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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Postmodernism: An immoral and cowardly viewpoint

The following is from J.P. Moreland's 2004 address to the Evangelical Theological Society. Although in this essay Moreland is primarily concerned with the issue of "truth," I think it provides a good idea of the general thought and feeling of many Evangelicals towards postmodernism as a general movement, if one can call it a "movement".
[Taken from: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5682]

The astute listener will have already picked up that I am an unrepentant correspondence advocate who eschews the various anti-realist views of truth. In what follows I shall weigh in on the topic first, by sketching out the correspondence theory and the postmodern rejection of it, and second, by identifying five confusions of which I believe postmodern revisionists are guilty. I shall close by warning that not only are postmodern views of truth and knowledge confused, but postmodernism is an immoral and cowardly viewpoint such that persons who love truth and knowledge, especially disciples of the Lord Jesus, should do everything they can to heal the plague that postmodernism has and inevitably does leave.

As a philosophical standpoint, postmodernism is primarily a reinterpretation of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge. More broadly, it represents a form of cultural relativism about such things as reality, truth, reason, value, linguistic meaning, the self and other notions. On a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective reality, truth, value, reason and so forth. All these are social constructions, creations of linguistic practices and, as such, are relative not to individuals, but to social groups that share a narrative.

Postmodernism denies the correspondence theory, claiming that truth is simply a contingent creation of language which expresses customs, emotions, and values embedded in a community’s linguistic practices. For the postmodernist, if one claims to have the truth in the correspondence sense, this assertion is a power move that victimizes those judged not to have the truth.

Faced with such opposition and the pressure it brings, postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism that, at the end of the day, recommends backgammon while the barbarians are at the gate. It is the easy, cowardly way out that removes the pressure to engage alternative conceptual schemes, to be different, to risk ridicule, to take a stand outside the gate. But it is precisely as disciples of Christ, even more, as officers in His army, that the pacifist way out is simply not an option. However comforting it may be, postmodernism is the cure that kills the patient, the military strategy that concedes defeat before the first shot is fired, the ideology that undermines its own claims to allegiance. And it is an immoral, coward’s way out that is not worthy of a movement born out of the martyrs’ blood.

35 comments:

samlcarr said...

PoMo certainly has its inconsistencies, but on the softer, more agnostic side it is actually much more honest in its appreciation of our sinfulness and of the limitations of the human mind and personality than has been the case in most of the philosophies of the past.

In this sense, a postmodern leaning is actually much more biblical and much more open to receive the gospel.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I would definitely agree that there are areas to which the postmodern mind and heart is more receptive to the gospel. Interestingly, it is the secular postmodern continental thinkers (particularly of the French variety, Derrida, et al) who seem interested in exploring spiritual and even Christian themes: The faith of Abraham, The Tower of Babel, The Gift/Forgiveness, the Messianic motif being a few. This is interesting because secular philosophical thinkers of the recent past (Bertrand Russell comes to mind) were often explicitely anti-Christian. On a cultural level I just don't get that many anti-god vibes. I think on a popular level the postmodern culture is more open to spirituality then it may have been in the past. There is something of a vague recognition of a need for more than the material world has to offer.

For this reason it is somewhat curious to me as to why Christian thinkers like Moreland are so quick to condemn the whole lot of postmodern philosophy as "immoral." Despite problematic issues that Moreland might identify it is interesting that he is relatively silent on the opportunities that may be open in this culture for dialogue on the spiritual condition of humanity.

ktismatics said...

I resonate in certain ways with Moreland rejecting the extreme forms of relativism and agnosticism in the postmodern world -- even if I don't agree with his belief that we can find objective truth. Still, why does he want to turn an intellectual problem into a moral failing? His macho, militaristic, judgmental, paranoiac conclusion sounds not just irrational but dangerous.

Is it permissible for Christians to condemn this sort of attitude publicly? Or do guys like Moreland benefit from the nostalgic respect for that old time religion, such that the more civil-minded evangelicals have to placate him?

Melody said...

Moreland doesn't like postmodernism because it doesn't lend itself to the logical argument.

