Wednesday, March 28, 2007

a little light reading...

Over the past couple weeks I've read the following books:

Philosophy and Theology (John Caputo)
Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? (James K. A. Smith)
Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners (Donald Palmer)
Science, Faith and Society (Michael Polanyi)

(I also started reading Buber's "I and Thou" but got bored with it... I guess I'm just not able to grasp all that 'mystical' stuff right now...)

Anyway, I have found myself becoming more and more interested in philosophical theology, particularly as it relates to post-modernism. There's probably a lot that could be said about this, but I just want to make one point for now -- it seems that many of the ideas represented by post-modern thought provide a unique opportunity for theology to recapture some of the viability that it has "lost" over the last couple hundred years in the face of the enlightenment critique of religion.

The problem is that some post-modern philosophy has shown itself to lack the foundational principles necessary for open dialogue with other disciplines (e.g. the lack of scientific respectability that was most vividly critiqued by the Sokal hoax). So, a lot of "empirical" and "skeptical" thinkers have their doubts about post-modernism, and I can't say I really blame them. But I think theologians would be wise to try and navigate through all the twists and turns of post-modern thought in an endeavor to approach the issue of faith from a different angle... as most people now realize, a frontal assault upon either theism or atheism by the other, using pure reason, is bound to fail. So a new direction and/or a new vocabulary seems very good.

Of course, it also must be emphasized that many post-modern philosophers are far from being people of faith -- but sometimes the best discussions occur when people who disagree are able to learn from each other by talking openly and respectfully. I would really enjoy having some of those types of discussions. Do any of you have opinions on post-modern thought with regard to theology? Any books you think I should read? I'd love to get a dialogue going here...


BenMc said...

NT Wright's The Challenge of Jesus has a chapter near the end on how postmodernism is an effective critique of modernism, but also has its own weaknesses, just like you pointed out. He's also addressed that in some of his online lectures (including one of the ones posted at SPU's website, I think). It's not a full treatment, but it's a start.

marilyn said...

Colin Greene's Cristology in Cultural Perspective, especially chapters 9 and 12, are interesting :). The last two chapter's of Nieber's Christ and Culture are too. THey helped a ton on a paper I just wrote on the church in a postmodern, postchristendom culture. Maybe I'll let you read that paper, so you're not denied the riches of my intellectual prowess.

Geoff said...

yeah, I need to let you read mine too! :-)

Eric Lee said...

Saw your comment over on my blog, thanks! Yes, I work on the MOM site (although we've been really busy lately with stops and starts and just needing a re-design), and I'm good friends with Andrew and Amy. Rad folks. I'm in a masters program in theology at Point Loma Nazarene University, so it looks like I'm not too far away from ya. About your post...

That book by Jamie Smith was good. I would also recommend his Introducing Radical Orthodoxy and even his Derrida: Live Theory, which are both great books. And then, just start plunging into reading the Radical Orthodoxy series of books (including the forerunners like Milbank's Theology and Social Theory, The Word Made Strange, Catherine Pickstock's After Writing, etc.).

Those are extremely challenging reads, but well worth it if you can find a dialogue parter to figure out what kinds of moves they're making in their texts. They often appropriate some postmodern critique, but they ultimately critique postmodernity itself as a kind of hyper-modernity (on this, see Milbank's "Post-modern Critical Augustianianism" essay in Graham Ward's The Postmodern God book).

You might want to check out the churchandpomo blog, too. Not all the conversations on there are helpful (i.e. people get too giddy about Derrida and the like and don't give many hoots about ecumenism), but some of the conversations are really good.



Eric Lee said...

Also, regarding Kierkegaard: glad that you're getting into him!

Not sure how much you've read outside of his journals and whatnot, but if you haven't read any of his major works yet, it would probably be a good idea to start with Philosophical Fragments, which are a pure joy to read. It will also set you up for Concluding Unscientific Postscript (which I saw on your wishlist) as well as help make sense of how he talks about history in Practice in Christianity. I read Practice first, and had a hard time figuring out what he meant by a few things until I read PF.

Also, be sure to look for a really good forthcoming book by Marcus Pound in the Veritas series called Theology, Psychoanalysis and Trauma. He performs a reading of Kierkegaard against Lacan which I've heard is really sweet.



Geoff said...

Thanks for the comments and the book advice, Eric! If you ever want to chat further, you can always contact me via email: gdargan at gmail dot com. Take care man!