A Critique of Fitch’s Use of Master-Signifier (kinda)



This week I spent some time over at North Eastern Seminary's event "Ministry Conference on The Radical Future of the Church: Forming Congregations for Mission with Dr. David Fitch." I'd previously reviewed Fitch's book here on TIoF and was amped up by the kind of work that he was doing, so I decided to head over and catch his lectures and learn about the Missio Alliance (which – by the way – has made me more hopeful and excited than I have been in quite some time). During a Q+A something came up between Fitch and I and this is a further fleshing out of that idea.

This video is primarily here for Dave and folks that have either read his book, The End of Evangelicalism? and/or were part of his Northeastern Seminary Seminar. If you fit into any of those categories, I'd love to hear what you think. Am I missing something? Have I misread? Misthought?

5 Responses


    There's a distinction between an object-definition and function definition of both the Inerrant Bible and Eucharist arguments, then. Fitch critiques the object definition of IB but offers a functional definition of the Eucharist; you rightly expose that by reversing it, Callid. 
    And I would go further by adding that the problem is more profound: the absence at the heart of any model is of course God. The church has ever to fill this hollow with apparently "mediating" (but effectively generating) stuff–Bible, priesthood, eucharist, charisma, etc. The problem remains whatever we place at the center. 

  2. Hello from Germany, thanks for putting up your thoughts here in such an inviting way. I read Fitch' book recently and actually thought quite a bit on exactly the inconsistency you expose (rightly in my view). Otherwise I very much admire Fitch analysis. And I think with barefoothippy that the analysis can (and should) be turned around in the other direction: "Jesus" or the "Eucharist" or even "fullness" can function as Master-Signifiers themselves. Why do you – following Fitch – assume that it would be unchristian to have an empty center? What makes the inerrant bible etc. so dangerous, is precisely that it is assumed full. 
    What would I suggest? Okay, we swirl around empty centers, but we don't take them as Master Signifiers (i.e. signifiers of fullness). Instead we sense the holy spirit this swirling. Does that make sense? God speaks with a weak voice, not with a full voice. At the center of every meaningfull faith is the weakest brother, the naked brother, the imprisoned sister. "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" – this verse tells me: the fullness is not sensed, it is only lived (and is thus only fullness in hindsight, and thus not a meaningfull category here on earth).
    As there are not many people here that have read the book (at least that I know of), I would very much appreciate a reaction to this.
    Best regards, Tilman

  3. great thoughts Challid. Any word fro Fitch? I would totally let you two person a Homebrewed Episode if yall want to hash it out. #LordHearOurPrayer

  4. I have read the book, and have enjoyed some light conversation with David about it….though mainly from his use of Anabaptistism as a part of the corrective.

    I wonder if the limitation is inherent in the concept and use of a master signifier. I have barely scratched the surface of Zizek and Lacan, but it seems to me that the strength of the concept is its ability tot diagnos social pathology- not so much offer a reciprocal corrective. I may be wrong there.

    As I watched your (kinda) critique, I couldn’t help but wonder if the problem isn’t methodological but rather descriptive. As you were drawing our the two forms (empty and full signifier) it really was hard to distinguish the two. I wonder then if that means we need a better understanding of the idea of Full Politic

    That brings be back to David’s explicit Neo-Anabaptism. Wouldn’t the fullness of the politic be based on a real community of Christians continurally deconstructing and reconstructing the signifier? The trick with an Empty Signifier is that it rallies people together rhetorically, based on an unquestioned ideology. Wouldn’t then a full signifier allow and welcome question and discernment because it is full?

    Anyways, I about to write a review of End of Evangelicalism so I need to spend a lot more time with Dave’s constructive work before I can say much more and say it intelligently!

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