Ktismatics

4 April 2007

Anti-Creeds

Filed under: Christianity, Culture, Ktismata, Language — ktismatics @ 7:11 pm

I’m thinking about hermeneutics and deconstruction. Gadamer, following Heidegger, oberved that writers and readers of texts operate within interpretive frameworks. A shared framework between writer and reader makes communication possible, but it also prevents the possibility of arriving at absolute knowledge independent of context. Derrida, following Nietzsche, looked for places in texts that reveal evidence of alternative interpretive frameworks. The author represses these socially unacceptable ways of seeing things but they’re still there, leaving traces in the text that the author and the intended readers may not have been consciously aware of. In a nutshell, Gadamer reveals the dominant interpretive framework while Derrida exposes the marginalized minority interpretative frameworks.

Take the Nicene Creed, a short textual summary of how the early Christian community interpreted the faith. The Creed wasn’t a spontaneous manifestation of shared beliefs; it was hashed out in contentious debate. Dissenters were excommunicated, executed, driven underground, excluded from the community. The text of the Nicene Creed makes explicit the dominant interpretive framework of 4th century Christianity, but there’s also an “anti-text” implicit in the text, an “anti-creed” that points to the losers in the debate.

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Imagine a praxis of reading the anti-creed that goes like this: for every statement in the Creed, posit at least one opposite statement. So, from the beginning:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

One God. What are the alternatives that could be believed? No gods: a philosophical option in every age. Two gods: the Old Testament god and Jesus’s god — this was the Marcionites’ position. Three gods: father, son, holy ghost. Many gods: paganism and gnosticism. All these alternatives to monotheism were in play during the early Christian era.

The Father. Some may have believed that God is Lord but not Father, so totally above and other that he could not enter into a fatherly relationship with mere humans.

Almighty. The Manichaeists believed that God had no absolute power over the forces of evil, which exist in eternal opposition to good.

Maker of heaven and earth. The Greeks and pagans believed that both heaven and earth existed eternally. The Gnostics believed that a demiurge created the corrupt earth by mistake.

And so on. Each tenet stated in the Creed implies at least one unstated opposing position that enjoyed significant support in the early Christian era. We can imagine a whole bunch of alternative creeds that would have incorporated one or more of the banned beliefs. “We believe in two gods…” We believe in many gods…” Five options can be stated just by changing the number of gods: 0, 1, 2, 3, or more than 3. Father versus not father gives us 2 sub-options for each of the first 5 options. So far in our analysis of the Creed we can generate 5 x 2 x 2 x 3 = 60 creedal variants. Only one is The Creed; the other 59 get lumped together in the unstated realm of anticreed. We’ve only made it through the first sentence: plenty of other unstated controversies can be identified as we continue reading. And The Creed doesn’t even cover a lot of the big debates that would take center stage in subsequent centuries: transubstantiation, the Fall, predestination, universal salvation… It’s not that consensus broke down later; it’s that nobody had thought about these issues clearly enough for a controversy to arise. The Nicene Creed describes the inclusive interpretive framework of the early Christian community. The Nicene Creed is a mandate that forcibly excludes minority positions, driving them underground, denying them a voice. Gadamer versus Derrida.

Was the dissent only an external one between disputing factions? Or by naming the tenets of the Anti-Creed do we outline the shadow world in the 4th century Christian heart, the disbeliefs of the believers, the doubts that bubbled up and that had to be pushed back down again? “I believe in no-god, my double, no more powerful than I, the first creator of what heavens and earth mean…” Do my stated beliefs imply an opposing set of vague doubts that roil underground in voiceless disarray, an anarchy of subconscious heretics that lost the battle for conscious control of my mind, forced now to employ guerrilla tactics to make their presence felt? The voice that proclaims “I believe” implies the voiceless anti-proclamation: “I doubt.”

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44 Comments »

  1. Whew, you’ve opened the door to endless possibilities. Overwhelming, if you ask me. Can I never be certain again since all that I say that I believe equally says I’m not sure? If I pay attention to this does it drive me mad? Or does it instead allow me to play with the world around me, feeling the joy of flexible interpretations and manipulation?

    I’m honestly not sure.

    Or does that mean I’m positive?

    Meilleurs voeux!!

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    Comment by bluevicar — 4 April 2007 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Oh bluevicar you ironic hound! I don’t think Pandora needs to let all the bugs out of the jar at once. But some of them do manage to get out and get under your skin. Arguably it’s better to take a look at what’s bugging you rather than pretending the itch doesn’t really itch.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2007 @ 7:51 pm

  3. Scratch away, because under the surface is likely something interesting that might have been missed before. Scratching can bring up a red raw spot that deserves attention, something unpleasant but persistent. If shifting the interpretative frameworks, loosening the structures, means that there are gaps so that an itch finds its way in, then we may know more than we did before.

    If nothing else, we learn that we can itch and that itch is not pain.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

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    Comment by bluevicar — 4 April 2007 @ 8:10 pm

  4. Amen. But I think maybe you oughta get some kind of hermeneutical unguent to take down the swelling.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2007 @ 8:12 pm

  5. “And The Creed doesn’t even cover a lot of the big debates that would take center stage in subsequent centuries: transubstantiation, the Fall, predestination, universal salvation… It’s not that consensus broke down later; it’s that nobody had thought about these issues clearly enough for a controversy to arise.”

