One of the things I really like about the emergent church movement is the desire to bridge the knowledge gap between pastors and the academy. As an example, the 2007 Emergent Village gathering focused on deconstruction (particularly through the lens of Jacques Derrida), a term which, at least in the evangelical tradition, is usually met with skepticism. Thankfully the speakers demonstrated an awareness of this reservation and, rather than dismissing it, worked to make the audience aware of the importance of deconstruction and its implications for pastoral practice. The complete conversation titled “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: A Conversation about Justice” features professors John D. Caputo and Richard Kearney and is available as podcasts from the Emergent Village website.
In part one the speakers give a concise overview of the history of philosophy from Plato to the present and, more importantly, explains how our philosophical past has shaped our present understanding of God.
Richard Kearney gives a particularly helpful summary:
…What needs to be deconstructed, I think, is this metaphysical notion which is essentially Greek, not biblical and not Judeo-Christian…that God is somehow removed from the world, self-sufficient, self-thinking, and then that becomes, in say Augustine, the self-loving love, and then in scholasticism after Aquinas it becomes the self-causing cause, so when Nietzsche and Sartre and Freurbach and Marx and Freud come along and they say this God, of the Christians and the Jews and monotheism is essentially a god of alienation, I think for the most part what they are critiquing is the god of metaphysics,
who is this utterly removed indifferent emperor of the universe that basically takes our lives away from us, that takes the flesh out of the world, and the flesh out of God, which is an irony for Christianity which is based on the message that the word becomes flesh. And I think that’s a big contradiction in western metaphysics.
Unfortunately the first half of session two is not available which makes the latter half a little hard to follow. The general theme is the role of deconstruction in the life of the church and includes suggestions on how to make deconstruction part of the theological language within the church.
Listen to part 2.
The last session focuses on integrating deconstruction and theology and provides the audience with ideas of how we can faithfully reconstruct Christian theology beyond the theological understanding of God that has been inherited from western philosophy. For myself, and for what seemed like much of the audience, the reconstruction requires a paradigm shift beyond the scope of a 48 hour meeting. Nevertheless, I feel like the shift is happening, both in myself and in the certain parts of the evangelical church, and I am excited, and certainly a little curious, about the impact reconstruction will continue to have on the life of the church.
I’ll leave you with this teaser from Richard Kearney:
Isn’t it ironic that Christians that claim to believe in an infinite unknowable being then tie God down in closed systems and rigid doctrines?