Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Steve Long on Language and Radical Orthodoxy:

Radical Orthodoxy says that language is not just ornamental or decorative. Language really matters. An ontology, what really, finally is, isn't separable from being able to have a language that sort of gives you access to it. That's different from, say, the Chicago school of theology, which, on the whole, has had what George Lindbeck called an experiential, expressivist understanding, that we all have an a priori religious experience—it's the same in all of us—and we use language to express that universal experience. We're all going to use different languages, but we all mean the same thing.

One of the problems that I see with Conservative Fundamentalists and Liberal Fundamentalists and even those of us who find ourselves somewhere either in the middle or outside (postliberal/postconservative) is that we do indeed speak a similar but not entirely unified language. Both fundamentalist sides seem to want to claim that "a priori" experience and use it to trump the other. We do have a common language though, in the church and its the language of formation and revelation. Its our LITURGY. Liturgy is the language of the church. In it the Church's time is contained, the church's story is contained, our festivals and holy days are contained, our rituals are contained.


Scott said...

thank you, Jonathan.

I agree that the liturgy is the way forward out of our foundationalisms and fundamentalisms. I appreciate how you call out both sides of the fundamentalist equation. At core for both sides, is a hyperindividualism that sucks the life out of ecclessial life.

I was reminded of Catherine Pickstock's writing as I read your post. In After Writing, she states,
"liturgical language is the only language that really makes sense... that the event of transubstantiation in the Eucharist is the condition of possibility for all human meaning" (xv).

Does Long address the connection that you make between language, ontology, and worship?

Grace and Peace,

St.Phransus said...

he will somewhat in tomorrow's post :)


gavin richardson said...

thanks for linking the 'big words' it helps us uneducated folk.

i don't know rad-ox, but is this where emergent conversation & rad-ox might get it right? that we need to embrace the symantics that hold us in that set-apart community?

and how does this look in our practical day to day? and how do we teach?

you know i'm with you on this, i'm just throwing out my thoughts

Joel Thomas said...

Unless you give specific of examples of who you consider to be liberal fundamentalists or conservative fundamentalists, I don't know how to evaluate what you are writing of. Is Beth Quick a liberal fundamentalist? Dean Snyder?

St.Phransus said...

maybe fundamentalist is a strong word to use, but basically both liberal and conservative are labels that come out of modernism that is rooted in individualistic ideology.

Conservative fundamentalism makes scripture its ideology- putting one certain way of looking at it as "fundamental" to being a Christian. There's not usually room for different interpretations (at least not many). One of the problems with the scriptural authority is that it takes away any sense of revelation and it takes authority away from the Church.

Liberal fundamentalism has at it's core- pluralism and universalism at as it's core ideology. Both scripture and tradition tends to become less central in favor of ahistorical cultural movements with buzzwords such as "diversity" and "inclusivity".

So where does this leave us then? We are left with a church with Christians who speak two different languages, neither speaking the language of our tradition, but rather languages that have developed out the American religious movment.

Joel, you asked if I consider Beth Quick or Dean Snyder a liberal fundamentalist? No I don't and here is why. Both Beth and Dean are open to conversation and listening to all perspectives as are folks who I know to lean toward a more conservative view point like Shane Raynor. They don't seem to put ideology over being a committed Christian who committed to the unity of the Church.

The problem that I see the church facing today is that we need a different language out which to talk about the issues we face, and i really don't know if the language of liberal and conservative christians can get us where we need to be to work through our problems. but i am hopeful that we can move passed our conflict.

Scott said...

Jonathan requested that I respond to the issue of fundamentalisms of the left and right, so here goes.

Fundamentalism of the Left
Steeped in the vision and language of modernity, the rational autonomous individual is the chief moral actor. Institutions and culture are of secondary importance. As a result, the language of liberal fundamentalists is connected very much to the issue of defining fundamental rights. These rights usually center on the individual's freedom to associate, to speak, and to choose what to do with one's own body. The government should remove itself from personal decisions regarding bodily practices, but should be able to intervene in economic situations to redistribute wealth more equitably. Liberal fundamentalism is highly deterministic in that the purpose of the government and the end of life is connected to a certain vision of liberty- a liberty that seeks to overcome the traditionally empowered by effecting a shift to the traditionally disenfranchised (i.e. protecting the presentation of Buddhism or Islam while absolutely prohibiting Christianity from the public square).

There is little room for meaningful dialogue because all the decisions and outcomes are prescribed ahead of time.

Fundamentalism of the Right
Also steeped in the language and vision of modernity, so also is the rational autonomous individual the chief moral agent. Institutions and culture are of secondary importance. Again, the language of rights also dominates here, although usually spoken in the language of "values." The fundamentalism of the right is centered on the right of the individual to compete unencumbered in the market, to freely use money that is inherently hers, and to be left alone by the government except in the arena of the body where "public morals" must be protected. Thus, a conservative fundamentalism is also highly deterministic. It also paints a picture of the way the world should operates and ahead of time determines how conversations and dialogue should end.

Flip Sides of the Same Coin
Truthfully, there is little difference theologically between the two sides. They just pick different sides of the same liberal coin. This is dangerous for Christianity immediately because lost in the ideological battles is really any need for Christ. As Milbank so beautifully spells out in "Can Morality Be Christian," in neither case is Christ necessary to the system. You can be a good moral liberal or a good moral conservative simply by being right on the proper set of issues. There is no need to confess Christ and Him crucified. Instead, there is a vicious cycle of violent attempts on both sides to narrate humanity's destiny via humanistic self-improvement. Since both narratives are not grounded in participation in God's Triune life, they ultimately and inevitably become nihilistic. They both become ways of death, ehich Jonathan reflects in his post. As Alasdair McIntyre points out in After Virtue, the debates become incommensurable. Take abortion. The Left musters an argument about a woman's right to choose, which if you accept their paradigm is rational. Similarly, the Right presents an argument regarding the sanctity of life, which if you subscribe to their argument is also rational. The two sides use similar terms but possess a radically different grammar; however, in all cases, the government becomes the primary vehicle to seek action. For Christians, this should be problematic because the Church should be the institution that forms and guides our lives. Our actions should be embodied as the Body of Christ, not in the pursuit of domestic political agendas (that by definition must be ideological). Fundamentalisms of the Left and Right reduce Christianity to nothing more than an ideology, and render Christian faith unnecessary.

Consequently, it will only be by learning the grammar embodied in good Christian liturgy that we can begin again to embody an ecclessiology that will enable us to live as a people who understand our lives to be nothing more than to be made into the image of Christ and faithfully witness to His power and grace. The way beyond neoconservatism and current strands of liberalism is to see them for what they are, name them, and move beyond them by participating again as the Kingdom of God.

Grace and Peace,

St.Phransus said...

thanks scott. i owe you some grits and fatback.

Zoomdaddy said...

hey, my comment didn't post yesterday! dumb computer.