Friday, October 21, 2005

Culmination-Culture, not Counter: of temporal refugees

Posted below is part of a presentation I gave at the Ekklesia Conference last summer concerning the possible relationship between the Emerging Church and the Ekklesia Project. I'm reposting it because of an interesting conversation over at generous orthodoxy. For those in the Emerging Conversation or others who either use or dispise the phrase "counter-culture" in reference to the Church, please let me know what you think.


Introduction: I originally had two parts to this talk, the first part was more directed at the Emerging Church and those who are tempted by too much relevance. In that part I was going to discuss the shift from relevance to identity. And the second part is geared for those in danger of too much resistance. Without rehearsing all the various arguments concerning gospel and church, and their relations, and really instead of an introduction, I'll just jump in and reposition a familiar image, that of the Church as Exile or as Refugee, shifting from an emphasis on space to that of time.

From Space to Time: Refugees

When we use the terms 'contrast-culture' and 'counter-culture' too often spatial conception begin to creep in when we start talking about the church. Instead of this we need to move from space to time: not spatial relationships discussing borders and permeability, but temporal trajectories and destinations. The question is not who is in and how do they cross the border, but who is traveling with us, and have they joined the processional of God's kingdom between his first and second advents ? We shouldn't ask about the overlapping nature of church and culture, as complementing or contradicting, but whether each culture, and/or which parts, are marching toward the ends which the Church is eternally ordered, and time fully processing. The Church does not merely have its own social space, but rather has its own time and trajectory.

As William Cavanaugh says, (also printed in Theolopolitipal Imagination)

The Church "does not depend on establishing its own place, its own territory to defend. Instead it moves on pilgrimage through the places defined by the map and transforms them into alternative spaces through its practices. The City of God makes use of this world as it move through it on pilgrimage to its heavenly home."

Given this consideration, I suggest we move the Image of the Church in Exile, as Sojourner, from attending images of Resident Aliens, Colony and Outpost, to those of Refugee and Pilgrimage.

We inhabit a particular place according to our trajectory within it, not according to the place's particular features or well worn paths. Sometimes we will critique and contradict the ordering of a place, while other times we might correspond and compliment the dominant features of a place. But this doesn't happen b/c we are seeking to be relevant or resistant, but depends rather on our trajectory as we traverse various places, ordering each place according to our telos.

Consequences: Culmination-Culture
And through this shift we can make better sense of the relevance/resistance dichotomy. Instead of thinking of the Church as a contrast- or couter-culture, we should think of it as a culminating-culture, a culture of culmination, or culture of fulfillment.

We should take the perspective of the Church as the fulfillment of any particular culture, rather than merely an antagonisticly within that culture. It is not that we will change for you (relevance), nor will we stand against you (resistance), but we accomplish or fulfill what you desire to be. As we look at the careers of some of the Church Fathers we notice that they were not attempting to fuse Greek metaphysics within the Christian narrative, but desiring to show that best and brightest of the Greek philosophical tradition, in thoughts, and in persons, pointed toward Christ and the Church. So, instead of appropriating postmodern elements/forms (whether practically for evangelism or philosophically for theology), we look to where they these elements point and show that in Christ (in his body the church) they are fulfilled.

In light of this, the Church should compare for compatible trajectories joining them for a time on our pilgrimage, but also critiquing ability to that other culture and narrative to arrive at its destination.

Instead of talking about out narrating other stories, or throwing other narrative sinto epistemic crisis, maybe we could out narrating other stories through epistemic fulfillment?

And we do this principally through the Eucharist, which again as Cavanaugh says,

The Eucharist not only tells but performs a narrative of cosmic proportions, from the death and resurrection of Christ, to the new covenant formed in his blood, to the future destiny of all creation. The consumer of the Eucharist is no longer the schizophrenic subject of global capitalism, awash in a sea of unrelated presents, but walks into a story with a past, present, and future (p. 188).

So, we are all refugees on a long pilgrimage, sharing all we have with each other, a meager meal together, the Body and Blood of Christ.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

With Friends like Rorty, who needs Enemies.

Now I would call myself part of the Emerging Church Conversation (whatever that is) and recently there has been quite a bit of conversation around Hauerwas and Stout. And while I have yet to work through Democracy and Tradition, it have heard from several at Princeton that Stout was not attempting to privatize religion and that in fact Stout conservative conversation partners (Rorty and Rawls) were also making more room for public religion.

Well, because i’m a primary source kind of guy I thought i would track down Rorty and Rawls and see what they have to say about religion.

Today is Rorty.
Religious Faith, Intellectual Responsibilities, and Romance from his Philosophy and Social Hope, pp. 148-167, written in 1997.
In this essay Rorty positions pragmatism between two totalizing discourses, that of religion (or those who feel a responsibility to Truth) and science (or those who feel a responsibility to Reason). But pragmatism replaces these discourses with a responsibility to others, instead of some non-human transcendence. All beliefs/justifications gratify some sort of desire or need. The justifications of science gratify the needs of reason and control, and the beliefs of religion gratify the needs of emotions and hope. Science and religion need not conflict in this view because they gratify different hopes and desires.

