26.9.08

Why are they always going on about postmodernism?

Heat and Light?


Today Anglican Mainstream, supporters of all things orthodox, conservative and GAFCON-orientated, point our attention to an article of which they approve, about the 'evils' (not stated quite so strongly) of postmodernism. What is so bad about postmodernism?

I understand that postmodernism is (was) a period of culture following modernism. Modernism, I relate to 1950's American 'home-maker mom' tableaux: the men earned the wages, the women stayed home, often grateful to have the choice again to do so after having grafted in industries propping up the war-effort. Postmodernism, unlike modernism, blurs hierarchical orders and brings in new freedoms. Postmodernism is about choice. At uni, (English degree) we studied Derrida and Barthes and Foucault. There was no fixed meaning and the reader had all the power, not the writer. I was a student of these literary-critical theories and I enjoyed playing the game; for a while you could forget what Thomas Hardy's intentions had been and look at Tess from the reader's point-of-view, careful, but only to an extent, not to be overly anachronistic. Post-modernist experience was often that of 'political-correctness gone mad!'

And so there is a back-lash against this by the likes of organisations like Anglican Mainstream. They develop strategies to preserve their distictive identity in the face of postmodernism's pluralism, C of E's 'liberal' Christianity and rapid secularisation.

Postmodernism has become a dirty word in Christian circles.

Fundamentalism is an equally dirty word but didn't start out that way. In 1910, the devout Christians Milton and Stewart circulated their 'The Fundamentals: A Testimony of Truth 'about the inerrancy of the Bible; Christ's substitutionary atonement; Christ's imminent return; the virgin birth; the miracles and Christ's bodily resurrection and God's direct creation of the world and humanity ex nihilo. Three million copies of this pamphlet were circulated and in 1920 the 'ist' was added by a conservative baptist who described fundamentalists as those prepared to do battle over 'the fundamentals'.

So what am I? I believe in the fundamentals, regarding my faith, but I take a very post-modern approach to those with whom I disagree. I like conversation; I never stop talking, I will not push my point-of -view but look for ways to open up a dialogue. I don't feel the need to defend my God through credal doctrines to which I insist my neighbour subscribes. I do not defend my God; he's way-bigger than this. He is the truth, not the systematic dogmas of the traditional church. I listen because I love; I might not agree but I don't shut the door; surely we're to invite these neighbours in for more bread not leave them outside with the crumbs. It would seem that the church is creating more and more things to argue about. Traditionalists war with the emerging churchers but I understand Brian McClaren; what he has to say makes sense to me. We exist within our culture and yes, beyond it, of course, because of the eternal dynamic of the gospel but we have to get into the pond and get wet in order to take this glorious message to those who are in the thick of the swim and I'm prepared to get wet, knowing that the gospel cannot be polluted by any one particlular culture, it will remain intact as it has during previous cultures that have fallen away, just as it will sail into future ones - God finds a way to reach us despite the trappings of the culture: He's so magnificent he uses them to his glory. So he's reaching us now through power-point presentations, creative prayer stations and modern music; these things will fall away and then the message of the gospel will reach us through something fresher. 2000 years ago Jesus presented his message in a very fresh way and he continues to do so today, if we will just let him!

Update - I want to reference this:
A postmodern literary interpretation of the scripture would focus on the formation of the text, who wrote it, their personalities and perspective, how it comes to be interpreted or translated so, what is the meaning of it in those contexts, not merely trying to define it once and for all time. Which was the modernistic approach- answers. Such details would once have been seen as extraneous. Not always though!

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