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The Humanities Conference 2003

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A Radical Theological Critique of Humanism

Alena Govorounova.

The modernist self retained a basic optimism about humanistic rationalism, scientific achievement, and social strategies of global planning to shape the world for the general advancement of human society. Yet the humanistic project of moral and scientific progress was doomed to turn against itself and transform the quest for human emancipation into systems of oppression in the name of human liberation.
The postmodernist critique argues that the logic that hides behind humanistic emancipation is logic of domination and oppression. I propose here an analysis of the reasons why the modernist ambitions for societal progress turned into ideologies of compulsory manipulation of humans, reaching their epitome in the man-made selection of human species in Holocaust and the witch-hunting for the heterodox within the Communistic totalitarian systems.
The postmodernist philosophical debate over the validity of humanistic ideals revolves around the question of whether the collapse of humanistic optimism is a result of an abuse of the idea of human emancipation or it is the idea per se that is erroneous.
I propose a cross-disciplinary theological postmodernist approach, which draws parallels between theological critique of the Law and postmodernist critique of humanistic Law (social moral codes) in the light of the theological concept of Grace.
The root of oppression then is basically anthropocentricity, a human self-worship which claims the ultimate human authority to pass moral judgements and correct human nature.
I argue that the Christian theology of Grace, by proposing a Theo-centric epistemology, offers an alternative to anthropocentric epistemology, which interprets human and society within the materialistic paradigm.
Theo-centric epistemology transcends modernist humanistic idealism as well as postmodernist nihilism, and also goes beyond various moral and intellectual dualisms: philosophical vs. theological, spiritual vs. carnal, metaphysical vs. materialistic, theistic vs. humanistic, etc.


Alena Govorounova  (Japan)
Ph.D Candidate
Graduate School of Language and Culture
Osaka University

I grew up in the Russian Far East, and attended the Oriental Studies Department at the Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok. I graduated with a double major in Japanese Studies and linguistics. In 1998 I was granted a research scholarship by the Ministry of Education of Japan and became a research student at Osaka University, Japan. In March 2001 I got a Master's degree at the
Graduate School of Language and Culture in Osaka University. Master thesis title: “Orthodox Bible Translation into Japanese in the Meiji Period.” Currently I am a Ph.D candidate and plan to graduate by March 2004. My dissertation "The Postmodernist Critique of the Humanistic Frame in Religion" is in progress.

  • Anthropocentrism
  • Epistemology
  • Modernism
  • Postmodernism
  • Theology

(30 min Conference Paper, English)