Friday, January 16, 2009

Whose afraid of the Post Modern???

(This is very long, and all other the place. Not incredibly scholarly. But it's just some random thoughts on my mind today, greatly due to a lecture by Dr. Case. I haven't really hashed them all out yet so don't take this as my final word haha, it's just questions really.)

In past eras, brilliant minds could spend their whole lives developing ideas and picking apart theories. Now it’s hard to keep up as technology and philosophies change rapidly. And it’s scary isn’t it? Everything you produce, buy, write about, etc will be outdated in a matter of months. Traditional conservative Christians see these fast changes (especially in thought) as absolutely detrimental, new, and against everything they stand for. The big scary word that gets dropped often is “post-modernism.” Oh the evils the word implies.

It seems to me that Christians especially, but much of western culture in general, have a tendency towards “bumper sticker” critiques. Christians are notorious for taking things out of context and boycotting. I’m going to admit right here and now that I find this embarrassing.

I know that with so many disciplines…history, philosophy, politics, music, cultural phenomenon…it is nearly impossible to keep up. You almost have to pick one or two and focus on them because there is too much to know. Unlike earlier generations, we live in a world where we are building upon accumulative knowledge. We take for granted hundreds of years of learning that is our foundation for expanse.

But Americans especially are very individualistic and rarely want to put the energy into gaining a whole picture. Evangelicals can be even worse sometimes because they view knowledge and questioning, new ideas, other opinions as threatening.

Post modernism is not new.

Christians associate post modernism with being counter cultural and rejecting truth. “Truth” is such a hot button word with Christians. Everyone seems to think that in postmodernity there is complete rejection of truth. Also we seem to think truth is completely accessible and anyone who thinks differently is outside of the truth. And be cause of this post modern thought is scary.

Let me clarify a few things then I’ll get to the point.

Post modernism is not a school of thought. It’s just what we call a cultural shift that we noticed and are trying to understand.

Second of all. It’s not new. It is more or less hyper-modern. The whole modern age has been defined by throwing out dogmatism and authoritarianism. It’s the great “Awakening,” the Englightenment, Romanticism, the idea of progress that is so very engrained into our minds and culture. It is continually moving…

Also what I mean by “bumper sticker” critiques: This expression is used by James K. A. Smith in a book entitled Who’s afraid of Postmodernism? I don’t know how I feel about the entire book just yet, but I like this point.

(Sidebar: I'm not saying I expect everyone to have read everything. I'm just saying, what's wrong with saying "I don't know?" about something you haven't read up on. You can then choose to read up on it...or just admit youre not that interested and don't have the right to a solid opinion on it (rather than taking someone elses word for what it says.))

Do you see the problem? We rarely take the time to question and truly get the whole picture.

If we choose to be afraid of post modern ideas and throw them all out…we miss the possible benefits AND we do not intelligently really understand the big picture.

Postmodernism is not a rejection of truth. If you took time to read books by post-modern theorists it would be impossible to come to this conclusion. In fact this is a common misconception among Christians. It’s not fair to take someone else’s word as gospel on anything. It’s not smart. I find that Christian leaders are more concerned with warnings then they are with encouraging full understanding of an issue.

Post modernism at the core is the recognition of limits. And I fail to see why this is so bad. It is not a rejection of truth. It is acknowledgement of the limits of human understanding of the truth. It is not saying truth doesn’t matter but it is dealing with some issues I would like to see dealt with among Christians.

We need to acknowledge out limits.

We do not have to say there is no reality. But we should admit that our perspectives are always shaped by our situatedness. Your knowing is always limited to some degree. It’s limited by things like your class, your race, your place in the world, the time period you live in, your religion, etc. Those things predispositions should be considered. Our place in life will alter and influence our realities and opinions.

In Christian apologetics you find that truth claims have to be made differently varying from culture to culture. Because cultures are all different, and have different ways of viewing reality. It doesn’t discredit truth. But it does change how you understand it and how you go about imparting it.

Diversity in belief is not new. Doctrinal differences are not terrible. For over 500 years now, protestant Christians have been divided by doctrinal differences. At some point why can’t we say “I don’t know” or live with the differences? They simply divide the body of Christ. It’s not about ever stopping the seeking of truth, or saying it is relativistic. It’s about whether or not it is important to divide over things that are not critical, do not have easy answers, and may never have a consensus.

We can’t stop discussion. Instead we should be willing to dicuss, to disagree, and to gain knowledge. If we are truly being intelligent in our pursuit we shouldn’t be afraid of different ideas than our own. We should learn about them and sift out the value in them.

Of course there will be truth and falsehood in every view. It would be a little egotistical to assume you have everything right and no room to grow. Even amongst postmodern theorists, or among the romantics, there will be silliness and truth and variations of opinion.

My problem is that conservatism refuses to recognize limits. And therefore there is no willingless to dialogue.

And how do you handle “otherness” ?

If you cannot convert someone to think the way you do…then what?

Do you accuse them of heresy?

Do you legislate things to make their life harder?

What do you do when you cannot agree, with those people??

These are just questions.

I just want to encourage everyone to be openminded and intelligent in their pursuit of truth. It has nothing to do with bending to culture or being relativistic. But if you are going to discuss things with people…be smart about it! Actually do the research from every angle. Don’t take anyone else’s word as gospel. Acknowledge that there are biases. Be willing to stretch yourself.

In the end we are called to love others. We are also encouraged to find humility. Don’t be too proud to disagree with others and be okay with that. Love them anyway. Recognize that you may have things wrong that they have right, and vice versa. Be at least willing to actually hear what they have to say. Question your beliefs. There is nothing wrong with questioning. If you have faith. You have nothing to fear in understanding other opinions outside your own.

Don’t be afraid of different opinions. And don’t accept “bumper sticker” critiques.

Above all, be open and love others.

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