Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Chipping out a personal project: the bare rock

Over the last year, I have begun to discern the faint outlines of my own, personal project. You watch yourself "drinking from dozens of straws" (Heidegger) and are not really sure why. And then, one day, you start noticing patterns behind it; similar questions approached by each and all.

As far as I can tell, discerning this pattern is a very important stage in any scholar's development. It moves them from undirected to directed reading, and from reviewing to proposing. It begins to suggest a way of getting into the game. I don't have much of it organized, or even understand yet some of the deeper structures between those points which are visible above the surface. Yet, here goes:

The commonalities seem to go as follows:

(1) The search for a well-understood, contemporary expression of the faith. This over-arching desire comes from negative and positive energies. Positively, it results from a desire to properly worship the God who calls me (who is coming to me). Negatively, it results from a thorough dislike of anything which denies God his proper glory, and nowhere is the offense more egregious than in those confessions that commit such acts even while they confess!

A discernment of the latter is what led me to place the roots of Southern fundamentalism, the religious culture of my birth, into question. I set upon a quest to discover a thicker, more honest Christianity. I feel in my deepest heart that it is there, just beyond the horizon. There is a valuation of honesty and freedom out there, a Christian confession, maturity. The quest to discover this honest and free confession has led me to make the following, and by no means the last, personal or ideaological moves, each for the purposes of advancement toward that thing which summons me, and in this there is a Nachfolge, a discipleship. In each, too, there is also an apologetic, namely the uncovering of a confession that cannot be simply dismissed on the basis of doctrines, positions, and emphases which, in reality, have nothing to do with it at all. (What is this if not a recovery of the Word preached!) At any rate, as to philosophical & theological moves, I can trace out the following rough pattern.

(2) Remapping everything in trinitarian rather than bi-nitarian dimensions. This includes understanding the conversations about the Trinity, and evaluating aspects of "new" ontologies, such as divine limitation, progress, and kenosis. As John G. has pointed out, this suggests that I have really made a decision about onto-theology and accepted, instead, some form of relational-ontology (and with it, a relational anthropology, for God-speak and Man-speak are two sides of the same coin.) More thinking about that is necessary. Included in this, too, are questions about the relationship between God and time. This sphere of questions naturally suggests the other two main emphases:

(3) "historicizing" my theology by making eschatology its primary setting. This plants me firmly in the tradition of the developing theology of hope, as well as in the middle of new gains begin made in Biblical Theology. Eschatology is the ground of theology, its basic, grammar. I need to make sure I speak it well.

(4) Un-privatizing the confession. Getting my theology & confession out of the Enlightenment's enforced privatization. I am trying to understand my confession outside of the "private cell" which my culture and tradition assign to it. That is the Greek tradition, whereby epistemological skepticism makes any enthusiasm, religious or otherwise, fine in the privacy of one's own home/heart. The Jewish tradition, however, is ethically, rather than ontologically, primary and simpy does not understand privatization since the Other is fundamentally necessary for the existence & working out of of one's theology. God places himself in the Other, and religious faith must, therefore, seek him there. I suppose, really, I'm talking about embracing a political theology. It goes hand-in-hand with the eschatological move, anyway. If one thinks eschatologically, one also thinks politically, since the eschaton effects everyone. Here's where all the Kingdom of God stuff goes.

Points that also are included in some developing schema in or coming out from the above:

  • The ethical understanding of the imago dei/law & gospel

  • Picking up Gordon-Conwell's emphasis on the Old Testament in the New (pro-Jewish)

  • The connection between theology & spirituality/ascesis/theosis

  • The humiliation of the Christ & the dignifiction of the World

  • Authority of Scripture

  • Antipathy toward psychologism

  • Overcoming Kant's "double line"/phenomenology/Hermeneutics

  • Understanding modernity

  • Religious education/catechism

  • Exploration of theologies of liberation (with all that is not-fundamentalism)

  • Desire for liturgy. Embodied faith. Aesthetic uplift.

  • Short-patience for the question of freedom & sovereignty (a question which arises in revivalist (enlightenment) theologies.)