Sept 20, 2007

Response to Thristy Theologian’s “Modern/Postmodern, Tomayto/Tomahto”

Following is a response to Modern/Postmodern, Tomayto/Tomahto from where the David stated the following:

It has been said by some (Phil Johnson, for one) that Postmodernism is little more than Modernism warmed over. John Piper draws the same conclusion from the following series of quotes by J. Gresham Machen as he opposed Modernism.

I don’t think so:

I disagree greatly. To consider Postmodernism as merely Modernism rehashed is to only see part of the dynamic in operation. I strongly feel that Postmodernism is just a reaction to Modernism and what you see in Machen is the “Classicists” rejection of Modernism. If this sounds like fluff and nonsense, then consider it from this perspective: culture is constantly changing and a degree of the time it is changing in rebellion to a previous state or assumumption. It does this on a micro-level in terms of whether it is cool to wear a certain kind of pants and it does it on a macro level with the larger ideas about how all the other “micro” things are understood. When you hear all the postmodernists crying about how Modernism has rejected this and that – sometimes those assertions are true; especially if the Modernist is only thinking in Modernist Terms and is forcing his scriptural interpretations to manifest itself through what he would term Modernity. If this makes you upset, please bear with me for just a moment. Any reference to a Modernist who deals with scriptural exegesis and hermeneutical presentation in only a modernist way can not be stated without the subsequent notation that postmoderns often follow a likewise path of rejection; whereas the modernist rejects the mythical and the classical; the Postmodernist rejects the Absolute and Written in favor of the Relative and the Experiencial. The argument follows that the exclusively Postmodern mindset is twice divorced from any sense of epistemological wholeness, epochally speaking. Now let me frame this for you scripturally: I believe that we are called to live as the scripture does, in a transcendent or a “meta” fashion – or to append their own verbiage – in a metamodern way. Machen in his books, I believe Piper is quoting Christianity and Liberalism (which Machen later lamented he did not name Christianity and Modernism) lambastes the affects that so called Modernism movement was having on the church. Piper is half right in this regard; but it is not enough to say, well they are just all arguing about definitions, because what is at at stake is not a hermeneutical term – but the very voice of the church, for in speaking to the culture, if we fail in this regard, then we are to be “trampled under the feet of men,” for we will be “unworthy of the dungpile.” We have to make the effort to not just be postmodern, but also modern, and even classical/Mythological in our language and method to the culture. It is not enough to just say we believe the Word – you have to engage in the foolishness of preaching to exhort that truth to the congregation, and if you do not speak a transcendent Word transcendently then you are risking just making yourself another part of an increasingly arcane bunch of banter that accomplishes very little in terms of advancing the Gospel. I footnote this argument with reference to the comments of BB Warfield and Hodge in their arguments for the advocation of Reason within theological formulation. Reason is a Modernist/Enlightenment concept, and I accept it’s use as a tool, such as in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral – but to say “I believe because it is Reasonable” is as absurd as the postmodernist saying “I believe because it is relational” which is on a footing just as illusory. Both the Modernist and the Postmodernist must say – “I believe because the Word says it is so!” I believe that if the church accepts aspects from all three (what I term) “Culturally Reactionary Epochs”, then this is potentially a step in a positive direction. Postmoderns are reacting theologically to abuses within Modernism just as Modernism reacted to abuses in it’s day. We cannot continue to merely continue a Reactionary Posit that necessitates a rejection. The rejection must come from does it line up with the Word? This is a radical concept but in in application it serves as a foundation to help prevent one from not just being pigeonholed by whatever fashionable ways and means of advancing the Gospel is being talked about at present, but also to prevent ones own self from being likewise stuck and only able to see through one’s own default way of seeing. I believe that an effectual process of discipleship entails the understudy seeing the Gospel as Epochially Transcendent and that the ways of a society seeing and believing may change somewhat in terms of their tools – but the foundation – The Word – always remains the same.