What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Primer on Postmodernism - Part I

"A Primer on Postmodernism" is a book by Stanley J. Grenz, Published by William B. Eerdman's Publishing, 1996, 211 pages.

I heartily recommend this book because it enlightens the reader on the tenets of postmodernism without going to extremes. For instance, I recently read an Internet article by R. Albert Mohler, an able Christian commentator on modern society with whom I normally agree, in which he said: "The shift from modernity to postmodernity has not been pretty. In the end, relativism is a more deadly enemy than denial." My immediate response is, "How?" Both the relativism of postmodernity and the denial of modernity are equally deadly. How is one "more deadly" than the other? He said other things like that in his article that seemed inconsistent to me.

Sometimes Christian leaders address postmodernism, which certainly consists of a faulty worldview, as if it is more dangerous than modernism. I think they are both dangerous but in different ways. It helps little to act as if modernism, which rejects almost without question all of the basic tenents of the Bible and Christianity, is safer than postmodernism.

I want to share with you how Grenz takes a more diplomatic approach in his book, what I to believe to be some of the more pertinent points he makes, followed by some personal observations after each . (I don't want to blame my comments on this noted author.)

To me, the two most significant shifts associated with postmodernism that are identified by Grenz in his introduction are: 1) The shift from industrial society to information society; and 2) The postmodernistic tendency to "Think globally/act locally" which has led to more pluralism and diversity.

I believe it does us little good for those of us who are Christ followers to fight against these trends. Rather I think we should begin to plan our strategies with them in mind so that we may reach postmodernists with the Good News about Christ. We should take the intersections of biblical truth and postmodernism - yes there are some believe it or not - and major on them.

P. 31 - "Most of us have likely had our most direct contact with postmodernism through science fiction and spy stories." Interesting observation. I plan to read some science fiction - which I have never done before, so that I might gain more insight into this connection.

P. 32 - Grenz makes the observation that postmodernism blurs the distinction between "truth" and "fiction". This is perhaps one of the greatest and most justifiable objections Bible believing Christians have toward postmodernism and why we should be educated about it's fundamental structure.

P. 35 - "The 'screen' (TV or computer) creates a perpetual present; reality and fantasy are joined." Once again, this is a good fact to possess. We must be aware in the power of the "screen" in our attempts to communicate the truth of the Good News with postmodernists.

P. 49 - The author speaks of how postmodernists prize "difference over uniformity". I believe this is one of the primary reasons some Christian leaders are so especially hacked off at postmodernism. But I think we must be careful of maintaining the delicate balance between teaching believers to follow the instructions of Christ and His Word, and in allowing them to practice Christian liberty. Cookie-cutter Christianity is neither biblical nor pragmatic.

P. 55 - "Science is not merely a neutral observation of data." Touche' Grenz! The modernist believed it was - and we who believed in the scientific and historical accuracy of the Bible always had this in argument with modernists. Score one for postmodernism in the sense that, yes, many scientists aren't ever neutral. They have been found guilty of the most blatant presuppositions that have kept them from receving the truth of the inspired, innerant, and infallible Scriptures. Many scientists have disregared the miraculous in the Bible simply by the excuse that they could not fit them in their laboratories.

P. 68 - Grenz points out how that, during the "Age of Reason", which eventually led to modernism, "Reason replaced revelation." The objection to postmodernism on the other hand - is that it goes to the other extreme and opens up the floodgates to assume that any revelation may perhaps be valid - who is to say? To me, this is another reason why modernism and postmodernism are equally unacceptable - they both go to extremes.

Pages 88-151 - Discussion of Nietzshe and his influence on postmodernism. Nietzshe was a nihilist (believed we have no access to reality), while both of his grandfathers were Lutheran pastors. (Interesting.) Famous for his assertion about the death of God, Nietzshe's philosophies none the less were picked up by 20th Century successors like Michael Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty - "The Central Trio of Postmodern Prophets". I must say that these fellows bewilder me. That people actually adhere to this kind of empty thinking enlightens me to the stark desperation of the human heart and mind without God.

161 - Grenz points out how, "Evangelicalism shares close ties with modernity." Evangelicals often adopted the "scientific, or empirical approach, or "proofs" for the existence of God, the trustworthiness of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. In my mind there was nothing wrong about evangelicals adopting this approach in dealing with modernists. Now we have to adapt our strategy for dealing with postmodernists.

More in a later post...


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