Windows to a Weltanschauung Exploring the Dichotomies of Theological Liberalism/Conservatism through the Modern/Postmodern ‘Windows’ of History, Truth, Self, and Reason

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Windows to a Weltanschauung

Exploring the Dichotomies of Theological Liberalism/Conservatism through the Modern/Postmodern ‘Windows’ of History, Truth, Self, and Reason, with Respect to the Phenomenology of E. Levinas and the Existentialism of M. Foucault.

Matthew Lipscomb | Existentialism and Phenomenology | 4/25/12

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga | Dr. Talia Welsh

 

Introduction

In his tripartite systematic theology, the German, existentialist theologian Paul Tillich argued that all of theology is a thread woven between two poles: that of God, and that of man. Liberals, he pointed out, are oft to compromise on the side of God – while striving for full representationality & authenticity with the side of man. Conservatives, according to Tillich, follow an exact (albeit opposite) endeavor[1]. This back and forth, claiming and counterclaiming of compromise and/or authenticity are what frame theology denominationally, historically & philosophically. This conversation though not new, has not grown old – but rather has been continually reinvigorated with each passing year. In additional to this traditional “liberal vs. conservative” dichotomy of religious hermeneutical traditions, there exists a second dichotomy: one that likewise exists as a kind of interpretative rubric or framework for the liberal vs. conservative one; that of modernism vs. postmodernism. The interactions and correlations between the dichotomies of liberalism/conservativism and modernism/postmodernism are neither simple nor are they linear. In the past, modernism was attributed to liberalism[2] – and today – it is considered a conservative moniker.[3]  Modern liberals often appeal to the postmodern descriptor and polemics on the part of conservatives are crafted in such manner. But the complexity and interpenetrations of the assumptions of liberal/conservative & modern/postmodern frameworks are often themselves oversimplified or misappropriated on the part of their own defenders. This factor, along with the changing roles of various interpretive frameworks, make for an engaging enterprise in terms of ideas, goals, and ways of seeing the two Tillichian poles.  Good examples of this respective complexity can be readily found in many figures from the existentialist & phenomenological traditions. Though many may not be exclusively ‘postmodern’ in their own academic tradition – they may be seen in a larger cultural sense as being so. This academic-cultural divergence of terms is yet another example of the growing diversity of through and influence within the Christian theological tradition.

Generally speaking, a good way of understanding the modern/postmodern theological-philosophical divergence is by looking through the windows of reason,[4] truth,[5] history,[6] and self,[7] and utilizing them as interpretive rubrics. This paper will seek to propose and defend contributions to these ongoing contentions using these ‘windows’ through which the thought of two thinkers are examined: one from the phenomenological tradition, Emanuel Levinas; and the second – the existentialist tradition, through the thought of Michel Foucault.

 

 

Part One: ‘Truth & Self’ and Infinity & The Imago Dei – Emanuel Levinas’ “Ethics and the Face” and Simone De Beauvior’s corresponding, attempted rebuttal

Some philosophers endeavor to work to make gradual and noteworthy contributions to the life of the mind and that of culture. Others – go about their work with the care and earnestness of a demolitions expert.  Such is the case of Emmanuel Levinas and his groundbreaking ‘Infinity of the Face’ concept, which comes from the third part of his book Totality and Infinity, entitled “Ethics and the Face.” Levinas was a holocaust survivor and through hunger-ravaged eyes he saw both history and thought from a different perspective. Levinas was convinced that what had happened once could happen again – and in fact had already been occurring with some kind of insane regularity across the stage of world history. Whatever forces – philosophy, religion, ethics, or politics – had failed with some degree of regularity in the past, they were certainly likely to fail again. It was against this backdrop of the presumed inevitability of a future failures that Levinas sought to reset a new foundation; to re-establish a ‘first philosophy’ that would hopefully set itself against the recurrent dark tides of totalitarianism and death.[8] He chose the face. Through the face, Levinas argued, one could assert a bold truth about the inalienability of ‘the other’ – and that the ‘infinity’ that was rooted in the act of gazing upon the countenance of any other person could be affirmed to prefigure any proceeding presumptions about ethics, morality and/or religious belief.

