God-Father Clash

THE TRANSCENDENCE OF the Western monotheistic Heavenly-God-Father Archetype over the universal Mother Earth Archetype was a clash of archetypes in history and it is a clash of archetypes which continues to this day.[i] This clash brought forth a new Anthropocentric Landscape.

It also brought forth a new concept of man (made in the image of the God-Father) and a new development in man’s psyche with his separation from the Mother Earth and the ascendance of the Ego and Hero components of the personality.

The clash between the transcendent God-Father and Mother Earth is seen in the anguish of indigenous peoples, in the subjugation of women and the exploitation of nature

It is evidenced in the conflicted psyches of individuals and in the historical warring of religious fundamentalist cultures and factions dominated by the archetype of a monotheistic God-Father who is exclusivist, jealous and warlike and who bestows his favours on ‘the chosen’.

Supplanting Mother

NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE when men started to challenge the power of the Goddess and set about a long history of subjugation of women, desecration of temples, and destruction of those animals that had been sacred to her. The recorded appearance of god-worshipping males – variously called Indo-Europeans, Indo-Aryans, and Aryans – in the Middle East some 6,000 years ago suggests older beginnings since they are said to have come from north of the Caucasus.[ii]

Lithuanian-American archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) suggests that it was the Indo-European incursion of warlike nomadic tribes, worshippers of the masculine sky gods, that replaced the matracentric cultures of Old Europe with an “autocratic warrior” society. They claimed for themselves the virtues of “civilization”. However prior to their conquest there had been a “civilization of the goddess” marked by peace and high art and under the spell of the original version of Gaia.[iii] The clash of archetypes is illustrated in epic myths, for example, Marduk, the great male deity, who ousts Ti’ amat from power and tears her body to shreds in order to construct a new world of warlords and patriarchal masters more to his liking:

“In the Book of Genesis (first millenium BC), a document that codifies in writing many strands of older oral traditions, the intent to suppress the Great Mother (Ishtar, Inanna, Ti’amat etc.) is very clear. Some practices of her cult are openly condemned as they clash with the monotheistic, male tradition of the Hebrews. Mostly they are omitted. An earlier version of the Genesis creation myth attributes a spirit of rebellion to the first woman, Lilith. In the later version, which we all know, Lilith is replaced by Eve (Gen. 1:26)… born of Adam’s rib and made submissive to him in another (Gen. 2:23) … (Thus) … Genesis presents the view that God created everything and gave it to man to dominate. The degrees of his domination range from benevolent stewardship, to conquest (Gen.1:28) and outright oppression.”[iv]

Heavenly God-Father

[i] What we are to talk about is not the multi-God archetypal concepts of the ‘Wisdom Stream’ Gnostics, mystics or heretics. For them God was a supra-gender, androgynous, universal pantheistic force to be explored and revealed within the psyche. Nor are we talking of the God Father archetypal concepts of the polytheistic pagans, primal peoples or early matriarchal religions. For them the Sky God Father is just one in a pantheon of equally powerful Gods. What we are talking about is the exclusivist Heavenly God-Father Archetype of the monotheistic, great Western orthodox religions of Judaism, Old Testament fundamentalist Christianity and Islam.
[ii] Andree Collard and Joyce Contrucci, Rape of the Wild – Man’s Violence Against Animals and the Earth (Indiana University Press, 1989), 15.
[iii] Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 236.
[iv] Collard and Contrucci (1992) Rape of the Wild, 16-17. Cf. Gen.1:28 which “presents the view that God created everything and gave it to man to dominate. The degrees of his domination range from benevolent stewardship, to conquest … and outright oppression”. (p.17).

Postmodern Spirituality

THE RENAISSANCE OF ‘SPIRITUALITY’ has been associated with postmodernism.

“Postmodernity as spiritual condition” is argued by Vanhoozer. The condition of postmodernity “is neither simply philosophical nor simply socio-political, but spiritual, a condition in which belief and behavior come together in the shape of an embodied spirit”.[i]

Ecofeminist, postmodern theologian Carol P. Christ argues that together with “many spiritual feminists, ecofeminists, ecologists, antinuclear activists, and others” she shares “the conviction that the crisis that threatens the destruction of the earth is not only social, political, economic, and technological, but is at root spiritual”.[ii]

Frederick Mark Gedlicks argues that for “religious pluralism to flourish in a postmodern era, the predominant expression of belief must be spiritual, rather than fundamentalist”.[iii] He distinguishes fundamentalism, metanarratives, discrimination and government power from postmodernism, religious liberty, nondiscrimination, government absence and spirituality. That the concepts of ‘spirituality’ and ‘postmodernism’ have both been linked in De Paul Law Review (2005), a secular law journal dealing with the laws of state and society, would indicate perhaps that both concepts have now ‘come of age’.

GORDON D. KAUFMAN (1925-2011), the renowned American liberal theologian whose research, writing and teachings had a profound influence on constructive and systematic theology – gives an early working example of postmodern spiritual theology. He places an emphasis on mystery, imagination, and imaginal construction. Kaufman maintains theology is, and always has been, an activity of “imaginative construction” by persons attempting to put together as comprehensive and coherent a picture as they could of humanity in the world under God.[iv]

For Kaufman theology as “imaginative construction” contrasts with the conventional conceptions of theology whereby the work of theologians is “understood to consist largely in exposition of religious doctrine or dogma (derived from the Bible and other authoritative sources)”.[v] Rather than concentrating on traditional doctrines, dogmas and their systematic presentation in a new historical situation, Kaufman places emphasis on imaginative construction and the powers of the human imagination: ‘symbolic perspective’ and plurality.

