Friday, 20 August 2010

Development of doctrine, hermeneutics, postmodernism

For the best history of the problem of doctrinal development, we have Aidan Nichols, From Newman to Congar. Nichols brings us up to the Council, and, in his conclusion, adds a note on the post-conciliar situation. The work of Newman, Blondel, Congar, Schillebeeckx and Rahner comes to fruition in the Council, but begins rapidly dissolving after the Council thanks to certain developments which Nichols sums up in the words pluralism, hermeneutics and reception.

Nichols conclusion is something like a teaser: he opens up a new problematic, but does not really get into it. Further, writing in 1990, he has no mention at all of postmodernism.

Dan Stiver, in his introduction to Theology after Ricoeur, takes up postmodernism as well as pluralism. His attitude to postmodernism is sympathetic; it is revealing, however, that he includes Gadamer and Ricoeur among the proponents of postmodernism.

Stanley Hauerwas begins with a scathing attack on postmodernism, but does know how to draw out the best in it (it has to be taken seriously, he says), while still insisting on the cognitive component of doctrines.

On hermeneutics, we need to see Claude Geffre.

The post-conciliar Schillebeeckx also begins with hermeneutics, abandons the cognitive meaning of doctrines, and proposes a political and a narrative theology. Caputo, despite drawing from the postmodern Derrida, does not seem to have much more to offer than a narrative theology that sidesteps the question of cognitive meaning to concentrate solely on the constitutive and performative meaning. Felix Wilfred too seems to be largely an Indian reading of Schillebeeckx: the same attention to hermeneutics and the privileging of the hermeneutical position of the oppressed, political and narrative theology, and the sidestepping of cognitive meaning.

Hauerwas calls postmodernism the bastard child of modernity. From what he says, it might not perhaps be too much off the mark to call both modernity and postmodernity bastard children of Christianity, a Christianity that has 'lost its story'. Strikingly attractive bastards, as often happens.

We should probably not find great difficulty in accepting the emphases brought by Schillebeeckx, Caputo,  Wilfred and the like. The key question is: do we need to jettison cognitive meaning in order to incorporate constitutive and performative meaning? And: can we really jettison cognitive meaning, and yet remain faithful to the Gospel? So the key question is truth: how are we to understand this?

No comments:

Post a Comment