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by Mark C. Taylor

Download Erring: A Postmodern A/theology eBook
Mark C. Taylor
University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (April 15, 1987)
234 pages
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"Erring is a thoughtful, often brilliant attempt to describe and enact what remains of (and for) theology in the wake of deconstruction. Drawing on Hegel, Nietzsche, Derrida, and others, Mark Taylor extends—and goes well beyond—pioneering efforts. . . . The result is a major book, comprehensive and well-informed."—G. Douglas Atkins, Philosophy and Literature"Many have felt the need for a study which would explicate in coherent and accessible fashion the principal tenets of deconstruction, with particular attention to their theological implications. This need the author has addressed in a most impressive manner. The book's effect upon contemporary discussion is apt to be, and deserves to be, far-reaching."—Walter Lowe, Journal of Religion
  • Anazan
Firstly, this is a book well worth the time to read. Although I have only given it three stars, that does not mean that it is not worth your time. In fact, I think it is fully worth anyone's time that has an interest in theology and/or postmodernism.
The reason that I have given it 3 stars is because in the end, Taylor's text (not book!) is little more than an excursion into a/theological nihilism ("a/theological nihilism" is not at all redundant, as you will see upon finishing this book). It is fundamentally Nietzschean - and by extension arguably pagan - in its orientation and in its (proudly self-proclaimed) erring results.
Taylor begins the book with an engagement with St. Augustine via Augustine's seminal work The Confessions. This first section of the book sets up the second section of the book, which is the postmodern de-construction of Augustine and Western Christianity's understanding of Truth. By emptying all discourse of God, Taylor notes (following Nietzsche) that texts lose their meaning and the self eventually loses its value and disappears. There is no meaning in a world without God; it is the job of the a/theologian to chart, then, the meaningless, purposeless, "erring" wanderings of an individual in a world without meaning. The second part a/concludes (so to write) with an attempt to find a way to navigate the chaotic sea of nihilism (the result of denying God) without its own results being nihilistic. Taylor, however, like Nietzsche, is left without any way out of the fundamentally nihilistic world that he advocates.
Taylor roots contemporary nihilism in Christianity, specifically in its ideas of Scripture and the Incarnation. If God empties God's-self into the Logos ("logos" is the Greek word for "Word", specifically a word that is spoken with the intention of communicating something true; more immediately relevant to Taylor is St. John's usage of the word "logos" to refer to Christ as *the* Logos of God the Father) and the Logos is crucified - Taylor refers to this as a "radical Christology" - then it only follows, in Taylor's mind, that nihilism should be the result of this sort of theological claim.
Naturally problematic is the absence of resurrection in Taylor's a/theology, but more glaring is his refusal to even question the assumptions made by Nietzsche and his various followers (particularly Barthes and Derrida). Taylor buys Nietzsche hook, line and sinker but selectively engages the Christian tradition; such a combination makes such a/theology possible.
A more thorough engagement with Christianity - and with the Logos of Christianity - would give Taylor far less room to create his a/theology in. His exclusive focus on the *text* of Scripture, to the exclusion of ritual and rite - particularly as exemplified in the giving and partaking of the Eucharist - shows a Protestant bent that exists largely on the margin of the Christian tradition.
If one removes the apophatic and iconic understanding of Scripture and instead focuses on it as a totality, then Taylor's work makes good sense and is a thorough and necessary critique; if there is no transcendence, one is indeed trapped within the text and bound to "err endlessly". Every text is bound to become a context of a context of a context (ad infinitum, ad nauseum) if the finite text is a totality.
It makes far more sense though, when looking at Christianity, to see that Taylor's justifications for his a/theology are really the result of a rejection of Christianity and it Logos, rather than being the fruit of something inherent to Christianity itself. This is a book worth reading, but it is also worth critiquing. In the end, Taylor's book (inadvertently, I suspect) shows the need for an apophatic, iconic understanding of language and texts, not the need to dispose of these; Taylor shows the need for a real engagement and practice of a sacramental Christianity - one which has at its center participation in the Transcendent as the ground of its being. It is only then that discourse and meaning can be given and received; it is only then that nihilism - "the strangest of guests" (to quote Nietzsche) - is exiled to err endlessly in its own purposelessness.
  • Goldenfang
Mark Taylor's book, "Erring: A Postmodern A/theology," will challenge it's reader and entice them to enter his web of thought. Personally, I owe much of my own personal "erring" to this book. This read will help to examine as well as deal with the questions many of us can not seem to shake. Is their really a Judeo/Xian God? Understanding the dialectic between man and himself and his world is imperative if western culture is to proceed into a postmodern world of pluralism and omnicentrism. make no mistake, if you posess strong reading ability,this book will open your mind or return you to that experience few of us have attained. Err in this direction and Mark will surely send you erring or wandering in a world never before experienced or forgotten