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?
The Beauty of Gray March 8, 2006Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
Tags: Bible, gray area, relativism, right, wrong
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* Originally posted 3/8/06
Is there really such a thing as the “gray area?” You know, the place between right and wrong, but not necessarily either one. Is this just something invented by radical post-modernists espousing relativistic claims of truth in an underhanded attempt to destroy the belief systems of millions of people? Let’s don the red cloak of neutrality for a quick look.
In Old Testament times, I think it’s safe to say that there was very little gray area. God basically spelled it all out for Israel with the “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.” In the time of Jesus, though, this way of thinking was turned on its ear when he summed up the books of the Law in only two statements: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now this was certainly easier to remember than reams of Jewish Law, but it opened up many more questions. Some of these were addressed by Jesus, some by Paul, and some probably still remain to this day for many people
It’s easy enough to look at terrible acts like murder, rape, and abuse, and point to those as wrong, but what about other seemingly less important things – viewed by some people as bad and others as not. Paul spoke about this “gray area” as a sort of conscience, which may differ from person to person. In his terms, some people eat food sacrificed to idols and some don’t – personal choices, as long as they aren’t specifically spoken against, are not necessarily wrong. Some things, therefore, are wrong for only some people – a perfectly Biblical form of relativism. These are our gray areas.
Back in the Old Testament days, God basically treated the Israelites like children by giving them specific boundaries and specific consequences for crossing them. When you have little kids, you can tell that they can’t see the big picture. So, in order to bring them up right, you must set rules and punish when they break them. Jesus brought the big picture in order to lead the people of God into maturity and understanding. He told them that they were mature enough to not need The Law anymore – that they should be able to do the right things for the sake of doing them, not just because they feared retribution.
Thank God for the gray area.