    I think that the emergence of these pot-stirring debates over time owes less to Pandora than to Prometheus and/or Pan. Pan does, however have some similarity to Pandora. If you ask me, Pandora is a bit of a knee-jerk attribut(ion). That scientific evolution stuff, man. Fight or flight. Or maybe even the emergence of particular arguements at particular times owes less to Prometheus than to Genesis. Regardless, “because no one thought of them clearly enough” sounds way too “endless series of chance-driven cause and effect relationships” for me.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  6. Sorry if that sounded harsh. I’m having a bad day at work. I didn’t mean it that way.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  7. As for swelling: “When quicksilver come, people surf.” – Hawaii native.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 8:23 pm

  8. Kick somebody’s ass. Blame it on me.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  9. I AM the ass. Seen my blog title?

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  10. Or read Girand? Lol.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  11. The Nicene Creed is a mandate that forcibly excludes minority positions, driving them underground, denying them a voice. Gadamer versus Derrida.

    But I’m not sure that I would pit Gadamer v. Derrida in the same way that you have done. Remember that for Gadamer the dialogical method is important. Truth is out there and it tends to surface when various perpsectives engage in dialogue and exchange. Gadamer then would hail dialogue as a critical aspect of hashing out theological differences. Hence, it might be misleading to put him on the side of the “majority” and in opposition to the minority position. Following Gadamer still allows for all voices to be heard. That would be my suggestion….

    Now, my thought is this: why not exclude minority voices? I don’t advocate torches and pitchforks or any other form of persecution. However, at some point a community must define itself and bring closure to certain disputes. If open dialogue takes place usually the stronger positions in an argument will come to the surface…..I think your own post illustrates this. Should the church develop several hundred creeds? One for each perspective? Absurd! The most meaningful positions will surface as dialogue is opened and explored.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 4 April 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  12. Jonathan –

    Okay, leave G & D out of the discussion if you like. Let’s call it a uniquely Doylian perspective. There is a distinction between the majority voice, the community, the tradition on the one hand; and the minority, the marginalized, the unvoiced, the repressed on the other. I’m sure there was plenty of dialogue at the Council of Nicaea. The text they left behind was generated after the dialogue had come to an end and the decision had been arrived at. It’s a textual product of the community, the tradition. I’m suggesting that even the voices that are not allowed to speak can be heard, that the words that are written imply their opposites that are not written.

    Okay, exclude the minority voices. I personally think it’s better to acknowledge them than to pretend they don’t exist. If you’re a Hegelian you’d try to find some other dimension on which the seemingly contradictory positions can be reconciled, rather than endorsing the one and rejecting the other. Or you might decide they’re both true, or that they’re both false.

    Discussions like this make me think blogging is a waste of my time. In my experience the most meaningful positions are over most people’s heads or are too far out of the mainstream even to be heard. The “stronger position” has that military sound to it, don’t you think? They “come to the surface” — the other ones stay down in the depths. The church should develop no creeds whatsoever. The church should develop an absurd creed. Do what you want with the church; it’s none of my concern.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  13. Then let’s detach the discussion from “church.”

    If the German people are deciding which direction they should go with their nation and it’s after WWI how would they proceed? In a perfect world one could imagine dialogue whereby each position was given a voice to be heard. But if you’re the Doylian monitor of this proceeding how much time do you give to people who think ethnic cleansing is the way to go?

    My point is that sometimes minority voices are supressed because they are absurd. Or dangerous. Or destructive. On a pragmatic level decisions must be made and policy must be implemented. Out of necessity there must be closure.

    Of course, the real world never works in the ideal. We never get to hash things out dialogically. It’s primarily about power plays within existing institutions, or it is a power play to pull down the existing institution. Maybe dialogue is a waste of time, as you say….

    In any event, my position is not to argue for majority rules. That would be ridiculous considering my own voice is a marginalized minority within Evangelical Christianity. However, there is a struggle that I had thought you had opened up here that was worth exploring. The struggle is for meaning: Which positions in a given context will be given more meaning? This is the precise question I am raising in my current paper, which has grown in length to the point where it is now beginning to resemble a graduate-level thesis…..But I would argue that the more meaningful position should eventually become the view that is explored or implemented into policy. Meaning, of course, is contextual.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 4 April 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  14. “On a pragmatic level decisions must be made and policy must be implemented. Out of necessity there must be closure.” Closure is the very definition of necessity…inevitability…death. A tilling of the ground. Work. Standing is working.

    And the Doylian pro-spective sounds Focoultian, no?

    And: “Discussions like this make me think blogging is a waste of my time. In my experience the most meaningful positions are over most people’s heads or are too far out of the mainstream even to be heard.” “Your having a secret gnostis tells me that your gnosis ain’t crap.” – John Doyle himself. Don’t get too bent out of shape, though: “If this blog is Star Wars, then John Doyle is Yoda.” – Erdman.

    :)

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 4 April 2007 @ 11:04 pm

  15. Gadamer has had a late but positive impact on evangelical hermeneutics. At the same time I always felt that the rather nebulous outer margins of a “shared framework between writer and reader” is something itself quite exquisitely existential which has been incorporated perhaps with inadequate attention payed to what it entails.

    If we are to accept Derrida’s insights as pointing to ‘meaning includes antithetical meanings’, then sharing the same hermeneutical space cannot properly happen without both the meaning and the entitheticals also being in commonality.

    So is communication ever possible? Or do our minds have the ability to make the leap across many chasms simultaneously?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 5 April 2007 @ 7:48 am

  16. Maybe someone can help me with this, as I am new to Gadamer, Derrida, et al. Does Gadamer (who I have only been exposed to through secondary interpreters like Richard Bernstein) really believe that writer and reader can share a framework or that in a genuine, authentic dialogue where one’s interpretive “prejudices” are clarified and exposed (and thus, paradoxically, held more loosely?) that a “good enough” understanding can occur where it is “understanding” and not “truth” that is at the center? I’m just trying to understand what is at stake and how Derrida and Gadamer may differ (but I know next to nothing about Derrida).