He would view relativists like Humpty Dumpty in Alice and Wonderland...saying that words mean whatever they want them to mean, Moreland echos Alice's question, "Then how do we know what you're trying to say?" and Humpy Dumpty rallies all the relativists to yell back "You don't!"

At that point you would have to abandon logic as the primary means of promoting Christianity (though Classicism may be coming back in, so if Moreland can stick it out he may die happy) and lean on something else...but I don't think Moreland knows how to do that...so anything aside from logic becomes evil.

That's just my wildly sleep deprived take though.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Is it permissible for Christians to condemn this sort of attitude publicly? Or do guys like Moreland benefit from the nostalgic respect for that old time religion, such that the more civil-minded evangelicals have to placate him?

There's no doubt that Moreland has huge pull in Evangelical circles - incredible influence. And I see the 2004 Plenary address at ETS to be a pivotal point in the "postmodern" debate amongst Evangelicals. The reason why has to do both with Moreland's influence, but also with the general ignorance of Evangelicals with all things postmodern. To be fair, most Evangelicals are Bible guys and coming from a certain philosophical perspective that makes it quite difficult to not only appreciate the postmodern perspectives, but to even be able to read and comprehend them. Gotta' admit, the first few times a conservative Evangelical encounters po-mo theory and culture it can seem rather senseless. Derrida, himself, says that he writes for those who are very serious and rigorous readers. I would say it is the same for analytical philosophy, however. Without some basic understanding of symbolic logic and the style and structure of analytical argumentation it can be a tall order just to read through a work. So, I would say that the incomprehensibility issue is a double edge sword that cuts both ways.

So, if you take the pre-existing clout of Moreland and combine it with a general ignorance of Evangelicals of po-mo thought then you've got a lot of people who will just drink the kool aid cups as they are passed around. Hence, you have a large number of Evangelicals who know they don't like postmodern thought, but if pressed on the issue they couldn't really provide more than a sentence or two on what postmodernism really is. In these cases the stereotypical cliches suffice.

Another reason why Moreland will not really be challenged is that there really isn't anyone who has both the know-how and the platform to articulate a counter-position. Vanhoozer is close, but really he is very suspicious of Po-mo thought. The only guy that inspires me is James K.A. Smith when he says, "The church is not postmodern enough."

Jonathan Erdman said...

Just for the record, I actually appreciate Moreland taking a hard line on the issue. I don't agree with him, but I admire the moxy. If he truly believs that his understanding of postmodernism is immoral and cowerdly, can we really blame him for using his platform to speak his peace?

ktismatics said...

I suppose one could admire Pat Robertson's moxie too. This guy doesn't speak his peace; he speaks his war. You don't have to admire postmodernism or defend an alternative theory of truth to condemn this sort of violent, intolerant rhetoric. If even Christian pomos are subjected to this fascistic hatred, imagine when he gets his army lined up to fire on the atheists. I can't wait for the day he decides he's going to avenge the martyr's blood by taking out all those cowardly barbarians. I say the pomo Christians have a duty to renounce this guy as antichrist -- or at least boo him roundly if you ever get the honor to hear him speak this BS in public.

Melody said...

I think Christians freak out more when other Christians go post-modern than when someone's an atheist and postmodern.

A Christian expects to dissagree with an athiest on a good many issues so they don't really get all that upset about it. But, they really hope that other Christians are going to have the same worldview and when they don't it is even more upsetting.

It's like getting vegitables with dinner, people might not like it, but they expect it; however, just try and sneak a carrot in with dessert...picket rallies, riots, violence in the streets.

It's kinda the same thing. Kinda.

Jonathan Erdman said...

That's a good point. But I think that for a long time Christians have taken for granted certain features of their worldview and just kind of assumed that these features were not just philosophical assumptions, but were actually part of a "Christian worldview." So, when you've got Christians running around questioning some of these core features then it really shakes things up and makes a lot of Christians upset and up in arms.

That's a good point Melody. And it's one of the reasons I posted Moreland's quote - his voice speaks for a lot of Conservatives. I think it is overblown, no doubt, but a lot of Christians share Moreland's sentiments.

ktismatics said...

Related to the correspondence theory of truth, here's some stuff about Heidegger's interpretation of aletheia. He says it's about uncovering of things in the world, not about propositions.

