Postmodernity, Hermeneutics, and the Second Naïveté

This morning, Tony Jones published on his blog the contents of a chapter he wrote for The Justice Project. In it he discusses the utility of some aspects of postmodern thought to the faithful Christian.  His particular consideration of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur and the hermeneutic of humility prompted me to add on to some thoughts I started in my comments of the transforming possibility of text.  I have been engaged by the work of Paul Ricoeur since I first read him, and I imagine I’ll further address some of his thoughts as I proceed.  He has lots to offer.

In this particular video I am mostly concerned with his idea about the Second Naïveté.

8 Responses

  1. I’m fast becoming a huge fan of the way you boil some of postmodernism’s ideas down to applicable levels, as most postmodern thought is really very practical (despite its tendency to be fairly unaccessible). I might recommend this video to a group of friends who I meet with to discuss postmodern Christianity sometime in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes, if you’re interested.

  2. I love Ricoeur’s line at the end of The Symbolism of Evil, something along the lines of “after the desert of modern criticism we yearn to be called again.”

    More than anything, I wish the church — progressive theologians in particular — would get over their romance with the modern, historical-critical method and start engaging the likes of Gadamer and Ricoeur. There is so much potential there!

  3. @ Matt Thanks for the compliment. The whole reason I am engaged in this work is that even though I am an academic at (or near) heart, the suffering I experience around me is sometimes more than I can bear, and the fact that the Church sometimes is part of its cause… well, anything I can do to provide new views and help to folks is what I feel called to do. Postmodern thought has a powerful perspective to bring to bear and I happen to be able to sometimes articulate it in novel ways. To the degree that these articulations are of use I am grateful.

    @ Blake “I wish the church — progressive theologians in particular — would get over their romance with the modern, historical-critical method and start engaging the likes of Gadamer and Ricoeur.” Amen brother. Shoot me an email or message via FB and I can send you a short essay on EXACTLY that point. Seriously. It is like we share thoughts.

  4. Callid,
    Thank you for the post. I have always been confused by the term hermeneutics, and things are certainly more clear than before.

    Thomas Merton touched on this in a journal entry from May of 1949:

    “God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He tends to resolve them…any perplexity is liable to be a spiritual gestation leading to new birth and a mystical regeneration.”

    Ironically, I find the idea of a willingness to open to text interpretation stemming from my studies in christian monasticism. Given most monastic orders have their base in the Roman Catholic Church, which to the casual observer, certainly if the focus is simply on the hierarchal makeup of the church, seems given to a more rigid, systematic, dogmatic view of interpretation. However, here in monasticism, because the text is meant to be lived in its fullest extent (re: the idea you pose on the congregant living the story, or seeing/interpreting how the story is emeshed in their own lives), we a find much more of a willingness to grapple with the present interpretive reality of the text.

  5. @ Greg I’m glad that you found some clarity here. That is one of my main focuses here, to provide folks with accessible options to great thinkers.

    Your perspective on monasticism is interesting, any place I might read more about the idea that “the text is meant to be lived in its fullest extent (re: the idea you pose on the congregant living the story, or seeing/interpreting how the story is emeshed in their own lives)”?

    -C

  6. Hello Callid,
    Sorry the for the delay in response. This idea of the “text to be lived” is my general impression of monastics. I’ve garnered this conclusion from books such as Frank Bianco’s Voices of Silence: Lives of the Trappists Today, and Nancy Maguire’s stunning book An Infinity of Little Hours. In addition, you may peruse Adrian House’s wonderful biography of St. Francis, Francis: A Revolutionary Life. Thomas Merton certainly leads the pack here- as a poet, writer, AND monk, he certainly elucidated the poetic vision of his monastic calling, first with his Seven Story Mountain, and then his Seeds of Contemplation.

    -Greg

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