    I found your analysis of the “anti-creed” embedded in the creed really interesting! What I began wondering about is how the Eucharist may serve as the “anti-creed” in the practice of the Anglican church I am attending in Bucharest. We recite the Nicene creed right before we enter into preparation for the Eucharist. I had never thought of the meaning of this practice before, but I wonder if this is a reminder that right after we have expressed our “beliefs” (which you are correct to point the manner in which they have violently excluded and silenced at times) we participate in a practice reminding us of sacrificial love and Christ’s dying rather than violently imposing his “truth”. Perhaps I am out in left field on this, but your post has me thinking about the significance of holding open my closures…

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    Comment by Ron — 5 April 2007 @ 9:09 am

  17. Jonathan –

    My post isn’t about procedures for arriving at an official position, be they rational discourse or evaluation of empirical evidence or executive fiat. It’s about what happens after the official position has been stated. The minority positions don’t just disappear because they’ve been officially excluded: they go underground. Through the act of excluding them from the official position statement, through what isn’t stated in the statement, the winners reveal the traces left behind by the losers.

    So: post-WWI Germans decide that they are the master race, that purifying the race will bring the Fatherland back to world dominance, that silencing opposition will bring steadfastness of purpose. In the end Hitler wins something like 90% of the popular vote. Still, in the forceful statement of the official position can be found traces of the suppressed/repressed minority positions: maybe we Germans are an inferior race, maybe the Jews are better than we are. And then, after WWII is over and the ex-Nazis have been rehabilitated, after constitutional democracy has been restored, after the country acknowledges publicly its crimes against humanity, has the fascistic voice been silenced? Are there no more Germans who believe that Germany should be for Germans, that the immigrants are screwing up the work ethic, that democracy has sapped the will to dominance, that perhaps the Jews are taking over the global economy and should be stopped? Are there individual Germans who, while espousing the correct position, retain subconscious unspoken traces of the now-repressed minority position that used to be the explicit majority stance?

    Minority positions can be absurd or wrong or morally corrupt; they can also be reasonable and justifiable and ethical. Either way, they don’t just disappear when they don’t win the battle for supremacy, either in the culture or in the individual human mind. They go underground; they retreat into the unconscious.

    This post is the beginning of a synthesis of stuff I’ve been working through. In this context my interest is primarily psychological rather than theological or even textual. The Creed exemplifies an idea that I think applies to individual psychology and to a possible therapeutic practice. I expect to outline these ideas further over the next days (weeks?). The Creed thing was kind of a brainstorm at the last minute, a way of preparing the ground, of territorializing the territory. I thought a theological text might offer a common ground to illustrate the point.

    In the last paragraph of the post I moved from the collective decision to the individual decision, suggesting that a similar process is at work, with the conscious decision-making process driving underground the rejected thoughts, where they live on in the voiceless unconscious. At the end of the post I wrote the first line of my personal (anti)creed. It too expresses my doubts in what it doesn’t say: maybe there really is a god or gods, maybe there is an intelligent power that’s nonhuman and spiritual in its origins. My unstated doubts might be your stated beliefs, and vice versa. Each of us asserts a position that we regard as our personal winner, at least for now. But the losers are still hanging around in the inner world of unspoken doubt. Just like the fascist or the communist, the republican or the democrat, the Calvinist or the Arminian.

    Maybe dialogue is a waste of time, as you say….. When I said I doubted the point of blogging it was because the dialogue seemed more like argumentation that was off the point of the post. I wrote this post after a kind of breakthrough that suggested a synthesis of readings I’ve been looking at lately. This post on the Creed establishes a procedure that I regard as relevant to more personal things like why you’re dissatisfied with your career or why your wife is leaving you or why nobody seems to understand you (or your blog posts). I wrote my comment out of frustration and excessive hope that, because of my emerging synthesis, the skies would clear and the seas would part.

    I had previously suggested the idea of “personal hermeneutics”: this is where I’m headed. Sometimes the system of personal meanings gets locked into an overly rigid and dysfunctional structure. Then part of a praxis is to look for traces of repressed alternative structures in what is not said, in the unstated underground oppositions that make their presence known in what the person pointedly does not say.

    I suspect you read my post with your own paper in mind. Perhaps you’re writing about a praxis for arriving at the most “assertable” system of meanings. That is a good project in its own right. My post is about the surplus of meanings that are left over after the assertions have been made — also presumably a good project. I expect eventually to get to the issue you bring up. Just not yet.

    Jason –

    There is certainly a Foucaultian stance in my treatment of the Creed. Knowledge and power are interrelated; part of what knowledge does is to force into exile what it regards as ignorance or falsehood. Even a rational, friendly, participatory community exerts pressure on the minority to conform. Even a reasonable and accommodating mind exerts pressure on conflicting thoughts and feelings it doesn’t want to entertain. But the minority positions aren’t entirely powerless; they push back until their presence must be acknowledged.

    Closure is the very definition of necessity…inevitability…death. A tilling of the ground. Work. Standing is working. I agree that these are the “down side” of pragmatic rationality and single-minded implementation, regardless of how the closure is achieved. Some of this discussion recapitulates issues at the core of modernism versus postmodernism. Part of the intention behind this post is to identify the places where the enclosing membrane has been sutured together.

