Just as with chapter 1, there is a great deal of detail in Smith's description and analysis of Derrida's critique of modernity. Reading the chapter prompted another 3 full pages of notes, so I'm going to try to highlight some of the insights Smith finds in Derrida's critique that can be applied to the Christian faith. The end of this chapter is a challenge to me because some of the descriptions of a deconstructive church are in conflict with experiences I've had. But on the other hand, after reading the supporting evidence, I can certainly understand them. I just don't know how it would look if this church were actually occuring. Here are some of my notes from the chapter:
p.38 – According to Derrida, interpretation is not a series of hoops we jump through to eventually reach a realm of unmediated experience where we don’t have to interpret anymore. Rather interpretation is an inescapable part of being human and experiencing the world.
“All our experience is always an interpretation.”
p.42 – Can Derrida’s claim make Christians nervous? … we could loosely translate “there is nothing outside the text” simply with the axiom “Everything is interpretation.” … many Christians become nervous and assume the claim that “everything is interpretation” is antithetical to Christian faith…. If everything is interpretation, then even the gospel is only an interpretation and not objectively true.
p.43 – A Christian criticism of this antithesis is that if everything is interpretation, then the gospel would be only an interpretation. And if the gospel is only an interpretation then that means there might be other interpretations. And if there could be other interpretations, then we can know what of the gospel is true. Smith cites D.A. Carson’s version of this criticism from Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Smith argues that Carson defines truth with objectivity, one can only be said to know “truly” if one knows “objectively.” If a truth is objective, then it is not a matter of interpretation. Carson claims there is a biblical requirement that what is true be objective.
p.44 - Smith says on one hand this is correct that the gospel is an interpretation and that we can know the gospel is true, if by knowledge we mean unmediated objectivity. On the other hand, it is wrong to conclude that this is antithetical to orthodox Christian faith.
The fact that something is a matter of interpretation does not mean that an interpretation cannot be true or a good interpretation.
p.48 - Christians who are skittish about the claim that everything is interpretation are usually hanging on to a very modern notion of knowledge, one that claims something is true only insofar as it is objective – insofar as it can be universally known by all people at all times, in all places.
p.51-52 - There is nothing outside the text = there are only contexts. But contexts are not completely free to be interpreted, there is still a limit of good and true interpretations, important and legitimate determinations of context, which can be fixed and defined by community. This role of community is central to interpreting the Scriptures.
p.54 – There is nothing outside the text which means that everything is interpretation; interpretation is governed by context and the role of interpretive community. This entails abandoning the modern notion of objectivity and embracing a central theme of postmodernism: interpretation goes “all the way down.”
p.55 – So if all the world is a text to be interpreted, then for the church the narrative of the Scriptures is what should govern our very perception of the world. We should see the world through the Word. In this sense, Derrida’s claim resonates with the Reformer’s claim of sola scriptura.
p.56 – Modernity is characterized by a deep individualism that isolates us from one another. If we believe and confess the Apostles Creed (believe in both the holy, catholic church and the communion of saints) then Derrida’s critique on modernity, his emphasis on community can help us appreciate how postmodernity pushes us to recapture the central role of community in biblical interpretation and how to make our way in the world through the view of the Word.
Affirms there is nothing outside the text The Word (Text) is central for shaping our interpretation of the world Take totality of Text seriously and employs revered tradition of the lectionary, which over a few years guides us through the entire Biblical narrative rather than private canons or favorite texts of the pastor. Tradition is valued Reciting of ecumenical and historic creeds, as they are a witness of our community past Pastor’s preaching engages early father and Reformers as co-interpreters Voices of community are global as they are ancient; singing and prayers drawn from Christian communities in places like Southern France, South Korea, Scotland, Zimbabwe, etc, etc. Embraces tradition but not the traditionalism of the status quo Focuses on proclamation and witness of revelation It does not focus on an apologetics of demonstration or on a “culture wars” agenda that uses logic as a weapon to say that all Americans should simply see that Christianity is true. Embraces Word, sacrament, prayer, and singing to equip and empower the saints to see through the interpretations of the world and the human prospect offered by the cultural forces of capitalism, consumerism, and hedonism. Deeply prophetic, reflecting the voice of Amos much more than Derrida.