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Record Type: Review   ID: 708

Varieties of Postmodern Theology

Griffin, David Ray, Beardslee, William A., & Holland, Joe

In his Introduction, Griffin points out that eight types of postmodern theology are dealt within this volume, or four basic types with two versions each. He observes that the differences between them are probably greater than their similarities. Common factors are that they use the term postmodern, share a common view of modern theology, and a common conviction that its era has passed. Griffin says "modern theology . . . sought to articulate the essence of the biblical faith in a context in which the general cultural consciousness was assumed to be shaped by the modern worldview, and in which a rational, objective approach to reality, through the natural and social sciences, was assumed to support the modern worldview" (pp. 1-2).

The four basic types of postmodern theology considered here he labels (1) constructive (or revisionary), (2) deconstructive (or eliminative), (3) liberationist, and (4) restorationist (or conservative). Of the essays in this volume, those by Beardslee, Holland, and Griffin represent the constructive postmodern theology and they "claim that the valid points made by the other types of postmodern theology can be expressed, and can be expressed better because in a more balanced way, within a constructive or revisionary postmodern theology" (p. 6).

The essays included are "The Postmodern Paradigm and Contemporary Catholicism" by Joe Holland; "Postmodern Theology and A/theology: A Response to Mark C. Taylor" by David Ray Griffin; "Christ in the Postmodern Age: Reflections Inspired by Jean-Francois Lyotard" by William A. Beardslee; "Postmodern Theology as Liberation Theology: A Response to Harvey Cox" by David Ray Griffin; "The Cultural Vision of Pope John Paul II: Toward a Conservative/Liberal Postmodern Dialogue" by Joe Holland; "Liberation Theology and Postmodern Philosophy: A Response to Cornel West" by David Ray Griffin; and "Cornel West's Postmodern Theology" by William A. Beardslee.

In Chapter 4, Beardslee likens the situation of the world today with the early days of Christianity in that "the activity of the Spirit . . . was distributed among many centers and many acts of creativity" (p. 74). However, "the direct presence of the Spirit in our experiences must be given comprehensible form through language and symbolism before the Spirit's transforming power can be an inspiring part of our conscious, and even to a large degree of our unconscious, life. This is one great reason why the Spirit is not evident to so many today--because the Spirit is in fact mute insofar as no appropriate language is available through which she can speak to us. That does not mean that the Spirit will be wholly without effect, but that we will only dimly apprehend the directions in which the Spirit is leading us" (p. 75). Beardslee goes on to discuss whether the image of Christ can still serve this purpose today as it did in the first century A.D. Although he argues for a qualified yes, it seems to me that the many exceptional human experiences people are reporting today may well be "calls to transcendence," calls that demand a new postmodern language to give them life, form, and being.

Publisher Information:Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989. 164p. Chap.bibl; 4 figs; Index: 159-164; 2 tables
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