Had a lecture from Craig Detwiler of Fuller Seminary this week on a staff retreat. Very provocative thoughts on the state of the contemporary church.
So…a strain of thought in the history of philosophy:
Plato and Aristotle are portrayed as having divided on the fundamental approach to knowledge, Plato insisting on the eternal forms that conceptually define all particulars, Aristotle debating that it is only in and through the particulars that we can come to construct universals.
Augustine inherited Plato through the neo-platonists, and in turn translated Paul through his quasi platonic lens. Thus a thousand years of Christian theology ultimately leaned on Plato.
Descartes, for all of his functional agnosticism, declared that certain knowledge rested on rational universals (undergirded by the lower-case-g god of philosophy).
Derrida, as exemplar of the project of deconstruction, said that he lived in the place where forms are stamped into particulars. That is to say, at exactly that point where we try to force our universalizing (translated moralizing or absolutist) standards onto specific situations, Derrida was there to say, “No you don’t.” I like the way Foucault said it somewhere, that “Truth is the error which is irrefutable because it has been hardened by the long baking process of history.” Again, to translate, that is to say, concepts we accept as universally true and binding actually have a genealogy which expose them to be situational constructions.
So…deep breath…in the postmodern era, universals, whether they be religious, scientific, moral, or political, are unilaterally suspect, which doesn’t leave you anywhere to hang your hat.
A few people have taken a stab at “reconstruction” after a century of deconstruction. Robert Nozick proposed that there are “invariances,” or temporary moments where two subjects connect in a mutually agreeable objectivity. What I’m suggesting in my dissertation, which we can only hope is not as longwinded as this, is that in the act of preaching an invariance is created, but only for the fleeting moment of the sermon.
What I’m wondering is how offensive-to-impossible it is to revive teleology in a postmodern world. Every schmo walks around wanting to be “healthy,” physically and mentally. But health suggests a biologically predetermined end to humanity. Does that exist? And if so, can we wrap our arms around any concrete vision of what that is? If not, we’re wasting a lot of money on counseling. Is it, as Freud said, the ability to work and love effectively, or is it something more? And is “healthy,” subjective and nebulous as it is, metaphysically different from heavenly? Because if we accept that as a nominal lateral, then reconstruction happens whenever two or three people choose to build the kingdom of heaven on earth.