Hence Christianity is just one of a plurality of world views. He stresses de-emphasizing traditional doctrines in new historical situations, and the de-emphasis of the importance of literal historicity. All this exemplifies a postmodernist theological perspective.[vi]

[i] Vanhoozer(2003) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, 23.

[ii] Carol P. Christ, ‘Rethinking Theology and Nature’, in: Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ (eds.), Weaving the Visions – New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (Harper: San Francisco, 1989), 314.

[iii] Frederick Mark Gedicks, ‘Spirituality, Fundamentalism, Liberty: Religion at the End of Modernity’, De Paul Law Review, (2005), Abstract. See ‘Social Science Network’: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? abstract id=634262.

[iv] Gordon D. Kaufman, In the Face of Mystery – A Constructive Theology (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993), ix.

[v] Ibid, 40.

[vi] Cf. Sheila Davaney (ed.), Theology at the End of Modernity: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Kaufman. (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991).

Revolutionising Religion

POSTMODERNISM HAS IMPACTED on religion. While modernist concerns with falsifiability have undermined, some would say fatally, orthodox religions; the impact of the postmodern pluralist spirituality challenge to fundamentalism is particularly devastating.

Vanhoozer distinguishes ‘modern theology’ from ‘postmodern theology’ and describes the situation of theology within postmodernism. Modern theology is situated within the Enlightenment critical and scientific narrative, while postmodernity marks both the end of theology and new beginnings. Postmodernity lets the particulars speak for themselves without having to conform to prevailing ideology or political system.[i]

Arguably the most appropriate methodologies for postmodern discourse are phenomenology, existentialism and hermeneutics.

For example, Dan Stiver talking about theological method in particular, emphasizes hermeneutics in postmodern theology; the “intertextual” and “intratextual nature of postmodern theology; the pluralistic spirit and the situated nature of the theologian. Contrary to those who would deny a distinction between modernist theology and postmodern theology, Stiver argues that theology in modernity relied largely on a foundationalist paradigm. The basis for theology had to be “nailed down” first.[ii]
However, it was largely on the defensive because theology could hardly measure up to public standards for rigorous certainty and unchallengeable methods.

Postmodern Spirituality

THE RENAISSANCE OF ‘SPIRITUALITY’ has been associated with postmodernism.

“Postmodernity as spiritual condition” is argued by Vanhoozer. The condition of postmodernity “is neither simply philosophical nor simply socio-political, but spiritual, a condition in which belief and behavior come together in the shape of an embodied spirit”.[iii]

Ecofeminist, postmodern theologian Carol P. Christ argues that together with “many spiritual feminists, ecofeminists, ecologists, antinuclear activists, and others” she shares “the conviction that the crisis that threatens the destruction of the earth is not only social, political, economic, and technological, but is at root spiritual”.[iv]

Frederick Mark Gedlicks argues that for “religious pluralism to flourish in a postmodern era, the predominant expression of belief must be spiritual, rather than fundamentalist”.[v]
He distinguishes fundamentalism, metanarratives, discrimination and government power from postmodernism, religious liberty, nondiscrimination, government absence and spirituality. That the concepts of ‘spirituality’ and ‘postmodernism’ have both been linked in De Paul Law Review (2005), a secular law journal dealing with the laws of state and society, would indicate perhaps that both concepts have now ‘come of age’.

GORDON D. KAUFMAN (1925-2011), the renowned American liberal theologian whose research, writing and teachings had a profound influence on constructive and systematic theology – gives an early working example of postmodern spiritual theology. He places an emphasis on mystery, imagination, and imaginal construction. Kaufman maintains theology is, and always has been, an activity of “imaginative construction” by persons attempting to put together as comprehensive and coherent a picture as they could of humanity in the world under God.[vi]

For Kaufman theology as “imaginative construction” contrasts with the conventional conceptions of theology whereby the work of theologians is “understood to consist largely in exposition of religious doctrine or dogma (derived from the Bible and other authoritative sources)”.[vii]
Rather than concentrating on traditional doctrines, dogmas and their systematic presentation in a new historical situation, Kaufman places emphasis on imaginative construction and the powers of the human imagination: ‘symbolic perspective’ and plurality.

Hence Christianity is just one of a plurality of world views. He stresses de-emphasizing traditional doctrines in new historical situations, and the de-emphasis of the importance of literal historicity. All this exemplifies a postmodernist theological perspective.[viii]

[i] Vanhoozer (2003) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, xiii-xiv.

[ii] Dan R. Stiver (2003) ‘Theological Method’ in: The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, 172-179.

[iii] Vanhoozer(2003) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, 23.

[iv] Carol P. Christ, ‘Rethinking Theology and Nature’, in: Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ (eds.), Weaving the Visions – New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (Harper: San Francisco, 1989), 314.

[v] Frederick Mark Gedicks, ‘Spirituality, Fundamentalism, Liberty: Religion at the End of Modernity’, De Paul Law Review, (2005), Abstract. See ‘Social Science Network’: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? abstract id=634262.

[vi] Gordon D. Kaufman, In the Face of Mystery – A Constructive Theology (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993), ix.

[vii] Ibid, 40.

[viii] Cf. Sheila Davaney (ed.), Theology at the End of Modernity: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Kaufman. (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991).