Levinas makes an effort to not use religious language[9] – but, nonetheless, his argument is germane to the classic, conservative-theological concept of the Imago Dei: a theological term for an understanding that within humanity, a representational image of the divine can be found; essentially an argument that the very image of God is grafted into that of humanity. Levinas embarked on a long series of rhetorically-convoluted, but exacting language in which he argued for a series of ‘ifs,’ which he stated that if they are true – then there is a decidedly strong, if inescapable truth that the countenance of another person, when faced, will always reflect the infiniteness of their otherness and a contingent and inescapable, corresponding responsibility to them.

 

If, on the contrary, reason lives in language, if the first rationality gleams forth in the opposition of the face to face, if the first intelligible, the first signification, is the infinity of the intelligence that presents itself (that is, speaks to me) in the face, if reason is defined by signification rather then signification being defined by the impersonal structures of reason, if society precedes the apparition of these impersonal structures, if universality reigns as the presence of humanity in the eyes that look at me, if , finally, we recall that this look appeals to my responsibility and consecrates my freedom as responsibility and gift of self – then the pluralism of society could not disappear in the elevation to reason, but would be its condition. It is not the impersonal in me that Reason would establish, but an I myself capable of society, an I that has arisen in enjoyment as separated, but whose separation would itself be necessary for infinity to be – for its infinitude is accomplished as the “facing.” Pg. 525, The Phenomenology Reader, “Ethics and The Face” from Totality and Infinity,

 

            If we further Levinas’ concatenation of ‘ifs,’ to where we understand that a representational marking of the omniscience/infinity of God (the Imago Dei) is present in the face of every human, then we have more then just an innovative teleological argument,[10] but there is a genuinely powerful foundation for ethical grounding that both embodies yet also transcends a presumed conservative Judeo-Christian weltanschauung.[11] Though, as noted before, Levinas purposefully avoids religious or conventional ethical formulations, his assertions both transcend and also simultaneously provide a radical and innovative foundation for them as well.

            Contextually applying Levinas to past history yields interesting results. Slavery, as we know it, would have been impossible to have been defended were parties to agree on the intrinsic humanity of the individuals in question. Likewise Indian removal from the early american frontier would potentially have never taken place – as the labels of ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ would have been summarily rejected.  It is arguable that the Holocaust could have never been perpetrated.
            Levinas, however, is not without critics. In her book The Second Sex, Simone De Beauvior, argues that his thinking is merely oppressive chauvinisms, wrapped in a mysticized feminism.

This idea (“ ‘She’ is the other”) has been expressed in its most explicit form by E. Levinas in his essay Le temps et l’autre (Time and the Other). He expresses it like this: “Is there not a situation where alterity would be borne by a being in a positive sense, as essence? What is the alterity that does not purely and simply enter into the opposition of two species of the same genus? I think that the absolutely contrary contrary, whose contrariety is in no way affected by the relationship that can be established between it and its correlative, the contrariety that permits its terms to remain absolutely other, is the feminine. Sex is not a specific difference…Neither is the differences between the sexes a contradiction…Neither is a difference between the sexes the duality of two complementary terms, for two complementary terms presuppose a preexisting whole… [A]lterity is accomplished in the feminine. The term is on the same level as, but in meaning opposed to, consciousness.” I suppose Mr. Levinas is not forgetting that woman also is consciousness for herself. But it is also striking that he deliberately adopts a man’s point of view, disregarding the reciprocity of the subject and the object. When he writes that woman is mystery, he assumes that she is mystery for man. So this apparently objective description is in fact an affirmation of masculine privilege. The Second Sex, Pg. 6.

           

Beauvior makes the mistake of moving Levinas’ though into the ‘contextual-objective’ realm, and it is a premature movement – as this is not Levinas’ intention. Further, her emphasis on his masculine-archetype example, can be argued to be unfair, as he is not arguing for any kind of relativistic debasement, rather an affirmation of difference – and this is what, essentially, offends Beauvior. In a later chapter, entitled “childhood”, she writes,

One is not born, but rather becomes, woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine. Only the mediation of another can constitute an individual as an Other. Pg. 283, The Second Sex.

 

In this sense, Beauvior sets herself up as an archetypical feminist, who argues that all substantial differences between men and women are byproducts of growing up in their respective-to-them culture. For her, sexual difference is essentially completely socially mediated. Advances in science and medicine, and their related understanding of how the human in brain is structurally and organizationally altered based on sexual differentiation, have all but completely resigned the extreme forms of this view to a veritable dustbin of philosophical history.[12] Although no social research scientist would deny the influence and role of social and cultural mediating factors, there is no ‘sexual blank slate’ between the modalities of the sexes. And this is – essentially – was what Levinas was arguing for: that there is a difference between the sexes that is more then something that can be mediated culturally or ideologically.