Jon said...

I would hardly rate Moreland alongside Pat Robertson. Anyway, a few random thoughts:

1. I do not see how a Christian could deny absolute moral truth. I have been thinking about this a lot of late. My logic is this: Moral truth (indeed all truth) is based on/flows out of God's character. God has revealed His character (at least partially) to us, through the Bible, Christ, nature, etc. God's character is unchanging (absolute). Therefore, we can know at least some (moral) absolutes, though we do not have perfect or exhaustive knowledge thereof.

2. PoMo is more open to spirituality but not necessarily to Christ. I agree that the Church has a great opportunity right now to reach people with the gospel. However, its epistemology is in no way biblical. It is androcentric, not theocentric, which is its undoing.

3. PoMos necessarily use logic and propositions to deny the ultimate existence and relevance of logic and propositions. This is fallacious arguing. Furthermore, it is not possible to argue anything meaningful without using logic and propositional truth. For example, deconstructionists use meaningful language that is not open for interpretation to argue that language is not meaningful but can be deconstructed.

4. My arguments against PoMo are not reactionary, nor do they simply show my personal taste for dessert as opposed to carrots. The philosophical foundation of PoMo is extremely weak and is the direct result of rationalism, the fact/value dichotomy, etc, which Schaeffer, Pearcey, Groothuis and others have discussed at length. The fact that PoMo is not centered on the God of the Bible is the ultimate reason I argue against it.

I simply cannot accept it on the aforementioned grounds.

Jon said...

Oh, and one more thing...

I resonate in certain ways with Moreland rejecting the extreme forms of relativism and agnosticism in the postmodern world -- even if I don't agree with his belief that we can find objective truth. Still, why does he want to turn an intellectual problem into a moral failing?

Here are some examples of objective truths:
It is wrong to cheat on your spouse.
I exist.
There is real suffering in this world.
The law of antithesis.

Regarding your question, an intellectual problem has moral aspects because of the Fall. The moral failing of Adam and Eve affected every aspect of nature, including the intellect. Therefore, intellectual issues may have moral aspects to them.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jon,

Good stuff. Thanks for weighing in.

First, I want to make a comment on the #2:

PoMo is more open to spirituality but not necessarily to Christ. I agree that the Church has a great opportunity right now to reach people with the gospel. However, its epistemology is in no way biblical. It is androcentric, not theocentric, which is its undoing.

What do you mean by a "biblical" epistemology? You menioned a difference between androcentric and theocentric. In this context we are discussing Moreland, and to be honest I don't know that Moreland would agree with you that we need a "biblical" epistemology. I think the foundations of Moreland's epistemology are some form of Foundationalism, I would guess Internalism although he may be an Externalist......In any event, Moreland would probably consider his epistemology compatible with the Bible, but not necessarily based upon it, or even based upon God. Ironically, I think I (who have sympathies with Postmodern thinking) would be more open to hearing you out on #2 than would Moreland, although I would have to hear how you develop your epistemology. I tend to favor Plantinga's development of the Externalist epistemology.

Also, I agree with you that Postmodern thinking is more open to spirituality, but that this does not necessarily translate into a greater interest in Christ. But why would a Christian not want to take advantage of a new openness to spiritual conversations in order to present Christ as Lord? My criticism of the Old Order Evangelical is that they keep complaining about the Postmodern's epistemological shortcomings and seem to be completely oblivious to the open doors that this culture has for renewed spiritual dialogue. But on the other hand, if you are right about there being a "biblical" epistemology, then maybe this is a battle worth fighting....

Jonathan Erdman said...

A brief comment on #3:

it is not possible to argue anything meaningful without using logic and propositional truth

Taken at face value I agree with you: Argumentation is based upon some form of logic and some use of propositions. But, Jon, by presenting this as a counter point to Postmodernism I think that perhaps you might be tipping your bias towards Rationality/Propositional Knowledge as the most meaningful form of expression. I might ask you this: Is argumentation the only way we express things that are meaningful? The second question is related to the first: Is argumentation the primary or the best form of expression? I'll through a third question in there as a bonus: Is argumentation the only form of expressing truth?