    Regardless, “because no one thought of them clearly enough” sounds way too “endless series of chance-driven cause and effect relationships” for me. I’m just suggesting that you can’t state your position on something that you’d never even considered before. This is like a recent Theos Project post: you can’t frame a question until you’ve got a pretty good idea of what kinds of answers are conceivable. The statement of a belief is the answer to a question that was previously asked. If you can’t think of the question, you have no reason to state the answer.

    I shall return for further dialogue, recognizing that Sam and Ron have posted comments while I’ve been laboring over this response. In brief, I’m recovering my equanimity and ability to engage in the constructive dialogue afforded by blogspace. I’m sorry for my earlier surliness. I do value the comments and questions you guys ask. Sometimes I’m too distracted by my own issues, both positive and negative.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2007 @ 9:30 am

  18. Just a free association, but your post about “anti-creeds” also made me think about Donnell Stern’s notion of “unformulated experience” in the therapeutic process…

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    Comment by Ron — 5 April 2007 @ 9:36 am

  19. Sam –

    The seemingly easy conversation occurs among people who share the same interpretive outlook with each other. This common ground enables both parties to leave out words that would otherwise need to be spoken. I’m reminded of visiting my wife’s family. Occasionally someone will trigger a comment from someone else that makes absolutely no sense to me but that cracks them up laughing. “Your pig died,” is an example that comes to mind. It turns out there’s a whole set of family stories that illustrate various lessons. A point in the conversation will trigger the lesson, which in turn triggers the story. The person then tells only the punchline of the story — “your pig died” — which triggers the whole associative string in everyone. Since I don’t know the stories or the lessons, the punchlines make no sense to me. So someone has to go through the laborious process of telling me the story that goes with the punchline. This is the kind of thing that’s possible in a close-knit interpretive community. Somebody outside the community has to ask questions in order to make explicit what’s implicit to everybody else. As long as the right questions get asked and there’s somebody around to answer them, then mutual understanding seems attainable. If, on the other hand, we’re talking about an ancient text, we may never be able to know “what goes without saying” in the original context in which the text was written and read.

    Sharing the same hermeneutical space cannot properly happen without both the meaning and the entitheticals also being in commonality. That’s probably true, and perhaps achievable if we use what’s said as indicators of what’s unsaid — like the Creed example. But if we’ve got the “goes without saying” situation then neither the affirmative nor its negation is available to us. A harder challenge.

    Ron –

    I’m not familiar with Stern, but I looked some of his stuff up on the internet and it does sound relevant. Stern is looking largely at a third category of the unspoken: that which is coming into awareness but that hasn’t fully arrived yet. Unprocessed experiences gradually leading up to the flash of insight, making it possible to shape the right words to characterize the new knowledge. So we’ve got the “goes without saying” common ground, the suppressed/repressed marginal thoughts/feelings, and the coming-into-awareness experience before words have been found. Is that right? Do you recommend his book?

    I think Gadamer’s dialogical process is geared toward people who don’t share the same “goes without saying” frameworks, so they’re trying to make explicit what for each is implicit. I’ll defer, however, to Jon Erdman, who knows Gadamer better than I do and who’s been working on this lately. Perhaps also Sam has insights. Hopefully he has time to log in.

    I like your thoughts about Eucharist following Creed, an embrace following an assertion. Perhaps the Christians in our midst have thoughts on this. Jason often sees the symbolic meanings embedded in the medieval practices…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  20. K…..I wrote this post after a kind of breakthrough that suggested a synthesis of readings I’ve been looking at lately.

    Here’s a thought:
    Perhaps my comments represented what was left unsaid and unspoken after your breakthrough post. Maybe my thoughts were the anti-post.

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 5 April 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  21. Maybe it’s possible to run www3 by setting up a post-antipost reactor, fueled by deconstructium crystals.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2007 @ 2:12 pm

  22. Creed vs. Anti-Creed

    Christ vs. Anti-Christ

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 5 April 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  23. Doyle vs. Anti-Doyle

    ?

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 5 April 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  24. “…do our minds have the ability to make the leap across many chasms simultaneously?” I’m going with “yes”. This was the root of my Prometheus comment. Has a lot to do with how I interpret a lot. Has a lot to do with how I think of what it means to be human, as well. Our minds are god-like.

    “My unstated doubts might be your stated beliefs, and vice versa. Each of us asserts a position that we regard as our personal winner, at least for now. But the losers are still hanging around in the inner world of unspoken doubt.”

    John, your world is hung. That’s supposed to have both a comedic and tragic ring to it.

    Surliness – kick somebody’s ass. Blame it on us.

    “Part of the intention behind this post is to identify the places where the enclosing membrane has been sutured together.” That sounds like a lot of work! Lol.

    “…you can’t frame a question until you’ve got a pretty good idea of what kinds of answers are conceivable. The statement of a belief is the answer to a question that was previously asked. If you can’t think of the question, you have no reason to state the answer.” Well, then it sounds like we are on similar pages on the Pan/Prometheus thing. Which is why I bothered to mention it in the first place…I took our same-pageness as not only possible but probable.

    “The seemingly easy conversation occurs among people who share the same interpretive outlook with each other.” Wittgenstein, dude.

    “Stern is looking largely at a third category of the unspoken: that which is coming into awareness but that hasn’t fully arrived yet.” Badiou?

    “I like your thoughts about Eucharist following Creed, an embrace following an assertion. Perhaps the Christians in our midst have thoughts on this. Jason often sees the symbolic meanings embedded in the medieval practices…” I think that any action that is integral to the man’s (or the Man’s) word (or Word) either dissipates or minimizes the violence that is inherent in any presence. In other words, a man of integrity doesn’t act out of irrational violent graspings for power. Before Jesus ever instituted the Eucharistic pracice, he demonstrated this integrity time and again…with vioent reactions (or at least plans for violent reactions). “Actions speak louder than words.”

