Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Theology is a big con

Irregular blogs abound around the internet these days. Not surprising, I guess. What with a pretty damn boring World Series (bully for the Florida Marlins, though) and a war that looks increasingly the same each day -- 'getting better' if you believe the White House; 'not getting better' if you're breathing out your nose right now* -- it looks like we're stuck with a Nelly's stolen jewelry and a quite probably feckless September 11 Truth Commission. While I'm inclined to wax eloquently about the travails of being a multi-millionaire rap-pop star, and being the victim of such a horrible crime, I'm going to resist the urge.

Instead, I'm going to do what most bloggers, myself included, do when they've been especially irregular in their posting. I am, first, going to offer an explanation:

I've been freakin' busy, a'ight!

Secondly, I will offer an example, admittedly a very very obscure one, of what has been keeping me busy. Turn away now:

V. The Character of Theology

(1) The poles of absolute chaos and order betray an inert uncertainty -- a dehumanizing, and perhaps even unethical, stasis

(a) E.g., The alleged fascisms of M. Heidegger and M. Eliade

(2) The tenuous path between these pole is that of a fictive / narrative telling, which, by extension, would rethink the practice and assumptions of theology.

(a) Focus on F. Schleiermacher's hermeneutics -- namely, the dialectic of psychological and grammatical interpretation -- and the importance of his praxis of interpretation.

(a1) Note, as well, how this plays out in his Das Leben Jesu, and its consequent influence upon the other 'fictions' of God / Christ (e.g., A. Schweitzer, D. Strauss, G. E. Lessing, R. Bultmann, and P. Tillich).

(b) Rethinking the play between reality and possibility that is provoked by the ineffable, albeit material / textual, gap between the subject and itself opens theology, amongst other discourses, to an imaginatively adaptive characterization [re-telling].

(3) The discursive praxis of theology

(a) Herman Melville's complex theatricality marks a significant discursive model for the praxis of theological production: that of the 'confidence game'

(a1) Cf., contemporary complexity theory (with its nineteenth-century roots in F. Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel) -- neither centralized nor chaotic, complexity marks the liminal moment between complete order and absolute chaos, a moment itself that is dependent upon the dual dynamics of emergent patterns that evoke comprehensibility and evolutionary adaptation.

(a2) Note how this plays out in the communicative ebb and flow of a 'confidence game' -- in both Melville's fiction and in contemporary culture (notably, 'the Spanish prisoner')

(a2a) The confidence game co-opts memory as a pool of narrative possibility, and thus continuously adapts it -- quite often in shocking, spontaneous ways. Such discourse lends itself to the unexpected (i.e., adaptations, possibilities), while at the same time rending it open to further interpretation (i.e., emergent patterns of comprehensibility).

(b) Theological discourse, modeled on an imaginatively true confidence game, is bound to neither order nor chaos. With the theologian's god as multi-faced as the theologian and the student of theology, systematic order and nihilistic chaos would invariably cripple the constructive character of its discourse.

(c) The ostensible fact that chaos and order are the twin poles of a simplicitity that is not evident in human existence or discourse compels us to think and create theology in all its possible complexity.

(c1) As such, what I suggest here is not a change of venue, per se, from the halls of academic theology to that of literature -- or even the backroom of casinos -- but merely a perusal of the playbill that, like Plinlimmon's pamphlet in Melville's novel Pierre, has somehow woven its way into the lining of our jackets, which we have been unknowingly wearing all along.

Ah, the joy of last-chapter outlines!


*Yeah, that's right, I discriminate against you mouth-breathers. Now, take a Tic-Tac and let's move on, shall we?