A second aspect that should be asserted is that that Levinas is also speaking from within the Phenomenological tradition, as expressed in his use of the ‘[B]racket’ lexicographical style; a borrowed technique from Husserl which he had himself innovated. A Beauviorian apologist might respond that this is merely a ‘sly turn’ on the part of Levinas, or any phenomenologist, for that matter; an excuse to continue on with a given, potentially contentious project by merely hiding behind technique or method, when controversy erupts in regards to its use or related propositions.

A third aspect that can be proposed against Beauvior’s criticism of Levinas is that of her accusation of Levinas’ assertion of feminism as an exclusively mystic component. Contextually – or at least in Levinas’ example – this may be true, but there is no implication on the part of Levinas that masculinity (as apposed to femininity) is expressly non-mystic or incapable of the essence in this own thought in the larger constellation of his thinking. This accusation rings increasingly hollow, especially as the sexual aspect of masculine essence is increasingly understood as having just such a potential quotient in both the public and the scholarly mind.  Robert Bly’s book Iron Johna Book About Men, explores the tradition of masculinity as mystic-ethos carrier as well. In terms of logical fallacies, this is often referred to as begging the question, in which an interlocutor presupposes the truth of their own accusation against another.

 

 

Part Two: ‘Reason & History’ – Michel Foucault’s The Order of ThingsAn Archeology of the Human Sciences; coming to terms with the ever-changing foundations of a socially-mediated Weltanschauung.

 

Most people would not expect any kind of support for conservative theology to come from the pen of Michel Foucault.  A political leftist, a homosexual, and an apologist for sadomasochism,[13] Foucault would be more likely to send conservative theologians scurrying then draw their interests. A careful analysis of his thought, however, reveals that there is at least one aspect of his philosophy, which if taken seriously, has tremendous ramifications – especially for ‘liberal’ theology. In his book, The Order of Things – An Archeology of the Human Sciences, Foucault writes of both the central thesis to the pages of ideas to follow, as well as his inspiration for their commitment to paper.

 

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off” look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that. But what is it impossible to think, and what kind of impossibility are we faced with here? Each of these strange categories can be assigned a precise meaning and a demonstrable content; some of them do certainly involve fantastic entities – fabulous animals or sirens – but, precisely be­cause it puts them into categories of their own, the Chinese encyclopaedia localizes their powers of contagion; it distinguishes carefully between the very real animals (those that are frenzied or have just broken the water pitcher) and those that reside solely in the realm of imagination. The possibility of dangerous mixtures has been exorcized, heraldry and fable have been relegated to their own exalted peaks: no inconceivable amphibi­ous maidens, no clawed wings, no disgusting, squamous epidermis, none of those polymorphous and demoniacal faces, no creatures breathing fire. The Order of Things – An Archeology of the Human Sciences, from the “Preface”, Pg. xv.

 

Foucault’s argument is, essentially, that all human knowledge, both scientific and cultural, is both ever-changing and, ultimately, unsure as to any kind of understood, final state.  What had been held as authoritative in the past has been often shown to be patently ridiculous in the present; that which is seen as being respectable and well-founded, in the present, may find outright ridicule and hilarious incredulity in the future. Any kind of argument that Foucault’s example of the Chinese dictionary’s classification of animals is far from keeping with the age of modernity would do well to remember that – in a time, not so distant from our own as to be considered ancient, but well within the dawn of modernity – both phrenology[14] (and its relation to medicine) and especially eugenics[15] (as it relates to race theory and the holocaust) were once highly respected and are now either at best, as with the case of phrenology, laughable – or at worst, as with eugenics,  quite horrifying. All of history could be argued to follow this pattern: yesterday’s wisdom is today’s foolishness.

