How can a meta-narrative not be oppressive?

I have already mentioned (in one of my replies to Brad Andersen) that I cannot but see the Christian story as a meta-narrative. Its claims to exclusivity, universality, and absolute truth are completely incompatible with the post-modern portrait of a "local story" within a community. Yet, I do think that the story of faith, i.e. the story of the Spirit-filled community, is able to escape the post-modern criticism against meta-narratives for a number of reasons.
One of them has just re-surfaced in my reading of Anthony Thiselton’s Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self: On Meaning, Manipulation and Promise: In chapter 3 ("Do All Controlling Models in Religion Serve Manipulative Purposes?") Thiselton refers to the New Testament, to Luther’s "theology of the cross", to Bonhoeffer’s writings and to Jürgen Moltmann in order to show that the Christian story is not promoting power and glory for its proponents. Criticism levelled against it from the days of Nietzsche through Heidegger, Foucault, and Rorty, has therefore no base: The Christian community is not seeking to promote itself above all other communities.
Rather, it is seeking to promote Jesus Christ, the liberator, who sets people free from oppression. But, that’s already another argument …

Eine Antwort zu “How can a meta-narrative not be oppressive?”

  1. i haven’t read this book of thiselton’s, but i like where you say he’s going with this idea. i reviewed an article by merold westphal where he basically argues the same thing – yes, christianity is a metanarrative; no, it’s NOT the type of metanarrative lyotard and others rejected.
    one of the reasons i like this is because it is taking a constructive yet engaging approach to the problem – not simply co-opting the postmodern theory or pretending it doesn’t exist…we have enough of those types of approaches already!
    one more point, and that is that there are several levels in christianity where we can talk about metanarratives. for instance, there is the whole christian worldview, which i believe is what you are talking about here. but there is also the bible – a metanarrative text for a metanarrative faith, some would say. any thoughts on this? (richard bauckham has an excellent piece on this in an edited volume called ‚the art of reading scripture‘. interestingly, he takes a similar approach to that of thiselton/westphal in arguing that the bible is not a metanarrative in the modern sense of the word. i talked a bit about it here.)

Über Christoph

Christoph Fischer (* 1978) ist Pfarrer der Evangelischen Landeskirche in Württemberg auf der Pfarrstelle „Erlöserkirche“ in Albstadt-Tailfingen.

Christoph ist verheiratet mit Rebecca. Gemeinsam haben sie drei Töchter.