Posted on: June 3rd, 2010 _Cities of God_: Analogical Worldview

In Graham Ward’s _Cities of God_, which after many years I finally have the leisure to focus on in an extended way (I’m on vacation in Seattle), he is forwarding what he calls the “analogical worldview.” Among other things, this perspective – shared by the Augustinian Christian tradition as well postmodern theorists such as Lacan, Foucault, Slajov Zizek, and the Jesuit Michel de Certeau – sees the things of this world (airplanes, bodies, hospitals, trees), as (a) text(s) which (like all texts) are culturally produced. As texts they call for interpretation.

Ward lays out six “shared characteristics” of “the analogical worldview:”

1. All human knowledge is culturally conditioned / mediated / embedded.

2. Human knowledge consists only in interpretation, not ontological claims. It does not claim to explain or even to describe.

3. Human knowledge, therefore, is indeterminate and open-ended.

4. There is no ideology-free zone.

5. Human beings have an “identity” which is open-ended and in flux.

6. Ontology is seen as “weak” or “hermeneutical,” as opposed to “a strong ontology of being as true identity.”

I love these six characteristics and am in full agreement with them, but I want to point out how they are all negative, or rooted in a hermeneutics of suspicion and finitude. That is, they are not actually theologically constructive. For that, Ward needs to be supplemented (as they do by him) by Milbank and Pickstock, who offer a theology of participation (rooted in neoplatonism) which “grounds” this analogical worldview in constructive, affirming, positive, cataphatic ways.

Put another way, in these six characteristics, Ward is making a much needed deconstructive move, but much more is needed than just this. The tradition, as non-identically repeated by Radical Orthodoxy, provides this “much more,” it seems to me.

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2 Responses to “_Cities of God_: Analogical Worldview”

  1. Collins aka Boo Says:
    June 3rd, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I am weak on neo-Platonism (scratch that, I’m ignorant on it) and I get, to a degree, the idea of participation, but still not enough. So no comment on that. As far as Ward’s “analogical world-view” I know a little more. But the six-shared characteristics of his analogical WV, I don’t see to be based on “suspicion and finitude” (you may have to explain why you see them as so). All of those points pretty much revolve around #3: Human knowledge […]is indeterminate and open-ended. I think they can be theologically constructive when we learn how to separate what Christ warned as “the traditions of man putting the word of God to no effect” and what Peter(?) said, “the word of God is the same today, yesterday and forever”. I have never had any problem saying, God’s word has never changed, just the way we (man) have interpreted them has always changed, being inextricably tied to the division of labor, the political economy, even the prevailing mode of culture, etc. I think what Ward is doing, and the little I have read about De Lubac, is attempting to thread the needle of theology is responsibly as possible, regarding tradition and, yes, evolution (or progression). And I think, we can either continue the trend of just basically echoing the reigning mode of interpretation (in the name of tradition), while others promote the most absurd of revisionist theories (in the name of being modern)or do both, and not be scared of what either side may say.

  2. matt Says:
    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    But, Collins, notice the “no effect.” that is not constructive, but merely negative. Not negaative in the perjorarive sense, but in that it is merely making negations.

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