An understanding that human knowledge is innately unstable is not just very instructive in relation to the liberal vs. conservative dichotomatic split, but also very telling in the secondary modern vs. postmodern one as well. In Christianity and Liberalism published in 1923 by J. Gresham Machen “Modernism” was a codeword for liberalism.[16] In today’s present-day theological discussion, modernism is representational of ‘traditional’ understandings of life, belief and culture – and its “replacement” ‘postmodernism’ is substantially different enough as to be felt as a sea-change to all those who are the least bit attentive.[17] In “National Denominational Structures’ Engagement with Postmodernity: An Integrative Summary from an Organizational Perspective,” by David A. Rosen, Rosen highlights Postmodernity with the following subtexts

  • institutionalized pluralism; variety, contingency, ambivalence; and complexity;
  • the scrambling of traditions; de-traditionalization, understood as the routine subjection of traditions to critical interrogation.[18]

 The postmodern changes to the understandings of history & ideology and the Windows/frameworks  – through which they are each contextually interrelated and understood – are on the move again.  

On the surface – it would appear that theological liberals would celebrate this ongoing change, as it would embody the literal spirit and practice of liberalism – whereas conservatives would seek to maintain the status quo. A deeper understanding of both this notion and Foucault’s contentions illuminates a substantial problem for liberalism. A strictly positivist reading would likely affirm a Foucaultian beneficence to the liberal interpretive tradition.  But a more subjective & interpretative understanding could possibly do otherwise and could tellingly reveal a darker side to liberalism’s project. At its core, any system – which is not expressly dystopian or anarchistic – will seek to establish an interpretive foundation upon which a rubric or a framework can be established. For liberals who deny the Scripture as having a sense of authority and promote a God who is neither existent, nor (more tellingly) redemptive – the only true foundation that is offered is that of a collective social tradition, one which (for them) embodies the faith-communities telios or source. It is standard praxis for the community to mediate truth and (subsequent) doctrine. In its extreme forms, many liberal theologians express themselves to be atheists – or in the case of Bishop John Shelby Spong -essentially virtual atheists by virtue of their rhetorical wording.[19] If a full abdication of biblical inspiration is committed and then if God/theism is subsequently declared dead – not just by Nietzsche, but also leaders of the self-professed church – then what is the foundation? Again, on its face, his may not seem like a significant problem – but, then again, how is this informed by a Foucaultian interpretation, especially if we, take into consideration the understandings of an exclusive mediation of theology/belief structures by social means and not textual (inspirational writing) ones. Orthopraxy is understood the ‘right practice’ of an understood orthodoxy – or ‘right belief.’ It is arguable that a Foucaultian theology – Foucaultian in terms that it at least accepts the limitations and (potential future) absurdities of its own orthopraxy – must surely contain a great deal more of existential dread and innate insecurity vs. that of a theologian who would strive to base a belief on traditional Christian doctrine, or what St. Vincent of Lerins coined quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est (“what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all”).[20]  In truth, any liberal who rejects this classic maxim, must accommodate a degree of Foucaultian skepticism regarding the truth, integrity and permanence of their own orthopraxy-orthodoxy, especially if they come to grips with the intrinsic tenuousity of socially-mediated ideologies/theologies. Given the strength of propaganda and media pervasiveness in this present culture, it could be argued that all of culture can be augmented and/or greatly influenced by nothing more then just a few well-written episodes of a popular sitcom. But is this a church that can offer hope? Is this a ‘change that you can believe in’ when the beliefs may be capable of changing as fast as a television’s channels can be flipped around? The consequences are staggering – not just for religious liberals, and their founding of belief upon social mediation – but many other projects, such a politics: Is the U.S. Constitution a “living document” or is to be more strictly understood? The consequences are staggering. Foucault understood this much – and he also affirmed that society/man’s capacity for constant change and re-invention created more problems and questions then it answered. Foucault asserted that it was not as much the question of change that was the problem – as much as it was man himself. He questioned, in a larger sense, that the changes that had brought about a ‘changeable man’s presence in the greater universe might themselves change – and was not the larger issue, not man’s ideological impermanence – but perhaps the permanence of man’s own existence.

One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area European culture since the sixteenth century – one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledge prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities, differences, characters, equivalences, words – in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same – only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. The Order of Things – An Archeology of the Human Sciences, pg. 386.

