Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Deep Symbols: Their Postmodern Effacement and Reclamation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Deep Symbols: Their Postmodern Effacement and Reclamation

Article excerpt

Deep Symbols: Their Postmodern Effacement and Reclamation. By Edward Farley. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. xii + 145 pp. $16.00 (paper).

Edward Farley, Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University, applies his phenomenological expertise to several of what he terms "deep symbols." These are "god-terms" or "power words" that "are the values by which a community understands itself, from which it takes its aims, and to which it appeals as canons of cultural criticism" (p. 3). The symbols he chooses are tradition, obligation, reality, law, and hope.

His concern is whether the postmodern age is also a postsymbolic age. Certainly there is atrophy; is there also a possibility of recovery? In the case of each of the symbols that he analyzes, he probes their diminishment and their continuing vitality. What he discerns is that they are deeply rooted in the experiential interworld of human life and cannot totally be evaded. His strength is uncovering this persistent presence, at least the residues, of deep symbols; he is less convincing when it comes to proposals for recovery.

For example, the chapter on reality is especially strong, where Farley deftly analyzes reasons for the loss of a sense of reality in secular and religious life and yet shows the way in which reference to the real is manifested in a postmodern context. It is not at all clear, however, how one moves beyond description to change. …

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