Tag Archives: postmodernism

Entertaining the Story

"Harvest in Provence", Van Gogh

“Harvest in Provence”, Van Gogh

For Sunday, February 17, 2013
First Sunday in Lent

When I read this week’s first passage, Deut. 26:1-11, I thought about how a postmodern skeptic might react to it.  “What’s this talk about God giving land to one people over another?  The only reason people have land is because they’ve taken it from someone else!  It’s not pretty but there it is.”

Accepting postmodern premises I would be forced to agree.  With God out of the picture the Israelites took their “Promised Land” from the Arabs who were living there, and the Arabs who were living there took it from someone else before them, and so on, all the way back to, well, I suppose, the first fish to crawl out of the water.

Yet it is the postmodern premises which I question.  On what basis has God been removed from the picture?  Is it that he’s not scientific?  He claims to be the creator of science along with everything else.  Is it that he’s not secular?  He claims to have come down to earth and walked among us.  Is it that He’s just implausible?   Given an anti-supernatural starting point, sure, but stepping back yet again, on what basis was this starting point established?

An alternative to all of this would be to entertain the premise that God really does exist and that what is written about him and by him and about us in the Bible is true.    The story is one of a people gone astray and a God working to deliver them from the consequences of their actions.  It’s a story of a God who has seen our “affliction, toil, and oppression” (Deut. 26:7) and wants to remedy them by giving us relief, rest, and liberty.

“Well then,” responds the skeptic, “on what basis was this story established?”  I would suggest three: the creation of the world, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the testimony of our own consciences.  This is a story that we can enter the moment we believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9, 10).

If you are reading this today and haven’t yet entered the Christian story, I invite you in, at least for a short visit.  If you are already here, then let us embrace this story together with all of our time, talent, and treasure, that we might make our world the Promised Land it once was and is yet intended to be.

what’s your story? postmodernism

Glenn Sunshine’s Portals, Chapter 3

‘Postmodernism’ literally means “after” “what is modern”.   One feature of Modernism  was a tremendous confidence in the power of human reason.  Postmodernism, at least partially in reaction to horrific World Wars and personalities such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, suggests this confidence was both misplaced and ill-founded.  As Sunshine writes, “Postmodernism is built on the premises that absolute truth does not exist, that objectivity is impossible, and that everything we think of as true is a product of culture.”

Several key implications, says Sunshine, then follow:

  • Truth is personal:  something can be true for me while simultaneously being untrue for you.
  • Truth is political:  social power defines reality so those with the power determine reality (e.g. White House press conferences)
  • Language is key:  control language and you can create a better world (hence speech codes).

The story of postmodernism is that we came from the process of natural selection acting on random genetic mutations (just as in the secular naturalist story).  What went wrong with the world is that institutions accumulated the power to oppress.  The solution is “to work toward a worldy utopia based on unrestricted personal freedom enforced by government regulation”.  It’s essentially Occupy Wall Street writ large.  The purpose of life “is to create a world where each individual is free to live out her or his own self-defined identity, free of judgment from others, with all essential needs supplied by society.”  In my mind, the re-election of President Obama fits this narrative strikingly well.

Here are some questions that may call the viability of postmodernism into question.  First, how can truth be solely personal?  If my truth is to drive on the right side of the road, and yours is to drive on the left, we are going to collide head on, and we both know it.  Second, how can truth be essentially political?  When the White House Press Secretary gets challenged, and reiterates or obfuscates, do you really find that convincing or satisfying?  Third, if controlling language was really our key to salvation, wouldn’t salvation have long ago been achieved in places like the Soviet Union, where saying one wrong word could land you in the Gulag?

Where have you encountered postmodernism in your own life?