 

 

Conclusions

 

          In the first section of this paper, the conservative theological doctrine of Imago Dei (the “Image of God”) was explored, as it potentially relates to the thought of Emanuel Levinas’ ‘Infinity of the Face’. Though not expressly presented as a ‘conservative’ theological view, Levinas’ philosophy as a ‘first philosophy’ and foundation for a “future-proof” ethics can be argued to have been grounded in it, nonetheless. In the second section, a second conservative theological concept was explored: that of the preference for a theology/orthodoxy and its concomitant practice/orthopraxy being necessarily grounded upon accepted-as-inspired scriptural texts – over and above the accepted-as-unstable social grounding, as is understood through the implications of the thought of Michel Foucault and as it is functionally practiced in the liberal theological tradition. In the first, the argument is only vaguely hidden – but very present, nonetheless: Levinas was a believer, and his thoughts can be argued to have been informed by his belief. In the second, the author, Foucault, was not a believer, but – still – his belief – in careful consideration – can be seen to – albeit unexpectedly – yield an interesting argument for a conservative view of theology, though, he would be understood – himself – to be very, very liberal were he even placed on the Judeo-Christian continuum. In Levinas, the concepts of Truth & Self were contextualized, as concepts related to building a system of ethics that situated the ‘self’ and ‘the other’ in a relation that imposed constraints on the wanton debasement of groups at the excuse of their relational inconvenience to other groups throughout history. The requirement for an incurred responsibility of the other was presented as an inescapable Truth. In Foucault, two additional ‘windows’ were examined as they refer to liberal vs. conservative theology: those of reason & history.  If Foucault is to be accepted, then it follows that throughout history, accepted reason has proven to be quite unreasonable at future, historical times, and that in a truly disconcerting manner, the revelation of previous-practice as present-absurdity is not a trend that will ever be out of style or no longer applicable in terms of man’s own social history.

          The respective interprenetrations and thought-out consequences of various thinkers – those modern, postmodern, phenomenological, or existential – can never be classed as expressly “conservative” or, likewise, “liberal”.  Oversimplifications are, at best the tools of over-eager polemicist and at their worst – the sophistic machinations of malignant propagandists. It is important to ‘practice’ good philosophy – because philosophy itself matters. And practicing good philosophy means taking care to fully investigate and extrapolate thinkers and their respective ideas; those who and which are both inclusive to and also innately foreign to the Christian religious tradition. ‘Conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are, after all, pedagogical labels, and can be, as has shown, transient and changing. In whatever ways it might be ontologically-rhetorically classified, a Christ-centered (and not self-based) and biblically-centered (and not socially mediated) Christian faith has persisted; through its death has been both predicted, called for, and even (by some liberals) hoped for – it is still very much alive.  If the ‘conservative’ Christian tradition is to continue to flourish, as it (hopefully) no doubt will – it will continue to grow, just as it has in the past, by standing up to and also reflecting, engaging and absorbing the truths where they are and in the contexts that they present themselves extant within; those both expected (as in Levinas) and those unexpected (as in Foucault), and whether they be classified as phenomenological, existential, or any other ‘10 dollar word.’ The futures of an honest philosophical practice and a concomitant vibrant & authentic Christianity – these rest upon the faithfulness of the endeavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Beauvoir, Simone De. The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2009.

 

Bly, Robert. Iron John – A Book About Men. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1990.

 

Catholic Online. St. Vincent of Lerins – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=2006 (accessed 4 25, 2013).

 

DeYoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008.

 

Fillingham, Lydia Alix. Foucault for Beginners. New York, NY: Writers and Readers, 1993.

 

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things – An Anthology of the Human Sciences. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1994.

 

Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. New York, NY: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1923.

 

Moran, Dermot, and Timothy Mooney. The Phenomenology Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002.

 

Roozen, David A., and R. James Nieman. Church, Identity, and Change – Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times. New York, NY: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005.

 

Savic, Garcia-Falgueras. “Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094885 (accessed 4 25, 2013).

 

Spong, Shelby John. Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. New York, NW: Harper Collins, 2000.

 

Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1951.

 

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology. New York, NY: Cambridge Univesity Press, 2003.

 

 

 


[1] Systematic Theology, by Paul Tillich, pg. 3.

[2] An example of this is provided later in the essay (J. Gresham Machen and his book Christianity and Liberalism).

[3] An example of this is the book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Gluck, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, which discusses the ‘Emergent” movement, which is generally understood to be an a theological expression of the Postmodernist generation.

[4] Reason. “Postmodernists reject the epistemological foundationalism that proclaims ‘come let us reason together’ (one the basis of shared experience and shared logical categories). It is not that postmoderns are irrational. They do not reject ‘reason’ but “Reason.” They deny the notion of universal rationality; reason is rather a contextual and relative affair. What counts as rational is relative to the prevailing narrative in a society or institution.”  From “Theology and the condition of postmodernity,” from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, pg. 10.

