Monday, December 5, 2011

Truth and Remythologizing God

Nietzsche answers his own question:

What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymics, anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which become poetically and rhetorically intensified, metamorphosed, adorned, and after long usage, seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses, coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account but merely as metal (p. 143).

We forget that we construct the worlds and the meanings that we dwell in. We forget that what were once current life currencies have lost their socially-established value and have become mere pieces of metal. Nietzsche raises a challenge to theology. We mustn't passively rely on the seemingly “fixed, canonic, and binding” illusions of “worn-out metaphors” which have lost power and currency. Instead, “the constructive character of theology must be acknowledged,” and with awareness that the social world which we inhabit has changed and is changing, we must “think experimentally, [we] must risk novel constructions” (McFague, p. 6).

Implicit in Nietzsche's statement is the need to deconstruct metaphors. The avant-garde of the conservatives have already engaged theology in deconstruction. For example, models of God like “Father” or “Monarchical Patriarch” are being appreciated for their metaphorical value. “God does not literally posses male gonads, does he?” However, deconstruction is insufficient. We need new metaphors, ones that address the environmental, economic, and erotic exigencies of today. I appreciate the following remarks from McFague:

One of the serious deficiencies in contemporary theology is that though theologians have attempted to interpret the faith in new concepts appropriate for our time, the basic metaphors and models have remained relatively constant: they are triumphalist, monarchical, patriarchal. Much deconstruction of the traditional imagery has taken place, but little construction. If, however, metaphor and concept are, as I believe, inextricably and symbiotically related in theology, there is no way to do theology for our time with outmoded or oppressive metaphors and models. The refusal to deal with the constructive task results in either a return to anachronistic models—a conservative retreat—or a move away from all images toward abstract language (xi).

McFague goes on to assert that the task of today is to “remythologize” the relationship between God and the world. On the level of the literal, most of theology is fiction, illusion; however, the fictional and illusory become truth when lived and experienced through the dynamism of myth. Models of God that need to be developed and extrapolated for today include the “death-of-God” and God as Mother, Participant, Goddess, Sensual, and Liberator (vs. Savior).

McFague, Sally, Models of God. Fortress Press, 1987: Philadelphia.

Nietzsche, Friederich, “On Truth and Falsity in Their Ultramoral Sense,” 1873 in Works 2:180.

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