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 5 April 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  25. Jason –

    Everybody’s world is hung, or so I propose. If not, then I guess I’ll just have to swing by myself. Kick the ass that’s hanging there — isn’t that a Mexican birthday party tradition? Kick the hanging ass and he breaks open and all the goodies come pouring out to nourish the killers.

    The Pan/Prometheus connection I ignored because I couldn’t figure it out and didn’t want to admit it. So on that subject we might be on the same page but I can’t read the text. What does it say?

    Wittgenstein? I was thinking about Gadamer and interpretive context, but I know even less about W than about G. Badiou? Yes. Also Doyle’s interpretation of the Void as pure potential in Genesis 1.

    Actions speak louder than words. That’s partly what I’m afraid of. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher the language of action. I think the man of integrity often doesn’t realize that he’s also acting out of irrational violent graspings for power. Doesn’t necessarily mean that the action speaks louder – just that it needs to be heard. Otherwise it might take over, to the stunned disbelief of the integral man. For me the Eucharist still holds Catholic connotations involving Latin invocations and altar boys ringing bells. It also required having been to Confession beforehand, on which I commented on your blog. And also, if you don’t do confession and communion during the Easter season it’s a mortal sin on your soul, which means you go to hell if you don’t confess it before you die. I’m afraid I’m not going to make it this year. At the same time, I have participated in very welcoming, de-paranoiacized Eucharists and found them much more communal.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 April 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  26. “Anti-Creeds”

    The Pharisees had no trouble disciphering the actions of Jesus. And his actions were only irrational graspings for power if he was lying when he said, “I do not do anything on my own, but I do what I see my Father in heaven doing.”

    As for Confession and the Eucharist…that’s a justification and sanctification discussion, which I’m assuming you’re not looking to have. Its also a discussion on the relation between eternity and the temporal, which I’m also assuming you’re not looking to have.

    Wittgenstein and Badio and Gadamer…those were all genuine questions. I’m assuming you know more than I on those guys. Especially Gadamer, of whom I know next to nothing.

    Pan/Prometheus? I was referring to our conversation about Giotto, Crosby and that whole time period. The relationship between the unification and universalization of things coupled with the tying down of things. While Dante was unifying the languages of Italy and the mystics were being all spiritual and what-not, Giotto was distinguishing each separate figure in the field of a painting. Dante probably did something that corresponds, most likely, and the mystics were obsessed with the meaning of each little number. My guess is that with Dante language took one step in the direction of the positivists, in which each word and each referrant has a one to one ratio, and only such.

    I know that the discussion on predestination and universal salvation arose around that general time, or soon thereafter. These are very much questions that are tied to the ability, nature and working of the human mind. Questions as much of its grasp on things as on the “truth” of one side of the argument or the other. Which, of course, has almost nothing to do with who wins or looses the argument, but with the very historical preconditions of the argument in the first place. Its man who lived history. Its man who is being referenced in the myths of Prometheus and Pan. McLuhan doesn’t speak of “War and Peace in the Global Village” in terms of who wins and looses wars, and why, but in terms of the Man who is fighting the wars in a global village.

    I don’t know so much about the discussion on the Fall. And I don’t know the contents nor the historical timeframe of the discussion on transubstantiation, but that too could certainly apply to what I was saying above about Pan, Prometheus and the human mind, as per our discussion, for example, on that film on the one particular little autonomous human eye with line-shattering spiritual powers (I forgot the name of that film now – “The Eye”?).

    And the world wasn’t officially hung till Descartes, really. That’s what I was talking about with Michelangelo’s seeing the last of the Ground, and Corbusier’s resulting fear of Michelangelo. Interestingly that’s also when everyone became confused as to whether the line between natural and artificial was absolute or non-existent.

    As for the pinyatta…at the turn from theater to modern opera, the vertically(integrally)-upstanding harp was resigned over to the little corner of the stage; and the horizontal piano, guitar, and what-not took front and center. When the hanging voice of scientific medicine became the metaphor for theater, the Aristotelian Catharsis of both the general audience and actor was sexualized into the soap operatic sexual rumblings in the rich-folks’ private suites.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 April 2007 @ 11:32 pm

  27. Interestingly, now that I think of it…wasn’t the discussion on the Fall interwoven with the one on universal salvation? Much like the interweaving of Giotto and Dante, and Prometheus’ going up to the top of a mtn., where you can see everything, and stealing fire from the gods (and taking it down to moral men), and then being chained to some random rock.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 April 2007 @ 12:02 am

  28. Luther deciphered the actions of the Catholic Church, which surely had a core of true Christianity in it even then. The issue was whether the experience of the Eucharist felt welcoming following the more restrictive recitation of the Creed. I’m saying that in my Catholic childhood Communion felt a bit oppressive. One of the things I liked when I became a born-again evangelical was that Communion and similar sacramental rites weren’t emphasized. I’m not the only ex-Catholics who had the same reaction. I suspect that a lot of ex-Catholic evangelicals just can’t get with the emerging interest in all things Catholic. It probably seems cooler if you didn’t grow up with it. Probably the same with people who grew up in the evangelical churches — looking for something different, something fresher, maybe even something older, something Catholic.

    It turns out the predestination discussion hit the fan about a hundred years after the Council of Nicaea, with Pelagius versus Augustine as the main event. Augustine also came up with a theory of the Fall and human depravity that goes together with the predestination argument and that Calvin grabbed onto. I don’t think the official Catholic position on transubstantiation was formalized until Thomas Aquinas, who was a long time later. I think he’s also the one who formalized the rules about the economy of indulgences for getting souls out of Purgatory, which Luther didn’t much care for either.

