Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
A relatively new book edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel C. Schneider (Taylor and Francis, 2010). See sneak preview at Google Books. From their Introduction:
"In recent years a discernible movement within theology has emerged around a triune intuition: the daunting differences of multiplicity, the evolutionary uncertainty it unfolds, and the relationality that it implies are not problems to be overcome in religious thought. They are starting points for it. Divinity understood in terms of multiplicity, open-endedness, and relationality now forms a matrix of revelation rather than a distortion, or evidence of its lack. The challenges and passions of theological creativity blossoming at the edges of tradition and at the margins of power have show themselves, far from being distractions from doctrinal or doxological integrity, to be indispensable to its life. And this vitality belies at once the dreary prophesies or pure secularism and the hard grip of credulous certainties."
Roland Faber is one of the contributors, a bigwig at Claremont. I greatly appreciated his old article "In the wake of false unifications," which I discussed in the old forum. A teaser:
Deleuze deeply honored Whitehead, and precisely because of the...appreciation of the unconquerable wildness of openended becoming over against any systematic derivation of multiplicity from hierarchical unity.
In a rhizomatic world of infinite differentiations and interrelations, “unity” always appears as finite unification of multiple relations. Nothing is fixed; nothing is perfect; nothing is for ever. The metaphor of the rhizome frees our mind from “false unifications” that defy multiplicity and, as a political category, empowers resistance against “oppressive unifications” of hierarchies.
This is what Deleuze saw in Whitehead: that, in a creative world, “unification” is always “multi-pli-cation”—the creation of folds of difference. Any attempt to freeze this movement produces imperialism, that is, the “will to power” to conquer manifoldness. But the imperial desire for a “perfect” world “under control” only earns a dead world. It was either guided by fantasies of necrophilia or misled by rigid conservativism, which Whitehead considers profoundly against the grain of the Universe. This means: Neither is there, nor can we ever know of, any static, world-capturing unity that would not be surpassed by ever vaster difference in becoming.
We can see the difference between the dichotomous view of opposing an absolute God with the death of God--both necrophiliac fantasies--with how Zizek turns this on its head with an undead polydox parallax. Recall this from the “what is the differance” thread, quoting Caputo:
“Žižek provocatively suggests an odd kind of 'positive' unbelief in an undead God, like the 'undead' in the novels of Stephen King, a 'spectral' belief that is never simple disbelief along with a God who is never simply dead (101). God is dead but we continue to (un)believe in the ghost of god, in a living dead god. If atheism ("I don't believe in God") is the negation of belief ("I believe in God"), what is the negation of that negation? It is not a higher living spirit of faith that reconciles belief and unbelief but a negation deeper than a simple naturalistic and reactionary atheism (like Hitchins and Dawkins). Belief is not aufgehoben but rather not quite killed off, even though it is dead. It is muted, erased but surviving under erasure, like seeing Marley's ghost even though Scrooge knows he is dead these twenty years; like a crossed out letter we can still read, oddly living on in a kind of spectral condition. Things are neither black nor white but shifting, spectral, incomplete. We have bid farewell to God, adieu to the good old God (à Dieu), farewell to the Big Other, Who Makes Everything Turn Out Right, Who Writes Straight with Crooked Lines, who maketh me to lie down in green pastures. Still, that negation of negation does not spell the simple death of belief but its positive mode in which belief, while dead, lives on (sur/vivre). This unbelief would be the 'pure form' of belief, and if belief is the substance of the things that appear not, Žižek proposes a belief deprived of substance as well as of appearance. Žižek mocks Derrida mercilessly, but when spaceship Žižek finally lands, when this buzzing flutterbug named Žižek finally alights, one has to ask, exactly how far has he landed from Derrida's 'spectral messianic.'”
This link provides the entire introduction of the book. Here are some excerpts from it relevant to our recent discussions, noting 1) a different form of “logic” is required to combat supposed relativism and 2) that the absolute or unknown is not excused “from the multiplicity of its relations” because it too is embodied.
