Book: Critical Theory and Early Christianity
Chapter: Introduction: Making Early Christian Texts Strange (Again)
Drawing from critical theory, Stephen Eric Bronner notes: “The extent to which a work becomes popular—regardless of its political message—is the extent to which its radical impulse will be integrated into the system.” Critical theory, when in dialogue with early Christian texts, points out the inevitable: the extent to which an early Christian text becomes popular—regardless of its political message—is the extent to which its radical impulse will be integrated into the system. This inevitability not only applies to the texts themselves, but also scholarship about them, and yes, even critiques of scholarship about them. But are there ways to move beyond this inevitability? Can religious literature avoid assimilation into the status quo? In this introductory chapter, Whitlock argues that the critical theories of Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Judith Butler help counter this inevitable integration of early Christian texts into the status quo. While their theories do not claim save or renew texts, they do claim to estrange them, continually making them strange again.