Can art convey meaningful truths in non-propositional forms? Music? Film? Painting?

I think the Postmodern turn includes a strong turn towards the arts. My thought is that people are grappling with existential issues to which the form of argumentation has a difficult time connecting with and speaking to the Postmodern person. Go back to Heidegger. He was one of the Postmodern philosophical founding fathers and he spent a large part of his later career in a lonely hut writing philosophically about poetry and the arts!

Jon said...

Jonathan,

Thanks for the quick replies. I am sitting here at work with absolutely nothing to do, so I appreciate the diversion.

RESPONSE 1)I must admit that I am somewhat ignorant of some of the terms and people you mention regarding epistemology. I am a relative newcomer to philosophy as a discipline--I am still trying to put terminology to many of the things I espouse, so forgive me. My "biblical" epistemology is the idea that truth flows out of God's character, which He has revealed to us. This revelation allows us to know things truly. It is theocentric, as opposed to a rationalistic epistemology, in which the quest for knowledge begins with self (hence it is androcentric). As I see it, for a Christian to be a postmodernist would entail a contradiction: There is no Truth, yet truth flows out of God's unchanging nature. Or, put another way: Is Truth constructed by society, or does Truth flow from God?
Switching topics, I by no means think the Church should squander the doors that postmodernism has opened. Far from it! But I think we can reject its many shortcomings without trampling postmodernists. Is this hard? You bet. But that's why people like you and me are around!

RESPONSE 2)I definitely think music and the arts can and does express truth. My issue with PoMo is that there cannot be any meaning at the end of the day. There is no umbrella under which meaning can exist, other than personal meaning one ascribes to an event, which is ultimately meaningless.
If anything, then, music and the arts are more evidence against the reigning worldview, showing that absolutes can be shown nonpropositionally as well.
Notice I said "argue", by which I mean argument in the classical sense. This is a blog entry, where argument must be the main means of communication of truth. I mainly had written communication in mind when I typed this, but you are astute in calling me out on this.

Any thoughts? I would love feedback.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, I have plenty to do here at work, but this is more interesting!

One of your comments on epistemology:
My "biblical" epistemology is the idea that truth flows out of God's character, which He has revealed to us. This revelation allows us to know things truly.

This sounds good (I mean that), but how does this actually work? For example, it may be true that I have a cup of coffee (Sumatra) that is on on my desk. (And has been here for quite some time, which is ok as I enjoy coffee both warm and cold - I prefer to sip at leisure.) How does this truth ("The coffee cup is on my desk") flow out of God's character?

Jon:
It is theocentric, as opposed to a rationalistic epistemology, in which the quest for knowledge begins with self (hence it is androcentric).

Calvin has interesting thoughts on a somewhat reciprocal relationship between self-knowledge and knowledge of God. I think I am with him, in many respects, on this....this may or may not speak to your thoughts on epistemology...

Calvin:
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.....Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him. (Institutes Chapter 1.1)

Jon again:
As I see it, for a Christian to be a postmodernist would entail a contradiction: There is no Truth, yet truth flows out of God's unchanging nature. Or, put another way: Is Truth constructed by society, or does Truth flow from God?

I tend to agree with you on the last point. However, whether or not "there is no truth" or whether "truth is constructed by soceity" depends upon which Postmodernist you are talking to, and on which given day you are talking to them. Postmodern theory is diverse on this, and I don't think that having sympathies to Postmodern theory necessitates that one completely deny the existence of truth. This is a mistake that I think Groothuis made in the early days, which led to some hasty overgeneralizations in Truth Decay.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jon says:
My issue with PoMo is that there cannot be any meaning at the end of the day. There is no umbrella under which meaning can exist, other than personal meaning one ascribes to an event, which is ultimately meaningless.

I think the jury is still out on this one. I think the Postmodern person construes meaning on a purely personal level - no metanarratives. This suggests a strong parallel with how Qohelet (Book of Ecclesiastes) developes meaning. I would suggest that the question of meaning is the question of our time. From an apologetics standpoint I think the question is not about whether the Postmodernist can have true knowledge or true propositions, but rather whether or not s/he can find meaning in life. Not meaning in a meta-narrative sense (an overarching meaning for all people at all times), but what it means to answer the question of meaning on a deeply personal and existential level.

