There seems to be no end of critique in the theological blogosphere. From criticism of worship (screeds usually, of contemporary worship from traditional worship lovers, AND complaints that traditional worship is irrelevant from modern worship advocates–both of which miss too many points) to negative assessments of millennials and how they will be the downfall of us all (or alternatively, how the boomers ruined everything and the millennials and paying the price), critique is everywhere. Dig deeper in the academic side of the blogosphere and you can find more. Critiques of political theological perspectives, such as on topics concerning religious freedom (think Hobby Lobby), marriage, and more are often intellectual grenades lobed into a room while the writer walks away. Granted, there is some interaction in the “comments.” But seriously, who actually has to look anyone in the eye anymore to have a conversation? Who ever has to know the deep-seated position from which one is trying to argue his or her point? Getting to know another, especially if it’s a perspective that is disagreeable does not seem to matter all that much. What matters is making a statement and getting some attention. And then perhaps getting a following, getting your statement shared on Facebook, Twitter, and beyond. There is no end to critique.

But what about an end to critique? I’m not, in saying such a thing, calling for an end to critique. Hear me clearly. I’m concerned rather, about the telos of critique–the point, the purpose, the goal of it all. Criticism is good, as far as it goes. But often criticism simply ends at criticism. It seems fairly easy to see what’s wrong with the world. But not particularly easy to see what’s possible after critique. De(con)struction seems to be a fairly easy task to accomplish. But what about imagining the possibility of something new in the place of whatever has just been blown up? Thus, concerning the telos of critique, I’m essentially asking, what’s the point if something cannot rise from the ashes of what has been taken apart. And that something is not going to arise on it’s own. It needs to be suggested, evoked, imagined, provoked, made possible by the positive creative energies of those who have such abundant energy to criticize. For inevitably, criticism itself arises from the perspective that there must be something better, that the situation which is being evaluated negatively is not measuring up to the more ideal situation which is known or imagined to be possible. And this is especially the case in the theological conversation, since it is inherently eschatological, waiting for a “not yet” that is to come that manifests in glimpses in the here and now.

So where are the poetic imaginations that ought to be part and parcel of critique? Where are the alternative narratives of what could be, especially if what is is what should not be? Where are the images, the pictures, the symbols, the maps, the stories, the hopeful dreams, the idealizations, and, even more, trust in the eternal God to bring about through his chosen instruments works of greater things than this? Granted, let’s not get utopic. But let us also not allow mere criticism to be an end in itself. For critique inherently assumes a standard of something better. The end of critique then ought to include imagination and the concrete suggestion of possibilities for arriving there.

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