without which man findeth not out the work that God hath done from the beginning even unto the end.
    AND MOST ALL OTHER TRANSLATIONS INSTEAD OF THE SENSE THAT ONLY WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD HAS BUT INTO EACH’S HEART CAN MAN UNDERSTAND GOD’S PLAN FROM BEGINNING TO END…THEY HAVE THE SENSE THAT IT IS COMPLETELY BEYOND MAN…what the young’s translation seems to say is that tho man now cannot understand the whole if he is faithful to working with what he is given in season to do then the knowledge that he put in each heart is what will eventually reveal the whole understanding… and in the process of following in season faithfully what god puts before each , each can come to a perfect understanding of the whole and be one with the father as jesus i think suggests in the last supper discourse…and in the process the heart of course has been purified and the knowledge god has put in it is the key to uniting mind and heart perfectly

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