But does this entail that religion is privatized? Well, yes, for Rorty it does.

He says, "So its [a utilitarian philosophy of religion] principal concern must be the extent to which the actions of religious believers frustrate the needs of other human beings, rather than the extent to which religion gets something right" (p.148). And also, "The quasi-Jamesian position I want to defend says: Do not worry too much about whether what you have is a belief, a desire, or a mood. Just insofar as such states as hope, love, and faith promote only such private projects, you need not worry about whether you have a right to have them" (153), and back to science and religion, "Both scientific realism and religious fundamentalism are private projects which have got out of hand" (157) because they have romanticized a responsibility to the True or Real and made it obligatory to the public. So if a theist wants to continue in his belief he must adopt a demythologized/symbolic view of doctrine (here Rorty mentions Tillich).

The basic move in this essay is to a post-foundationalist, pragmatic policing of science and religion (making them both fideistic projects), and then offers up the concept of Romance (which can be directed toward a trade union, a novel, a congregation, or a doctrine) as a fuzzy overlapping of faith, hope, and love.

Now, the essay "Anticlericalism and Atheism" written in 2002 from The Future of Religion, continues his anti-foundationalist/metaphysical project of overcoming positivist conceptions of science and religion. Here he makes a tactical shift and recants of his rhetoric centered on atheism (which is as foundationalist and fideistic as theism) and outlines his anticlericalism, which for him is the necessary shift to the political from the epistemological and metaphysical. "On our view [anticlericalism], religion is unobjectionable as long as it is privatized- as long as ecclesiastical institutions do not attempt to rally the faithful behind political proposals" (p. 33). This is preferable because we all have the right to be religious but not the right to ask that everyone should believe. Rorty then talks about Vattimo (who has an accompanying essay in the book) and Vattimo's view of the religion as kenosis (emptying). God, in Christianity, has emptied himself, all his powers, all his authority, all of his otherness into the human community. Religion as kenosis is divine love (which is the only positive doctrine religion is left with) and all else empties into the secularized field. This anticlerical view boils down to deciding not to talk either about atheism (unjustifiable hope in future) or theism (an unjustifiable gratitude for past)because they are private projects, but we should rather muster these unjustifiable projects for the common good of social cooperation, toward which pragmatism is the only sure guarantee.

Now, I don't see how this is much of a movement toward allowing religion in the public square, or having in any way lessened the need for religion to be privatized. He has only changed the terms slightly from his more combative rhetoric of "Religion as a Conversation Stopper" (1994). I don't see how any theist would think that Rorty is coming around.

But I'm not saying that pragmatism has nothing to offer. Far from it. I still need to learn more (who knows when that will be), but for right now it seems particularly deficient in its ability to conceive of religion outside of a strictly Enlightenment perspective. Rorty's anti-foundationalism, while rightfully iconoclastic of modern ideologies (positivist science and fundamentalist religion), his anti-foundationalism has yet to move toward narrative or the recovery of history (which is exactly what he doesn't want) and therefore is thoroughly Enlightenment and modern with its view of progress, no matter how post-metaphysical he claims to be. So I'm looking forward to Stouts book to see how he handles these issues.

And too often Rorty sounds a little too cozy with a Male-Eurocentric perspective that distains all those backward developing nations. I'll end with this: Speaking for the dark ages and religion:

"To be imaginative and to be religious, in those dark times, came to almost the same thing--for this world was too wretched to life up the heart. But things are different now, because of human beings' gradual success in making their lives, and their world, less wretched. Non-religion forms of romance have flourished--if only in those lucky parts of the world where wealth, leisure, literacy and democracy have worked together to prolong our lives and fill our libraries. Now the things of this world are, for some luck people, so welcome that they do not have to look beyond nature to the supernatural, and beyond life to the afterlife, but only beyond the human past to the human future."


If I have time this week I'll post on Rawl, but he is so boring I might not find the desire. Open his books are like walking into a white, sterilized room, with tables and little objects stacked neatly and orderly, with a sign that says, "Please be quite, we don't want to really know you, and please no music."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

d. stephen long an 2 augustinianisms

d. stephen long- Two Augustinianisms: Augustinian Realism and the Other City. Faculty and Student presentation at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.

notes by geoff holsclaw (as lecture notes there are gaps and paraphrasing)


Introduction: Theology and politics can be related in two fashions. There are the 'political theologies' where what concerns 'the political' is known and the theological is brought to bear. This is political realism. Then there is 'theological politics' where Christ is known initially and politics becomes informed by theology.

1) Political Theology: Augustinian Realism.
The Augustinian Realism, which Niebuhr self-consciadoptsdoptes, reads Augustine selectively through a Machiavellian rhetoric with its emphasis on and necessity of self-interest, power, and violence. The political realm is such that violence and power must be accounted for otherwise it just is not considered politics. The Augustinian doctrine of original sin is read into this politics (as power, violence, self-interest), but the theory of the political is therefore supplement (but not supplanted) by theology. In this way, we receive Augustinian arguments that it is necessary to dirty one's hand if we are to enter the political arena. Another advocate, Paul Ramsey, claims that Augustine even advocate this approach, and that the Heavenly and Earthly cities are in fact inseparably connected, and that in fact there is so much agreement between the two cities that it would be sinful abdication cooperate with the Earthly city. Ramsey quotes Augustine as follows from City of God, Book 19.17.

