Hans Frei, “Types 1 & 2,” and a Rhetorical Flourish

I’ve been reading Hans Frei’s Types of Christian Theology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992) and, coming across the following spunky paragraph, I just had to share it. As for context, this paragraph comes at the end of a section of the book where Frei is considering whether one’s theological ‘type’ makes a hermeneutical difference concerning how one handles the literal sense of Scripture. He has considered types 1 (Gordon Kaufman / Immanuel Kant) and 2 (David Tracy and, implicitly, Paul Tillich - although Frei suggests that Tillich belongs in type 3) independently, but is here drawing these two threads together. Frei’s basic contention is that these two types have no real use for a literal sense, and it is this conclusion that lies behind the following invective. The following paragraph is written sarcastically in the voice of a member of the second type, meanwhile lampooning academic theological bureaucracy and, to add injury to insult, hypocrisy when it comes to social issues (thankfully, some of the latter has been positively addressed, although I’m not sure the former has):
Pages 64-5:

“Now one needs to say that to the extent that the name and title Jesus Christ function within the sociolinguistic context of the specific community called Christian, and theological talk about “Jesus Christ” is part of the self-description of Christianity, the language rules are such that culture as the history of collection consciousness and its linguistic self-expressions are simply not apt representations…Still, it is a relief to have symbols that live and die organically rather than having images paraphrasing rational constructions that are brought about by deliberate analytical (as for Kaufman) reflections, so that, say, the image of God as monarch may be abolished by scholarly theological committee vote under the auspices of the A.A.R., and a prize issued for the invention of a more fitting image for these times, which are, on the one hand, threatened by complete self-destruction in nuclear war and, on the other hand, obviously no longer mythical or absolutist in political sentiment. The “Suffering Servant” image for God and for Christ is always all right as long as it is not taken to provide religious legitimacy for the status of non-unionized domestic help. But enough.”


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