Postmodern Scholastics And Their Theologies Of Glory

A lot of scholars in the theological academy are under the presumption that their theologies are neat and squeaky clean, that the categories that they rely on, the labels such as “heretic” and “orthodox,” “pantheist” and “biblical,’ whatever the case may be. I think that they are sadly mistaken. Much like the current state of Hollywood where producers have no original stories to offer, theologians today fear radical breaks with tradition out of fear of being made outcasts. If scholasticism was and is the continuous time-honored intellectual pursuit of Christians working to reconcile special revelation (Christ + Scripture) and the prevailing philosophies of their/our days, then ultimately, these efforts should be considered projects informed by Gentile hubris. Systematic theologies’, especially of the classical variety are not as stable have we have been lead to believe, especially when confronted with the story of Exodus and Exile from the First Testament. Wanna claim that God is ineffable? Sure, go ahead! But we as Gentiles can only do so from a Gentile perspective. Moses, the judges and prophets were friends of God, and as such they had personal conversations with the personal deity YHWH. Once we Gentiles are able to finally recognize Jesus is The Center of our knowledge, and not Gentile arrogance, then, and only then are we able to speak of the Creator God of Israel.

One primary example I would like to give as an example of Gentile arrogance (as much as us Gentile Protestants love to talk about humility, right?), is the case of the Reformer Martin Luther. Martin Luther begins with a Theology of the Cross, the Crucifixion of YHWH’s Son on his mind, being in solidarity with the peasants (my reading of the 95 Theses). Luther’s Reformation sparks the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, and the Radical Reformation. However, in his pursuit to win over persons (most likely on the fence) of his position, Luther decides to hold to a few “mediating positions, such as ‘con-substantiation.” It is this idol of the middle ground that continues to be a problem for would be Christian revolutionaries. The “middle ground” is this folk-loric place where change-agents through out history “compromise” in order to look RESPECTABLE. In other words, acceptance becomes the prevailing value rather than revolutionary change. A number of theologians (from all denominations) today I feel are stuck in the mode of the Scholastics prior to the Reformation, where everything they write is to preserve the traditions of the Cornelius Van Til’s, Martin Heidegger’s and Paul Tillich’s.

I am sure you can name more, but for brevity’s sake, I would venture to say that the way of the “Middle Way” inevitably leads to an affirmation of the status quo. Always has. Always will. This is why this so-called “Radical Center” is always going to be at odds with Theologies of the Cross. You see, because the apostles saw Jesus’ death as being OUTSIDE the camp (much like the Scapegoat in Leviticus), theologies of the cross will always be out on the margins. Becoming mainstream, respectable, or powerful is the direct anti-thesis to theologia crucis. There is nothing respectable about the Cross, only wretched ugliness. There is nothing that speaks to power-over/dominating others at the Cross; there is only the power of meekness and love for the powerless. There is nothing mainline or mainstream about the cross; only rejection and abandonment.

0 thoughts on “Postmodern Scholastics And Their Theologies Of Glory

        1. h00die_R (Rod) Post author

          Taking it waaaaaay too far. What I am saying is this: Certainly we GENTILES can use philosophy, the natural sciences, social sciences, economics, politics, etc,, but these must come after we come to know our humble Gentile place in the story, see Jesus as our entrance into the narrative and the knowledge of God, and then start with the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament into the New Testament and start our scholasticism/reconciling philosophy with Christian theology from there.

          Reply
          1. cosmostheinlost

            That seems like laying waste to a lot of stuff as if the stuff wasn’t important. I mean, I can see where you’re coming from, but I’d start with the Tradition, which precedes and produces the scriptures (see what I did there with capitalization?).

        2. h00die_R (Rod) Post author

          “That seems like laying waste to a lot of stuff as if the stuff wasn’t important.”

          Really depends on WHICH stuff you are talking about and WHICH stuff I am talking about, no?

          “I’d start with the Tradition, which precedes and produces the scriptures (see what I did there with capitalization?)”

