Tag Archives: narrative theology

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.

Zizek, Genre, and Narrative Biblical Interpretation

Slavoj Žižek
Professor John Milbank

I don’t want to do anything complex here, but I want to attempt to make an argument based on particularity.

There is a current trend in Biblical studies and theology, where STORY/narrative is emphasized, and that’s fine, since we have found the blind spots of historical criticism. But let us just no throw out the baby with the bath water as the cliche goes. I am beginning to think that where narrative and history collide is in the history of genres. We cannot have a story without a genre,, I don’t think, otherwise, we are just re-affirming our embedded theologies or our own personal autobiographies into the text.

I arrived at these thoughts through my second reading of The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?, a book by Slajov Zizek and John Milbank. I find myself oddly enough agreeing alot more with Zizek, but really wanting to root for Milbank but I can’t bring myself to it. Anyhow, in Zizek’s first essay in this work, he repeatedly goes to novels that are detective mysteries, yet, he does not admit openly his preference, in this particular essay, for them. No, I am not saying Zizek is hiding behind “The Man of Universal Reason”; don’t be silly. What I am saying is that we need to start taking seriously the histories of genre, not only in the biblical text, but also those books we include in our little canons.

Scripture is a nice example of how genres are blended, so, like many postcolonial thinkers, I believe that there is no such thing as a “pure” form of one genre or another. That’s what makes science fiction all the more appealing to me, that it can change with each generation, and become more hybrid, like the appearance of more Western-themed science fiction works, or horror that is blended with romance (ala The Vampire Diaries).

Just as Christian theological reflection is rooted in the life of a man who lived his life out in time, in a specific place and history, stories, because of genre are also historically determined.

We just have to learn to admit it.

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2 New Projects on Zora Neale Hurston and Theology

Zora Neale Hurston


Zora Neale Hurston, American author. Deutsch: ...

A week or so ago, I had mentioned that Celucien Joseph, Phillip Luke Sinitiere, and I are scheduled to do a panel on Black Religions and the Harlem Renaissance at the 2012 Southwest Commission on Religious Studies. Lou’s focus will be on Langston Hughes, Phillip’s will be the Negro Church’s and Movement’s influence on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and mine will be a comparative study on the science fiction literature provided by Samuel I. Brooks and C.S. Lewis.

A good scholar/independent researcher is always looking forward, moving on to a new topic. Celucien plans to move on to the religion of Zora Neale Hurston; in particular, Lou’s investigating “her religious vision through the American tradition of pragmatic religious naturalism.”

Anyone who could like to help out Lou with any recommendations, please visit his blog, and comment here.

The second project dealing with Zora Neale Hurston and theology actually is a paper proposal that has been fueling in my mind for a year or so. But, last week on Twitter, I found a way to articulate that idea. So, here goes. On Labor Day of this year, I did a reflection “What Happened to Moses?” I noticed that several Patristic theologians wrote entire books on the Life of Moses, including a missing text by Clement of Alexandria (if only, if only). In addition, I have observed that in the slave spirituals that Moses is brought up a lot as a part of the African American religious pantheon, and that persons such as Booker T Washington were referred to as the Negro Moses. So I have decided that I would like to do a paper dealing with the Patristics rendering of Moses and read those alongside Jewish theologians and a post-colonial theological interpretation Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain. If you have any recommendations for reading for my proposed project, please comment here or share with me on Twitter. I would very much appreciate it.

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