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Deconstructing Jesus – pt.4 February 22, 2008

Posted by Matt in Bible, church, deconstruction, god, philosophy, postmodernism.
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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, 2008

Posted by Matt in deconstruction, philosophy.
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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 – pt.2 February 21, 2008

Posted by Matt in deconstruction, philosophy, postmodernism, religion.
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Thank you, everyone, for your great comments on the last entry.

Yesterday, we took a cursory glance at Derrida’s claim that, “there is nothing outside the text,” and its implications that language is the filter through which we see the world. Language, then, is not simply what is actually written or spoken, rather it is the interpretations of our life experiences. The interpretations themselves may be of actual events or objects, but, the only way that we, as humans, have to express them is through the avenue of metaphor.

A simple example would be in your view of some concrete object. I look at my shirt and I see the color red. Waves of light are emitted from the sun, they bounce off my shirt and into my eye. My brain then instantly takes that snapshot of what it sees and compares it to prior knowledge, coming up with various descriptive words – one of which is “red.” I then unconsciously make a comparison with other “red” things I’ve looked at before in my life and think, “my shirt is red like a fire truck.” The only way for us to truly experience something is through a sort of comparative analysis that is usually done deep in the recesses of our brain. But, not everyone shares the same metaphors. Another person may look at my shirt and say to themselves, “his shirt is red like a stoplight,” or “his shirt is red like the barn near the house I grew up in.” The interpretations are not and can not be incorrect in this example (well, if say my shirt is blue then you may want to see a doctor), rather they are just based on prior knowledge gained from some life experience.

Thus, our interpretations are always based on some prior knowledge and experience.
Nobody has the same prior knowledge and experience.
Then, everyone has a different interpretation.
Therefore the “text” metaphor of our lives is relative to the individual.

Next: The Undeconstructible

Deconstructing Jesus February 20, 2008

Posted by Matt in deconstruction, philosophy, postmodernism.
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5 comments

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?

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