"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them...Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and,...desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven."
Ramsey takes this as indicating that Augustine fully endorses the earthly peace and that the heavenly city ought to, in every way, participate and ensure this earthly peace. But his referencing of Augustine is selective, and his ellipses are telling. The full quotation is below with formerly ellipsed portions in bold :

"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, as far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven."
Ramsey tellingly omits the conditions within which the early and the heavenly city enter into peace bearing relationships, namely, only as long as the early city does not 1) hinder true worship of God, or 2) hinder the practices of faith and godliness.

So a realistic politics, or Augustinian Realism, exempts worship and godliness from it purview, and merely grafts on a doctrine of original sin to a theory of the political that could survive without it.

2) Another City
The first creation of the secular (by Augustine) reference the TIME b/w the two advents of Christ and functions as a way of discussing the overlap of the two cities. [In modernity the secular became a SPACE outside the church].

If "political theology" refers to Book 19 as a source text, then "theological politics" turns toward Book 18 and the realization that every politic is ordered around worship, and is therefore, already theological.

"The earthly one has made to herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter, or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly and is a pilgrim on the earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of who she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end." (emphasis added).
In this way the heavenly city is already political in that it is oriented around the worship of the true God such that it does not need to become political, nor does it need to bring its theology into politics.

3) Natural Theology
In The City of God (Book 6) Augustine enters into a dialogue with a philosopher named Varro who had created a typology of theologies. They were 1) fabulous, 2) civil, and 3) natural. The fabulous were the myths and stories that were told to the people and that the state needed to give to the people. The civil served the ends of the empire and the royal cults. The natural were in fact what we call metaphysic and were discussed by philosophers. The philosophers knew that the fabulous theologies were false, and studied natural theology in the hopes of arriving at the highest good. Augustine points out that what the philosophers called natural theology is close to what Christianity was itself. Augustine did not even want to call Christianity a religion because he had not conception of the faith as fabulous. But Augustine also criticized Varro because while Varro knew that fabulous theology was bogus, Varro did not criticize the civil theology in light of his natural theology. The philosopher wanted to worship the natural theology, but were compelled to worship within the civil, and therefore failed even to separate from the fabulous. Augustine, however, realize that civil and fabulous religion are one and the same, and that Christianity had to break from both.

In light of all this there are two conclusions to come to.
1) What goes under the rubric of Augustinian Realism is merely a return to fabulous/civil theology. Instead we need to realize that we must not attempt to politicize theology, because worship is already political.
2) This does not make theology apolitical, but allows it to become truly political as a witness to another city, where peace reign.

Friday, October 14, 2005

another 'beyond universal reason'

I just got Beyond Universal Reason: The Relation Between Religion and Ethics in the Work of Stanley Hauerwas by Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic philosopher from Uganda. It is part of the reading for my Language and Theology class. It enters into the claims of whether, following Wittgenstein, language games (and ethics/politics) are universally approachable or incommensurable, or perhaps a third option b/w universal reason and fideism, a realism w/o empiricism (which is where our class is going).

I should finish it this weekend, and we'll see where it takes me.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wittgenstein and Lacan?

now as i've said, i'm in this class on theology and language where we will be reading through Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, among other texts. What about Lacan? Well, here is the direction of my thinking concerning the linguistic turn for a couple of years.

After studying philosophy in undergrad and entering into seminary life (and all its talk about sematics and interpretation, and Ricoeur), I felt that we needed to go somewhere beyond language (but of course not leaving it behind, but moving on by moving through). But where? initially i thought that after emerging through the necessary passage through language (both turns, analytic ancontinentalal, being necessary to get the problem out there) I thought that we could return to division 1 of Being and Time, a phenomenology of life, etc, etc. I still sense this intuition to be correct, and it is being borne out in my research of contemporary political theorist (theoris disgruntled with deconstructive ethics) and their return(ish) to a subject. For many this return to a political subject is conceptualized via the Lacanian Subject ($). And I also read somewhere in Badiou that Lacan was the last and greatest thinker in the linguistic turn (although B. doesn't mean this a necessarily a compliment b/c he see much of the LT as pure sophistry from which philosophy must protect us). All that to say, I decided I needed to read up on Lacan and have been reading through Encrits, Book VII, XI, and XX for last 6 months or so.

Now after reading Lacan I think that badiou is correct, that he is thinking throught the concrete areas of life, and how they are pentitrated by the Symbolic, Imaginary, and the Real, in a way the Division 1 of B&T could never have acheived (although I still love it).

So, in this course, and many (too many probably for most of you) of my blog entries, will focus on the intersection of Wittgenstien (who have been appropriated by both analytics and continentials) and Lacan as both working a type of anti-philosophical therapy curing of mundane philosphy and preparing us for robust theology.

Well, i didn't get to what I wanted to write today (which was going to be a brainstorm about how to begin getting into W. and L. via their critique of idealism), but o well.