"But how, one might ask, will we remain coherent enough to make polydox claims of truth and justice? How will a theology that is energized by the tangle of ancient texts and teachings within and well beyond Christianity,that engages the emergent and divergent histories of trauma, survival, remembrance, celebration and liberation, avoid the 'dissolution in multiplicity' that Augustine fears, with reason? Evidently it will seek a polyvocal kind of coherence. Its logic is not that of an abstract order of pyramidal meaning. Rather it hangs together by 'network thinking,' as Hardt and Negri say of the emergent 'multitude. The net, however, does not remain in the logic of virtual space but embodies itself in the webs of living interaction.
"The solidarity of such togetherness cannot be conceived theologically apart from a radically widened sense of the incarnation. Indeed the abstractions of philosophical or systematic theologies exist relative not only to each other but to the bodies that produce them. Feminist theory across the disciplines has labored to keep thought responsible to its relational contexts of embodiment, mindful of what Donna Haraway has dubbed its 'situated knowledge.' And according to Alfred North Whitehead, who earlier unfolded a relevant theo-cosmology of radical pluralism (issuing from William James’ 'pluriverse')….the unknown is not excused from the multiplicity of its relations!"
Here's a link to a summary review of the book (which I finally purchased in full last night). A brief excerpt:
Polydoxy, as defined by Keller and Schneider, is built on the three interrelated concepts of multiplicity (the idea that the cosmos is necessarily made up of diversity and plurality), unknowing (building on the tradition of apophatic theology, the recognition that the infinite depth of diversity makes complete knowing impossible), and relationality (the understanding that interrelatedness is what holds multiplicities accountable and prevents polydoxy from becoming a new orthodoxy).
...The most important contribution of this volume is that it explicitly demonstrates the various methodologies used by theologians of polydoxy. Almost every scholar clearly lays out the way in which they define and apply polydoxy to their work, making the book invaluable for those desiring methodological tips. That there are different definitions and methodologies only strengthens the editors’ claim that multiple theologies are necessary for the survival of Christian theology in general. Equally as important, Polydoxy demonstrates that there are no theological loci to which these methodologies cannot be applied, with chapters covering topics from pneumatology to soteriology to missiology, to chapters on the Trinity, incarnation, and glory, and from patristics to comparative theology. Thus, both methods and applications serve to highlight the various paths that other polydox theologians might take, pointing to the open-ended nature of the work.
I am sympathetic to those Christians who preach openness toward diversity and that are exploring contingency and relation. But do they have to always maintain a Creator God? And/or his Son or intermediary who saves us from a fallen world into the sacred? Can there be a Christianity without a God or savior Christ?* The second line of chapter 13 stuck in my craw:
The one God who created the world saves that very world by way of God’s Word and Breath.
* I caught parts of The Da Vinci Code on TV again last night. One scene notes that the Council of Nicaea removed all of those perspectives that felt Christ was just a man, not a savior God.
There different interpretations of "salvation" and "savior" as well. And various takes on "Creator" God.
And many Christians no longer believe in a separate "God out / up there." Many are panentheists, rather than theists or deists.
There is also a way in which metaphors, representative of our own lived experiences, are "more than" comparisons and similes. Here's a quote from David Richo's Catholic Means Universal that I've found helpful (Richo is a former Catholic who now considers himself Buddhist, btw):
"Gregory Baum, in Religion and Alienation, says that 'idolotry is absolutizing the finite and elevating a part to a whole.' There are two extremes. Taking teachings literally is idolatrous. Taking them as merely metaphorical in the literary sense is reductionist. Somewhere between there is an archetypal richness that has an authentic foundation in the human psyche and in the reality of the felt world. The richness is not reached through an analyzing intellect, which will insist on choosing either literal and/or metaphorical. It is reached by contact. It is a participatory experience. It happens at the soul level, where conscious and unconscious meet and opposites reconcile. 'The spirit does not dwell in concepts but in deeds and facts,' says Jung. For instance, the Incarnation can be seen as a metaphorical way of acknowledging that supreme love becomes real only when it appears in human beings acting it out in history...."
"....Faith is an untutored leap into an unknown reality. It is an initiation, not a logical conclusion. [Some say], 'I can't be a Christian because I can't believe Christ rose from the dead in any miraculous way.' Faith, however, is not about how Christ was reanimated from death to life but about how an altogether different way of living happened to him and how that is possible for us too. The fact of resurrection is a new way of being alive, not a reversal of a physical condition. We are in another dimension unknown to the mind. That is the mystery."