Journal Article

THE BITTERNESS OF CAIN: (POST)MODERN FLIGHT FROM DETERMINANCY

Walter Lowe

in Literature and Theology

Volume 12, issue 4, pages 379-389
Published in print December 1998 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online December 1998 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/12.4.379
THE BITTERNESS OF CAIN: (POST)MODERN FLIGHT FROM DETERMINANCY

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This essy is offered as a critique of modernity, but a critique which aims to be internal and empathetic in character. To achieve this, it proceeds by way of a modern literary text. The essy seeks to didtance itself from certain assumptions which wre commonly made by theological critiques of the modern. For it seems to me that the prospects for a postmodern christian theology depend in considerable part on how such a theology depend in considerable part on how such a theology handles the concept of transendence. In a move which is perhaps unusual fora theologian, I shall decline to make ‘trancendence’ or more ‘experience of transendence’ pivotal for theology. Rather I shall treat the concept with reserve,linking it to what I shall call ‘determinacy’ and arguing that for Christian theology any concept of tanscendence is found in the determinate and remains indissociably linked, not to say bound, to it. At stake is a classic issue: the irreducibility, for Chistian theology, of the ‘scandal of particularity’.

The target of my criticism is a certain anti-intellectuahsm, specifically the long-standing penchant, shared by liberal and neo-orthodox theologians alike, and now by ‘postmodernists’ as well, to allege that the human intellect is inherendy an instrument of domination. The German term ‘Begriff’, allied to ‘greiferi’ (‘to grasp’), is commonly adduced as evidence that the mind always seeks to control. Even apart from questions about what the speaker's mind is doing in advancing this position, and apart from the reliance on anti-intellectualism and a faculty psychology, there is the fact that such argument has the gnosticizing effect of conflating finitude and sin. Implicitly or explicidy die mind the mind as faculty, not aspars pro toto representative of the person is portrayed as inherendy bent toward the demonic. Litde wonder then if such theologies seek transcendence elsewhere, in expenences construed to be independent of, if not antithetical to, the mind. The essay criticizes a postmodernism such as that of Mark C. Taylor, which moves along diese lines. But it does so by making use of deconstruction and Derrida. I do not propose to make of deconstruction a new foundation for theology; neither do I acknowledge it as gatekeeper, controlling what theology can and cannot say. But I do hope to show by way of a fairly nch example that it is able to be of use The essay is of two parts. The first is entitled ‘Modernity’; the second, ‘Determinacy’, is followed by a brief conclusion.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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