Posted by: Nathan | February 4, 2007

A Foray into Postmodern Theology

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Col 2:8 (NIV)

As many of you know, this trimester at DU I’m taking From Modernism to Postmodernism, and I’ve encountered a ton of interesting postmodern (pm) texts. I really engage these texts because we are living in the twilight of the pm era, and if we as a society are going to move forward, we need to understand what’s come before. I intend to give a decent definition of pmism (as good of a definition as one can give to this most nebulous of movements) in a future post; for now, I engage an essay I read by Mark Taylor, which was excerpted from his book Erring: A Postmodern A/theology.

When I realized it was a pm Theological essay, as a Christian I was both excited and hesistant. Knowing what pmism has done to literature and philosophy, I had reason to be concerned about its effects on the study of God.

I’ll try to summarize the excerpt: We are living in the post-God era, but Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God has not yet had the impact it ought to have. To further this end, Taylor suggests we apply deconstruction to theology. He notes that there are four concepts that always intermingle when discusssing theology: God, self, history, and book, and he argues that the death of God needs to echo through the other three concepts in order to fully move on from a theological worldview. One of the main problems pm thinkers have with religion is the simplistic dualism, (e.g. God is good; Satan is bad) but a pm a/theology posits that God exists and doesn’t exist between such opposites. Theology is anathema to most pm scholars, but Taylor argues that by deconstructing religion, we can bring faith into the pm era.

The pm theologian “errs”* (he means wanders w/o aim) between the dualistic terms and finds God/not God in the middle. He then plays with the idea that “God” and “Word” are intertwined (cf. John 1:1), and since other pm scholars have undermined meaning in language (cf. Jacques Derrida), we should do the same with God. Thus the pm theologian finds God in the play between ideas and opposites: “Thus, there is no causa sui (self-cause), antecedent to and the ultimate origin of everything else. The absolute relativity of the divine milieu renders all other things completely corelateive” (444). Finally, Taylor posits that deconstruction and pmism wil have/have had such a profound effect that religion will never be same.

Taylor is an excellent example of pm scholarship: he’s obviously very intelligent, he relates to the world sans God, he uses complex terminology that renders his prose nigh-on incomprehensible, and he’s completely missed the boat. Obviously, as a Christian you didn’t expect me to buy into his argument, but I’m going to shy away from blasting Taylor too much. He’s been deceived; he is so smart that he lost track of the simplicity of the truth, something one can say for most pm writers.

There isn’t much to argue against here, because the presuppositions of Taylor are completely anthithical to mine. He starts in a world post-God; I start in a world lives due to God. Taylor has taken the Truth (with a capital T!) and twisted it to fit a worldview that won’t survive much longer. In an effort to make God and faith relevant, he’s rendered them powerless and devoid of any kind of meaning. I suppose that was his goal.

To me, there isn’t a way to unite God and pmism. Taylor’s effort is as valient as it is tragic: if there is God, then there is Truth; if there is no truth, there can be no God (cf. John 14:6).

Christians have nothing to fear from pm a/theology. There is nothing in it; then again, that is exactly what Taylor would say about fundamental Christianity.

*No way did I miss the humor of this. Taylor sure does err a lot in here. I’d say the entire text is errant.

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Responses

  1. It is such a shame I cannot navigate this iPad to copy-paste while I have the comment box open. However, if short term memory serves, ‘his terminology…renders his prose…incomprehensible’…I hope that was close. A very humorous, yet truthful phrase indeed. The first thing I’ve learned in an undergraduate philosophy class was that no terminology, fancy words, nor level of correct spelling matters as much as getting ones point across. There are alot of genious thinkers out there who, for lack of a better phrase, render their prose incomprehensible. I’m sorry I don’t find the need to shed any light on the heart of your article, I just found it necessary to give you the nod for an eloquent and concice phrase.


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