Deconstructing Jesus – pt.4 February 22, 2008Posted by Matt in Bible, church, deconstruction, god, philosophy, postmodernism.
Tags: Bible, Biblical Interpretation, Christianity, community, deconstruction, Derrida
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Again, thank you for your comments on the last three entries.
Thusfar we have briefly explored Jacques Derrida’s claim that there is “nothing outside the text,” with the idea that the “text” in question is a metaphor for our interpretations of life experiences. In this view, everyone’s text is different based upon an individual interpretive framework. In yesterday’s entry, we looked at the idea of the “undeconstructible” concept of justice in Derrida’s philosophy, which, while affirming that reality is based upon an individual construct, opens the door to an underlying “truth”, regardless of how abstract it may be in his way of thinking.
So, what does this mean for us, as Christians, in our way of reading and studying and applying the Bible?
Though the majority of Christians affirm the Bible as the Word of God, it is obvious from the plethora of churches that they do not all arrive at the same conclusions when interpreting. Modernity brought about an isolating individualism that taught us that we could interpret the Bible for ourselves and gain a total understanding if we systematically studied it and, while it did afford people the opportunity to study and learn as they never had before, it also robbed many Christians of the communal nature of Scripture that characterized the early church. Over the centuries, the Scriptures have even been used recklessly to further the agendas of various groups – legitimizing everything from slavery to genocide. So, even though there are innumerable ways to view the same passages based on your personal interpretive lens, they cannot all be good and true. That would be logically incoherent.
So, in a world full of ideas and interpretive frameworks, what is the role of Scripture and the Church?
The role of the community must first be brought back to the forefront. This community of interpreters can then establish a context through which to interpret, by consensus, what constitutes the true text. Then, communities fix contexts and contexts determine meaning, with God as the “undeconstructible” base. Thus, the Biblical text becomes the “text” through which we view the world.
So, the Deconstructive Church makes the Biblical text central for shaping its interpretation of the world, but at the same time realizes and relishes its global nature which is characterized by diversity. It embraces tradition and history, but not traditionalism and a one-size-fits-all Christian faith. Instead we celebrate our differences and work together in love to come to a better understanding of our God.
Next week we’ll explore the idea of the Christian Faith as Metanarrative.
Deconstructing Jesus – pt.3 February 21, 2008Posted by Matt in deconstruction, philosophy.
Tags: deconstruction, Derrida, justice, law, undeconstructible
So, as we have seen earlier, the philosophical idea of Deconstruction tells us that all that experience is but a metaphor that we interpret according to our own way of viewing the world. The reality all about us is then constructed by us according to prior experiences and learning.
Derrida, though, did make a concession of sorts for some things were actually “undeconstructible.” In his view, justice is the undeconstructible condition that would make deconstruction possible. Where laws are mere human constructions, there is an underlying concept of justice. Laws are calculable and in the real world while justice as a concept is incalculable, but present in some unreachable realm. Derrida, though, would not place justice on the idealistic plane similar to Plato’s forms, instead he would call it indeterminate. To him, justice is “a justice in itself, if such a thing exits, outside or beyond the law.” Between the two, law and justice, is that condition of deconstruction, which bridges the gap. Then, a deconstructive reading of the law would flow from your or anyone else’s own experiences and presuppositions with the ultimately unachievable goal of justice.
But, the most important concept in this illustration is that there does exist something that may be deemed undeconstructible.
Next: Reading the Bible with Derrida
Deconstructing Jesus February 20, 2008Posted by Matt in deconstruction, philosophy, postmodernism.
Tags: Christianity, deconstruction, Derrida, postmodernism, relativism
The word “postmodernism” has become somewhat of a boogeyman around the Christian faith over the last several years, with many branding it as the latest threat to civilization as we know it. But, it is something that really fascinates me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the philosophical idea of Deconstruction and how it relates to our current way of thinking in Christian circles.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Jacques Derrida coined it in the 1960’s as a form of literary/social criticism. Perhaps the best description of this branch of philosophy comes from his work, On Grammatology, in which he makes the earth-shaking statement, “There is nothing outside the text.”
So, we ask ourselves, what does this mean? What text is Derrida speaking of? Is this some mysterious, all-encompassing book with an impossibly universal scope?
Of course not, rather, the “text” in question is a metaphor for language itself. In this way of thinking, language is the filter through which we see the world. Texts and writing hold the central role of putting together our experiences of the world. Then, our reading of whatever text is in question, is colored by our experiences through our interpretations. But, this does not only apply to the written word, rather, it also applies to anything we may experience or hear or see. Everything is seen through the lens that we have crafted by our experiences.
I’m going home for the day now, but I’ll finish these thoughts in later entries. Are you familiar with this way of thinking and, if so, do you have any opinions?