I spent his weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Religion in Chicago. I figured that, considering I have not posted a blog post in near forever, I ought to reflect on my time there. I have a lot of reflections, so I will split this blog in twain. So, without further ado, what I learned on my Mid-November Vacation, Part 1:
1. I’m studying something that matters and is pretty cool.
So, I’m writing my thesis on Paul Tillich (my man) and Gustavo Gutiérrez (once I read more of him, I’m sure he’ll be my man too). While at AAR, I went to several Tillich talks, one of which was on investigating the early and later Tillich and his idea of history. At the end of the paper, Jean Richard of Université Laval wrote on how many will like the later Tillich who are more spiritually and mystically driven, whereas others (like Jean) will like the early Tillich who are more social justice driven. This tension reflects exactly the issue my thesis is addressing. So, it’s sweet to see that people are thinking and caring about similar things. Sweeeeeet.
2. Friends matter way more than academic colleagues.
Instead of going to another Tillich seminar, I had a long lunch with my good friends Maria Francesca French and Thorsten Moritz, and my new friend Holly Beers. Instead of going to a scholar’s reception, I had Friendsgiving at my friend’s place where I was staying. In both circumstances, I had some of the best interactions and conversations during the whole trip. Not only did I talk about my thesis and theological passions (which people were genuinely interested and fascinated), but we just had a good time together. Now if only friends could pay me a salary to do that…
3. I coined a new word: mythonomy.
I went to a ‘conversation’ between Scot McKnight and N.T. (Tom) Wright. Scot presented his paper “Kingdom as Church, Church as Kingdom: An Examination of an Old Dichotomy,” where he talked about how the kingdom and church are generally interchangeable. He also talked a lot about “King Jesus” and the kingdom life. Now, maybe this is because I’ve been studying a lot of Tillich (well, of course it is!), but I was taken aback by the intense evangelical language he was using. I felt he was taking the idea of the kingdom and the concept of Jesus as king so literally, it almost seemed ingenuous and strained. And then the word came to me: mythonomy.
Tillich often talks about autonomy (self-law, or the universal law of reason within all people), heteronomy ( strange-law, or a law foreign to humanity’s nature and being. Tillich talks about how ecclesiastical rules and norms are heteronomous), and theonomy (God-law, or autonomy that “is aware of its divine ground.”
Thus, a mythonomy is myth-law; it is a normative rule of law based in a myth or story (keep in mind myth does not necessarily mean fiction). It is what we understand as an all-encompassing meta-narrative. How this relates to Scot’s talk is this: is it legitimate to use a Christological symbol such as king, or even Kingdom of God, as a normative standard for all Christian life and conduct. At first blush we might want to say yes, but let me rephrase the question: ought we to take Biblical symbols and concepts literally and directly apply them to our contemporary lives, or are to be inspired by the Biblical symbols and concepts, interpreting and/or reauthoring them to correspond to our contemporary lives, and more italicized words? This is a heavy and controversial topic which will need much more thinking, but I like the direction of the discourse. I do have planned a blog series on myth, but that’s another story for another time. Eek!
I have three more points to make, which I will on Wednesday!
 Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought, II:27. In http://darashpress.com/articles/paul-tillich-and-biblical-theonomy#fntext_13. This is a great article that explains Tillich terms.