Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Questioning Christian Postmodernism

So I decided to delve into some Christian postmodernism today, that is, on behalf of the resources of Homebrewed Christianity. From the outset I'd just like to say that despite the occasion when I express my disinterest and distrust toward some meta-narratives, I would like to clarify: I think postmodern Christianity is a disaster. And if I'm not contradicting myself already, I'm going to (somewhat) use Aquinas' formatting to make my case (that's a loose reference to a recent post).

Object 1: Let's start with discussing this video from Brian McLaren. To summarize, McLaren discusses how he always had a distrust toward the church's discussion / beliefs about homosexuality, namely that it's a choice, a lifestyle, and "all that kind of crap." After some meandering, he continues talking about how his theology has changed over time, that is, he got to the point of not seeing it as a sin. McLaren likens the common Christian response toward homosexuality to the church's historic attitudes about slavery and male superiority and notes how the Bible was used to advance those beliefs.


On the contrary: Were those historic attitudes present for all of Christendom's history and in all cultures or were they time specific and culture specific? McLaren talks about these beliefs as if they were global, that is, he himself is making a meta-narrative in relation to the church. I have no reason, empirically speaking, to believe him as I haven't seen the evidence to support this; these issues require proper sociological analysis - and maybe somebody's done the work - but I don't have time to look into that. However, it's basic knowledge that the early Christian church was anything but lenient in their attitudes about the matter (which he apparently doesn't like). Does McLaren really believe that the church was wrong on the issue for nearly 2000 years? I have a hard time believing that.

Object 2: Tripp Fuller engages in some deconstruction of chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis. I'll admit, the first time I read this I was kind of hot-headed, but I liked it more the second time. However, some things about it still don't sit well with me. To look at the big picture, Fuller is prattling on about how Eve wanted to have a conversation about eating from the tree and the moral implications of that.

My response: On what grounds is Fuller making the assumption that Eve wanted to have a conversation? Why does he portray Adam as being so passive-aggressive? Fuller gives no benefit of the doubt to Adam whatsoever, yet he's (unsurprisingly) eager to operate from a feminist framework in supposing that Eve was wronged by him. At least the author humbles himself and deems his ideas as being speculative (then again, what's not speculative for the postmodernist?), and so I do suppose he could be right, but this seems like a case of overthinking to me. Why make everything so complicated?

Object 3: Now that I've provided two particular examples and responses, I'd like to make a statement of / objection to what I perceive to be the zeitgeist of Christian postmodernism. I could get into the probable irony of their diatribes against capitalism and consumerism, or the possibility of their advocacy of moral relativism (this is disputable, it seems), but I'll save both you and I the grief. Postmodernism, whether secular or Christian, it seems to me, is hell-bent on making everything as confusing as possible. It idolizes theoretical pursuits and thinks that all these narratives and leftist-jargon serve as means to getting closer to God.

My response: I don't believe this for a second. As much as I enjoy theoretical pursuits and even leftist-jargon to some degree, I count these as rather meaningless. Who knows, maybe God can bring meaning out of these, but I don't think they're paramount. I'm thankful that God grants me the time to spend on these things under the sun, but let's not forget the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, which, first of all, tells us of the meaninglessness of life without God and secondly that nothing is new. Christian postmodernism places emphasis on new ideas to 'better match with' the world today. But if nothing is new in essence, then what's the point? And also, isn't a new understanding of old texts counterproductive since the situations you're reading about are void of the thinking you're utilizing, further meaning that your understanding is going to be blurred ipso facto. Do postmodernists really believe that the Christ's followers were meditating on similar things while he was still walking the earth, or even after? I guess it wouldn't matter to them because those were different times - but I wonder, do they ever ask themselves if they're just wasting time?

I'm not saying I have everything figured out. I'm still waffling through how exactly one communicates with and gets closer to God, but I think it goes deeper than any intellectual pursuit: postmodern or otherwise. True spirituality is a very contested phenomenon, indeed, especially in what sociologist Steve Bruce would call this 'global cafeteria.' However, consider this a recording of my thoughts on one paradigm at this point in time.

And there you have it: my narrative on the matter. I hold myself responsible for any misunderstanding I might have about something that can't be properly understood (I want to laugh, but I don't usually express that in my writing, so this is as close as it's going to get). From this point forward, I consider myself free from the distraction that I brought upon myself today. Discourse can only go so far, and I think it's time that we end this conversation.

Edit: I wanted to add this blurb from The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus: 

"C. S. Lewis's infamous "liar, lunatic, and Lord" scheme is no longer intellectually tenable. This may be a guide to Jesus, but for Christians, Fuller is guiding us toward a deeper understanding of God. He thinks it's good news—good news about a God who is so invested in the world that God refuses to be God without us."

Just let that pretension sink in for a moment.

3 comments:

  1. Not to distract you further, but I absolutely love this post. I also feel that today's Christian postermodernism is a distaster. To me, as intellectual as a lot of these folks want to be perceived, their ideas seem to come down to something quite not intellectual: emotion. Most of it seems emotion-based to me. Even going to the first point, I won't give my opinion on homosexuality, but I was listening to NPR the other day, to an interview of one of the world's foremost geneticists. The interviewer mentioned to him that in the 90's, it was suggested that there might be a so called "gay gene," that predisposed certain humans toward homosexuality. The interviewer mentioned that most people at this point in history have assumed that as a fact, but that she hadn't heard anything on the matter in quite some time. She then asked, "Dr., have you found any genetic link for homosexuality?" He responded "... ...(long pause) no. As far as we have researched and discovered, there is no specific gene that predisposes homosexuality." This is the foremost scientist in the field, and he is saying that point blank, this isn't actually a thing, but when I hear postmodern Christian intellectuals discussing the matter, they speak about the genetic link like it's a foregone conclusion. They want certain things to be, so they argue that they are.
    But obviously, this is nothing compared to an argument that C.S. Lewis words are now "NO LONGER INTELLECTUALLY TENABLE." How pompous is this person?
    I think my favorite point you made is that these people always assume that every idea that pops into their head is brand new. That no one ever EVER thought it before. Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible, and I am with you 100%. Reminds me of this song by a Perfect Circle (and I otherwise enjoy them for the most part), where Maynard James Keenan espouses an absolutely ridiculous point-of-view. He is mocking his wheelchair-bound mother's faith, and sings "You never even thought to question 'why?'" How does he know that? Her questioning is probably what gave her such a strong faith. In his supposed intellectual superiority, he has shown himself to be a fool.

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    1. Thanks, Nicholas! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts here. Presuppositions are powerful. I guess it must be a matter of finding the true ones, or something?

      Good choice of Bible book, too! I think I'd also say it's my favorite, along with Romans and 1 John.

      For some reason, that Perfect Circle song you mentioned sounds familiar ... I don't listen to the band much (though I do like "The Nurse Who Loved Me"). You're right, there is so much wrong with that question. For one thing, we never really can be certain of another person's thoughts. On another note, it comes across as being full of assumptions. Is he assuming asking questions necessarily leads to atheism?

      And yeah, that C. S. Lewis remark is just terrible. As cruel as it may sound, I doubt most writers have the aptitude of Lewis (whether Christian or otherwise).

      I also thought the "God refuses to be God without us" idea to be strange, though I understand that more than a few Christians would deem such as true.

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    2. er, I meant to say "modern writers"

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