Sunday, March 13, 2005

millinerd retracts

Okay I give up. It's official: Count me among those who hastily dismissed Derrida and have come around to appreciate him. Thanks to Rob and Jay for the help by leading me to this. Writes Caputo,
"But what the critics missed (and here not reading him makes a difference), and what never made it into the headlines is that the destabalizing agency in his work is not a reckless relativism or an acidic skepticism but rather an affirmation, a love of what in later years he would call the 'undeconstructible.' ...his critics never heard of this because it was not reported in Time Magazine, but they did not hesitate to denounce what they had not read..."
Guilty. I was underinformed, but talked anyway. Not a good idea. So allow me to publically repent for violating the commandment not to bear false witness against one's neighbor. Caputo continues,
"It was not surprising that in the last fifteen years Derrida would start talking about religion, telling us about his 'religion (without religion),' about his 'prayers and tears' and about his Messiah."
Perhaps related is a comment I will make on Princeton Seminary's new President Iain Torrance's intentionally (I suspect) ambiguous inaugural address on Friday.

Continue...Torrance certainly did not trumpet the Gospel-with-altar-call from the P.U. chapel, but (dare I say) an inaugural address that sought to foster connections between P.U. and P.T.S. may not have been the place for that.

When he first arrived, Torrance made much of Rabbi Jonathan Sack's The Dignity of Difference, which is an informed and responsible book, and a very (not surprisingly) Jewish book. There are statements in it against universality that can only fall from the lips of an adherent of a religion that makes no claims to universality, such as Judaism. A Christian cannot follow suit, unless of course the charge to "baptise all nations" actually reads "baptize some nations" or the promise that "every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow" actually reads "some tongues and some knees" or the assurance that "Christ shall be all in all" actually reads "Christ shall be some in some." Of this I'm quite sure our new President is well aware.

But my reading of Torrance's earlier addresses to the Seminary that quoted heavily from Sacks was not that he meant the Church should take its cues from Sacks, but that Sack's comments are of great import for fostering the virtues of listening to alternate viewpoints in an academic environment. And believe you me, that is a message that an institution as divided as Princeton Seminary needs to hear. I suspect Torrance also recommended Sacks because he very eloquently reminds Christians how poorly the revelation they've been entrusted with has at times been stewarded. (Interestingly, so has the current Pope.)

But Torrance, so it seems to me, must believe in the definitive and final revelation of God in Christ (along with its inevitable universality), for he has made that quite clear in other chapel addresses. Following his father (T.F. Torrance), who followed Karl Barth, President Torrance has humbly and happily asserted that the person of Jesus Christ tells us who God is, and that there is in fact no other God than this. And what's great about that statement is of course that it's not distinctly "Torrancian," or "Barthian" - it's simply Christian.

The subtely of the inaugural address was therefore I presume not the subtely of Genesis 1 but of Matthew 10.

Or so I hope.