    When the hanging voice of scientific medicine became the metaphor for theater, the Aristotelian Catharsis of both the general audience and actor was sexualized into the soap operatic sexual rumblings in the rich-folks’ private suites. Over my head.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 April 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  29. Opera and scientific medicine, ect…I’ll get to that when I comment later, as explained on your “Anohter Post”.

    And I didn’t know the predestination thing started so early. Of course the predestination arguments I’ve HEARD about came later. Oops.

    And yes, Catholicism probably looks cooler to me because I didn’t grow up it. I don’t even really know, though. Will get back to that, too.

    Jason

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 8 April 2007 @ 12:08 am

  30. “Doyle’s interpretation of the Void as pure potential in Genesis 1” silence, the void, potential : text, spoken, creation, meaning, stated/unstated, potential/antipotential.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 8 April 2007 @ 6:15 pm

  31. To start…and readdress something breifly…I really don’t know if I like “all things Catholic” because I ddin’t grow up Catholic or if its because of my deeply rooted and further developing idea of what it means to be a human in relation God. The more I learn about my own cogitification through modernity, the less I trust it…and so much that goes with it…and the more I trust ritual actions in the presence of God that are interwoven with the pre-established (by God) patterns of human living.

    But as I said, I really don’t know to what degree this trust and distrust is simply reactionary. I really don’t think its crucial to the love and forgiveness of the Christos (in itself), though, to be honest. Its more of an issue a properly ordered way of human living…which is interwoven with God and who He is, in Himself…but…yeah…whole other complicated discussion that I don’t fully understand.

    As for the Fall, predestination, universal salvation, ect. Aquinas was roughly contemporary with Giotto. A generation previous, I think. Augustine, I think, was decently soon after the monstrosity of the Roman Empire – a key fact about the Roman Empire, again, being its conquering of the whole KNOWN world – was broken up into two whole big monstrosities in themselves.

    And…so far as I know…Augustine lived sort of in that nomands land between classical Rome and when the “darkness” of Medievaldom set in…called Byzantine Europe…which actually produced some of the most beautiful and glorious art and architecture of Western history. Nonetheless…Augustine’s time was still one in which the tension between what is seen from a Promethean mountain top (“universal”) and what is seen from the great view of being chained to a rock with an monstrous eagle/vulture thing tearing at your liver every day. I consider the period between the fall of the Roman Empire, or just before, and Augustine, to be a key period in the story of that very tension.

    Just like the key historical events in the Bible, the key points in that story (described above) sort of occur roughly every 400 years. Nicea/Augustine (don’t remember the exact date of Augustine) was like around 4000-500. Then Charlemagne, who brought back classical values and fought off the barbarian hoards coming up from Spain (who, if they would have won, would have radiacally altered the course of WORLD history), around 800 or 900 or so. Then Giotto, Dante, Aquinas and the mystics, sort of around 1200 or 1300 or so. Then Galileo and the modern scientific revolution, around 1600 (which is also when humans appeared the the foreground of perspective painting, and also like a generation after the tumultuous events of Michelangelo’s time). Then around or just before 2000 you have two WORLD wars, Sputnik and electronic media that turns all experience into a global experience. The internet got big right around 1990ish, I think. And we might be about to have WW III.

    As for: “When the hanging voice of scientific medicine became the metaphor for theater, the Aristotelian Catharsis of both the general audience and actor was sexualized into the soap operatic sexual rumblings in the rich-folks’ private suites.”

    The ritual that sort of defined or set the scene for what was going on in ancient Greek theater was when the priest of Dionysius would sacrafice a goat on the alter and place its guts in the horizon line between the performers and the audience. I see a connection between this ritual and Aristotle’s notion of Catharsis. Unlike all things modern, ancient Catharsis is not modeled after sex, in which everything slowly builds up in stages up to a “climax”, then then quickly dissipates. This is because ancient cathartic purgings are primarily modeled after the relationship between what is divine and what is at the mercy of what is divine…which is everything else, and cannot be located, notated and pinpointed at one act of pent-up release. The cathartis of a Greek tragedy is sort of drawn out throught the entirety of the play.

    What sets the scene for modern opera, however, is – first of all – not a ritual or religous sacrafice, but is literary. The picture of it is the picture of a modern doctor standing over a horizontally laying patient on an OPERAting room table, reading from a book. Writing is top-down. Modern instruments are horizontal. The harp is relegated over to the corner of the stage as a trace of a former lost time and a former lost relationship to the body. Compensatorily, modern opera takes after sex…builds up to that great climax and quickly finds its peace and reconciliation with itself.

    As a reflection of this modern compensation for its own loss of relation to the body, the audience (specifically, the rich folks up in the private suites, as opposed to the poor peasants down on the floor part of the “house”) is off on its own sexual escapades throughout the show. That’s why they go the the opera.

    Incidentally, there are no animal guts, no blood stains, or anything of the sort, on the floor marking the relation between stage and house. Just some wood flooring or something…or a void…however you want to think of it. The curtain, however, which did not exist in ancient theater is exists largely to hide the operation of all the huge machinery in a modern theater, is red.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 9 April 2007 @ 5:54 am

  32. Jason –

    There’s a beauty to the old liturgy and the ritual actions. My great-aunt Armanda lamented the day the that the Mass went from Latin to English. She felt the Mass was a kind of ballet, and that the sound of Latin was part of the music. I appreciate it more now that I’m distanced from it. I wonder whether it’s better now that Christians can shop for the church that suits them. Even denominational affiliation is up for grabs. When I was a kid the church diosese boundaries were established by the bishop and your family pretty much had to go to the designated church. And of course all Protestant churches were out of the question — one holy, Catholic, apostolic church. Catholic Eucharist still isn’t open to non-Catholics.