[5] Truth. “The above rejctions combine to form a grand refusal of modernity’s metaphysical project, namely, the project of mastering natural reality in a comprehensive conceptual scheme. ‘Postmodernist reject unifying, totalizing, and universal schemes in favor of new emphasis on difference, plurality, fragmentation, and complexity.’ Postmoderns are suspicious of truth claims, of ‘getting it right.’ Upon hearing the assertion that ‘that’s the way things are,’ postmoderns are likely to respond, ‘that’s the way things are for you.’ From “Theology and the condition of postmodernity,” from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, pg. 11.

[6] History. “Postmoderns are also incredulous towards narratives that purport to recount universal history. Modern thinkers like nothing more then to tell stories about ‘universal history.’ From Kant to Hegel to Marx, modern thinkers have attempted to tell the story of humanity, usually in terms of the progress of the race. Postmodern historians reject the premise that history moves according to a unified linear logic. Discontinuity, rather then continuity is the postmodern watchword.” From “Theology and the condition of postmodernity,” from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, pg. 11.

[7] Self. “It follows from the above that there is no one true way of recounting one’s own history and thus no true way of narrating one’s own identity. But the self is decentered in other ways as well. Postmoderns reject the notion that a person is an autonomous individual with a rational consciousness that transcends one’s particular place in culture, language, history, and a gendered body. Contra Descartes, the self cannot even know its own mind.” From “Theology and the condition of postmodernity,” from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, pg. 11-12.

 

[8] The Phenomenology Reader, pg. 511

[9] Ibid, pg. 511.

[10] A teleological argument is an argument for the existence of God.

[11] A German philosophical term, which translates ‘world view’, or the way that one sees the world, especially from a religious or philosophical standpoint.

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094885 “Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation”. (Abstract)

“ It is believed that during the intrauterine period the fetal brain develops in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. According to this concept, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation should be programmed into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in transsexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no proof that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation. Data on genetic and hormone independent influence on gender identity are presently divergent and do not provide convincing information about the underlying etiology. To what extent fetal programming may determine sexual orientationis also a matter of discussion. A number of studies show patterns of sex atypical cerebral dimorphism in homosexual subjects. Although the crucial question, namely how such complex functions as sexual orientation and identity are processed in the brain remains unanswered, emerging data point at a key role of specific neuronal circuits involving the hypothalamus. “

 

[13] Foucault for Beginners, pg. 150.

[14] A now debunked medical theory that a person’s intelligence capacity could be deduced from the study of the shape of their head.

[15] An attempt to apply Darwinian evolution to race theory, with an emphasis on creating a presumed “master race: while ‘weeding out’ the genetic influence of inferior races or ‘breeders’. Eugenics served as an ideological linchpin to the Nazis racial polices in WWII.

[16] “This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism’ or ‘liberalism.’ Both names are unsatisfactory; the latter, in particular, is question-begging.” Christianity and Liberalism, pg. 4.

[17] “A constellation of technical, economic, demographic, and cultural changes is transforming all of American society, as well as the world. Many organizational analysts argue that these changes are so fundamental as to signal a major paradigm shift from modern to postmodern forms of organization, a shift affecting all institutional segments of American life, including the religious.” Pg 3, from the Introduction of Church, Identity, and Change – Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times, by David A. Roozen & James R. Nieman, editors.

[18] From “National Denominational Structures’ Engagement with Postmodernity: An Integrative Summary from an Organizational Perspective,” by David A. Rosen, in Church, Identity, and Change – Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times, by David A. Roozen & James R. Nieman, editors, pg. 588-589.

 

[19] “1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. God can no longer be understood with credibility as a Being, supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky and prepared to invade human history periodically to enforce the divine will. So, most theological God-talk today is meaningless unless we find a new way to speak of God.  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So, the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.”

(pp. 453-454, Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality, John Shelby Spong, “Twelve Theses, A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile, A Call for a New Reformation.”)

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One Response to Windows to a Weltanschauung Exploring the Dichotomies of Theological Liberalism/Conservatism through the Modern/Postmodern ‘Windows’ of History, Truth, Self, and Reason

  1. Pingback: Latest Entries » Between Athens and Jerusalem: A Philosophical Defense for the Christian Pro-Life Movement – The Infinity of The Other (Part 2 in a Series) | Seventy Thousand Fathoms

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