          Nothing wrong with that; I prefer the Logos however, the Word that visited the prophets, and that became Flesh first and then tradition. Otherwise, Tradition gains a transcendent aspect.

          Reply
          1. cosmostheinlost

            Oh sure, the living Logos (which I’d note is a rich borrowing from the Greek philosophical tradition), but without a Tradition to pass it on there would be nothing, certainly no scriptures about the Logos to explore.

  1. h00die_R (Rod) Post author

    “but without a Tradition to pass it on there would be nothing, certainly no scriptures about the Logos to explore”

    The Triune God is certainly not left without witnesses, but He isn’t co-dependent on human beings. God just chooses to choose communities to be His witnesses. We call that His Church.

    Reply
  2. Thuloid

    An interesting post. I think you’re basically right that theologians are fearful of abandoning or working outside familiar categories. It’s tremendously isolating to speak in terms that won’t readily be accepted by colleagues. There are obvious career consequences to this–if your theological vocabulary, citations, etc. look much different from what’s in the journals, how to get published? So then what to make of the possibility of an academic career faithful to the cross?

    As an aside, be careful with that particular example. Luther scholars tend to reject the description of his view as “con-substantiation” (it’s a mis-applied term,there was such a position historically, and it wasn’t Luther’s). Neither, I think, should it be viewed as a compromise position–there’s simply no evidence of him carving out such a compromise view on the Supper, as compared to many other areas in which he is explicitly negotiating between positions (e.g., he has to be convinced of the legitimacy of legal resistance by lesser rulers to the Emperor, and is very cautious about the boundaries of same). The mediating attempts are, e.g., those that try to forge a ground between Zwingli and Luther at Marburg (something Luther rejects utterly, to the point of actively fracturing what could have been a potent political alliance).

    You might summarize Luther’s Supper position this way: The word of God effects what it says, even in the Lord’s Supper. That’s congruent with the emphasis throughout his career on God’s creative word. It isn’t yet fully expressed at the time of the Heidelberg DIsputation (where the theologian of glory/theologian of the cross distinction appears), but could be seen in terms of a development of the last theological thesis: “the love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it…” What was lacking in that early period was explicit emphasis on the Word as the concrete agent–put that in place, and Luther’s position in the Heidelberg Dispuation and his position on the Supper are in continuity. As well, this position shares that disputation’s concern with displacing Aristotle from theology. Luther rejects substance metaphysics (Aristotelian or otherwise) as a basis for discussing the Supper.

    That’s far more words disagreeing with you than agreeing, which is the reverse of my intention here. But disagreement is often a more complex matter.

    Reply
    1. h00die_R (Rod) Post author

      Thanks Thuloid!

      Yeah, I oversimplified Luther’s position on the Lord’s Supper, and that may be the fault of the theological education I received. But I think you got the thrust of my post absolutely right, with this quote:

      “It’s tremendously isolating to speak in terms that won’t readily be accepted by colleagues. There are obvious career consequences to this–if your theological vocabulary, citations, etc. look much different from what’s in the journals, how to get published? So then what to make of the possibility of an academic career faithful to the cross?”

      Yes, that’s exactly the idea that I am pushing here.

      Reply
  3. Frederick

    Please find a set of references which are thoroughly outside of all of the usual dreadfully sane interpretations of the life and teaching of Saint Jesus of Galilee.
    http://www.aboutadidam.org/articles/secret_identity/beyond_hidden.html
    Jesus of course was never ever in any sense a Christian. He was always and only a Jew or an outsider who appeared and taught his radical universal non-Christian, non-sectarian Spirit-Breathing Spiritual Way of Life on the margins of the tradition of Judaism as it was in his time and place.
    He was of course completely un-acceptable to the ecclesiastical establishment of his time and place. Just as he is now and always has been by the “official” institutional establishments in every time and place ever since – including NOW.
    Nor did he create a smidgen of an iota of the religion about him, namely Christian-ISM as a would be world conquering power-and-control-seeking ideology.

    Reply

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