    Dude, you know a lot about ancient history. Was this something you studied in school or an interest that arose later?

    Your reflections on the theatrical climax are good ones. I hadn’t realized the Greek idea of drama as catharsis, as some kind of medical treatment for malaise. Shakespeare climaxes in Act 3 out of 5 — a symmetrical peak in the middle. I’m not sure if this was a gradual sexualization of theater. I doubt whether it was an Enlightenment scientific paradigm of cause-effect. Maybe it’s something about the centrality of the crucial human decision. The doctor standing over the patient lying on the table: is this a sexual operation? Is theatrical sex cathartic in the same sense? It seems more like a simulacrum of sex. The red curtain… The nearly sado-masochistic buildup of desire and the nearly interminable delay of release… it’s a kind of fetishization of sex. It becomes addictive rather than cathartic. I don’t think many people think about the role and timing of climax in storytelling. We’re so accustomed to the stereotyped sadomasochistic structure it’s become stereotypic, almost the sine qua non of good storytelling.

    I’m not sure when literature went in this direction. Symphonies retain their 4-part structure, with different moods for each movement. Beethoven was a 4th movement kind of guy, maybe the first one. But I think the grand finale style isn’t characteristic of modern classical composition. Not jazz either: it kind of ebbs and flows. The name of the genre is sexual, and the assumption of sexuality is there, but I’m not quite sure of the metaphor. I’ve thought before about how jazz plays a tune straight at the beginning and at the end, then in the middle comes the playing around, the penetrating through the tune into some other way of musically being. Maybe it’s a penetrative music rather than a climactic one?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 April 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  33. “My great-aunt Armanda lamented the day the that the Mass went from Latin to English. She felt the Mass was a kind of ballet, and that the sound of Latin was part of the music.” That might be the best thing I’ve read on the internet in 3 weeks. More to come…am at work…

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 9 April 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  34. One more thing…till the “more to come”…”Dude, you know a lot about ancient history. Was this something you studied in school or an interest that arose later?” Ask me about Napoleon. You’ll get a genuinely confused and empty gaze that will make you laugh. I will say, “He was short, like me. And he didn’t sleep much, right?” But that’s about all I will know.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 9 April 2007 @ 11:52 pm

  35. Moi aussi.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 10 April 2007 @ 8:12 am

  36. Catholicism and Shopping Adam Smith Protestants – I’ll leave that aside, for now. But for me it is connected to the Odyssey, the search for “home”.

    Ancient history. I don’t really know. I’d say it’s more stuff I learned in school. But afterwards too. I learned a bit about Jewish history in particular in a leadership training program affilliated with my church within the last couple of years. My interest in ancient history is my interest in origins, in roots. And as well in a world-view not centered in the cogito. You’ve heard me note a number of times that Michelangelo’s Campidoglio has in the center an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius; then a generation later St. Peter’s has an old Egyptian funerary monument. Soon thereafter the center was emptied, and we entered the open frontier.

    Opera, the body, sex, ect. As for Shakespeare, Beetoven, ect. First of all, you just pointed to the two extremes of modernity. Secondly, though, I was just sort of trying to expose a very general difference between what is ancient and what is modern. The basic fact that there is a climax in the particularly modern way. Moderns would point back to Oedipus Rex and say that it climaxes toward the end (that’s exactly what I was taught in H.S., that Oedipus, like every other play and literary piece properly done, clamaxes toward the end and then quickly reconciles); but its not the same. For the ancients, it would have just been sort of a succession of events.

    As for Jazz in particular…that’s interesting. It would be interesting to compare Jazz with Gregorian Chant, which, as has been noted, was erotic. Both, however, sort of have a general erotic thread running throughout that doesn’t really climax at any one point. Jazz, however, was developed after Max Planc. After the telegraph, after electric technology had taken hold. After the radio, after Imagism, after cinema. Dude, we were already in “acoustic space”, as McLuhan (and Corbusier) would say. We were already in a space of “universal experience” of everything-at-onceness, really…although not to the degree that we were in after WW II. I think Jazz was developed a bit earlier than that, like the 20’s or 30’s.

    And I wouldn’t attribute it to modern cause and effect either. Although that’s an interesting connection. I view cause and effect as a “pinpointing”, locating or notating similar to that of the climax of modern storytelling. But – to me – the problem, the “malaise”, is OWED to a bigger problem that deals with sort of the general environment of modernity and modern science. How modern science and modern forms of knowing re-order our being…into one who only writes and reads…in a certain way, even…”cogification”, as I so affectionately call it sometimes. Top down, linear, hoogenous, mechanical, assembly-line.

    Its also very interesting to me what you say about modern theater’s being addictive RATHER than cathartic…sadistic, fetichization, ect. I don’t think I can really speak to that in regards to modernity before post-modernity. I think simulacrum changes the issue quite a bit. It changes a lot when you go from a properly distinguished relationship between map and territory to one in which you can’t tell if you are in map or territory.

    Although we were heading there from the beginning of moderity, the distinguished order was preserved through most of modernity. With positivism as a big turning point in that story of ENTERING the map, I think. Interestingly, I heard someone in blogland say recently that he felt like music lost its ability to deeply say anything about death after about 1800…a thought I had had previously but did not express to anyone, since my knowledge of music is so limited.

    So…to the image of doctor and patient…I think that image…for modernity…would not have been about simulacrum. There would have been an understanding of the distinguished but interwoven relationship between what is mythical, or representational, and what is “real”, or “here”, or however you want to say it (the actual piece of art itself). The mythical image woudl have been sort of an iconic way of making sense of what was happening, with an understanding of its being representational.

    And yet…its all so interesting…because the addictive nature of modern theater seems to have come in long before our postmodern age of the simulacrum. If you read Tolstoy’s reaction to Wagner, you get the sense that part of what he’s reacting against is Wagner’s consumerist advertising that invites 11 yr. olds to come smoke Marlboros, so to speak. Although Wagner was pretty late in modernity, in my mind.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 10 April 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  37. Your mentioning of Tolstoy reminded me that Nietzsche had problems with Wagner too, after originally hailing him as a great artist. Have you ever read The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche? His rantings would surely piss you off from time to time, but he’s into the whole Greek theater thing, and our conversation makes me want to read it again. Here’s a little slice of it, where he’s talking about the satyr as man’s true prototype, an expression of his highest and strongest aspirations… Before him cultured man dwindled to a false cartoon. The Greek tragic chorus begins as a satyr chorus, depicting a grounded reality stripped of civilization:

    Poetry does not lie outside the world as a fantastic impossibility begotten of the poet’s brain; it seeks to be the exact opposite, an unvarnished expression of truth, and for this reason must cast away the trumpery garments worn by the supposed reality of civilized man. The contrast between this truth of nature and the pretentious lie of civilization is quite similar to that between the eternal core of things and the entire phenomenal world. Even as tragedy, with its metaphysical solace, points to the eternity of true being surviving every phenomenal change, so does the symbolism of the satyr chorus express analogically the primordial relation between the thing in itself and appearance. The idyllic shepherd of modern man is but a replica of cultural illusions which he mistakes for nature. The Dionysiac Greek, desiring truth and nature at their highest power, sees himself metamorphosed into the satyr.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 April 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  38. Apollo et Medusa, by Le Corbusier


    Corbusier drew lots of Satyr’s too. Due note that the satyrs were Pan’s companions. More to come…

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 April 2007 @ 12:02 am

  39. Nice. An alternative tragicomedic image. Apollo, god of poets, took the sun’s place sometimes. The Bacchae put snakes in their hair in their ecstatic worship of Dionysos.

    More Nietzsche: What must be kept in mind in all these investigations is that the audience of Attic tragedy discovered itself in the chorus of the orchestra. Audience and chorus were never fundamentally set over against each other: all was one grand chorus of dancing, singing satyrs, and of those who let themselves be represented by them. The Chorus is the “ideal spectator” inasmuch as it is the only seer — seer of the visionary world of the proscenium. An audience of spectators, such as we know it, was unknown to the Greeks. Given the terraced structure of the Greek theater, rising in concentric arcs, each spectator could quite literally survey the entire cultural world about him and imagine himself, in the fullness of seeing, as a chorist. Thus we are enabled the chorus of primitive prototragedy as the projected image of Dionysiac man. The clearest illustration of this phenomenon is the experience of the actor, who, if he is truly gifted, has before his eyes the vivid image of the role he is to play. The satyr chorus is, above all, a vision of the Dionysiac multitude, just as the world of the stage is a vision of that satyr chorus — a vision so powerful that it blurs the actors’ sense of the “reality” of cultured spectators ranged row on row about him. The structure of the Greek theater reminds us of a lonely mountain valley: the architecture of the stage resembles a luminous cloud configuration which the Bacchae behold as they swarm down from the mountaintops; a marvelous frame in the center of which Dionysos manifests himself to them.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 April 2007 @ 12:26 am

  40. That’s a good piece by Fitch and a good comment by Hesiak. I like most of what Fitch has to say here, my only real quibble being his dismissal of Derrida as tangential. Quoting Zizek to bash Derrida is a funny move, since Zizek rambles a lot too and his two heroes are Lacan and Hegel, both extremely obtuse writers. Derrida more or less said about Lacan what Zizek says about Derrida, so it’s a bit of a pissing contest. I think generally the guys behind Church and Pomo are pro Gadamer and a little bit Catholic in their outlook. Your comments contrasting silence with the simulacrum are on the mark. It is hard to think of the simulacrum as opening onto mystery, since for Baudrillard the simularcrum eventually reveals that the mystery is ust another simulacrum.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 April 2007 @ 1:29 am

  41. This is an asynchronous comment, but I ran into this blog post that led to this pdf article by Tony jones and thought it just might be interesting!

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    Comment by samlcarr — 2 July 2007 @ 11:55 am

  42. Very interesting. So Jones’s paper was excluded from the conference proceedings on theological grounds. From the post:

    “Ultimately, I was told, I did not treat the Fathers and the Councils as normative to the life of the church today. I argued that we’re in conversation with the Fathers today, just as they were in conversation with one another in their day. I also posited that the victory of one theological position over another was as much a matter of politics and context as a matter of divine providence. Finally, the lack of marginalized voices in all of the ancient (and medieval and modern) theological debates should give us all pause.”

    At least they’re not going to burn him at the stake or excommunicate him, so I guess tolerance has improved somewhat over the last 1700 years. And since he’s a well-known figure in the internet era he is able to post and disseminate his paper. Still, the same repressive forces are at work. And I’m sure it remains difficult for an individual in an evangelical church to express these kinds of sentiments without coming under individual suspicion.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 2:41 pm

  43. The conference at Wheaton was supposed to be an opportunity for interaction between the evangelicals and the emerging movement’s leading lights. Scot Mcknight I think was also a speaker and he doesn’t seem to have got axed!

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    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 12:41 pm


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