Jon said...

Wow, when my quotes are taken out of their context (but not out of context), I kinda sound like an author! (Humor me, okay?)

How does this truth ("The coffee cup is on my desk") flow out of God's character?

This is a good question, given my proposed theory. Here's a shot in the dark: God is real and rational. Being so, He created a real and rational world with real and rational beings who could really and rationally interact with the world. Therefore, I can know that there is a cup of water on my desk right now. This is not to say that my senses cannot trick me, but being how I am not mentally ill or on drugs, I have no reason to doubt my faculties, due to the order by which God has created the world.

I think the Postmodern person construes meaning on a purely personal level - no metanarratives.

I'm just not sure how this can work in reality. It's like anchoring your boat to the sea. How can one have meaning--real, true meaning--without the anchor of metanarrative? Although I would definitely agree with you "that the question of meaning is the question of our time," this might be the question of all times.

Also, is not the atoning work of Christ for all people for all time, though deeply personal and existential, a metanarrative to which a Christian must adhere? If so, again, how could one be both postmodern and Christian?

As far as Ecclesiastes goes, you have studied it more than I (in the course of my Hebrew studies, I don't think I ever did much with the book), but I understand it as the Teacher trying to find meaning solely in earthly terms. He falls short, and in the last chapter ascribes personal meaning to the knowledge of God, which again brings us back to metanarrative, this time Jewish OT. I would love to hear the ideas on Eccl. to which you allude.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jon:
Here's a shot in the dark: God is real and rational. Being so, He created a real and rational world with real and rational beings who could really and rationally interact with the world. Therefore, I can know that there is a cup of water on my desk right now. This is not to say that my senses cannot trick me, but being how I am not mentally ill or on drugs, I have no reason to doubt my faculties, due to the order by which God has created the world.

Let me recreate this on a non-Theistic worldview:
The world is real and rational. Being so, the world evolved (without a Creator) as a real and rational world with real and rational beings who could really and rationally interact with the world. Therefore, I can know that there is a cup of water on my desk right now. This is not to say that my senses cannot trick me, but being how I am not mentally ill or on drugs, I have no reason to doubt my faculties, due to the order by which the world has because it evolved as a world with reason.

On the other hand, one might counter you by saying "why do I need to know anything about God to know that the coffee cup is on my desk! I can see it there!"

Jon:
I'm just not sure how this can work in reality. It's like anchoring your boat to the sea. How can one have meaning--real, true meaning--without the anchor of metanarrative?

That's easy. You just say, "I find myspace a meaningful experience because I have fun connecting with people online and creating an internet scrapbook of sorts." A metanarrative would attempt to describe, in meta terms, why this is a meaningful event: That is, the meaning of a particular event has to fit into a grand-master plan for all of humanity for all time. For a Theistic metanarrative this might be something like: "God created humanity as a relational being and as such you find meaning in relationships." There are other ways a Theist might go about this, but the general idea is that the personal experience fits into the grand, over-arching purpose of humanity. A Marxist meta-narrative would be different from the Theist, but the same thing: The individual narrative fits within a meta-narrative view of the world and human history.

Jon again:
Also, is not the atoning work of Christ for all people for all time, though deeply personal and existential, a metanarrative to which a Christian must adhere? If so, again, how could one be both postmodern and Christian?

I would say "yes" and "no" to the first question. But this is a subject of much current debate. I think one can construe the atoning work of Christ in meta terms for all people for all time. Or the atonement can be construed strictly in narrative terms: God's atoning work is meaningful to my story, but this says nothing about anyone else, nor does it particularly relate to all people for all times.

I think if one goes too far on one side or the other there is a danger: If you abstract God's work on purely meta terms then you risk losing personal meaning for your own narrative and your meta-theology becomes more important than your own personal faith. On the other hand, I think that the Bible does present a meta-narrative, and if one construes the atonement strictly on a personal level, then how can one bring this to someone else as meaningful for them and not just for me.

Jon, from my observations there are many people content to have meaningful personal narratives, but not feel the need to develop a robust meta-narrative. I can have my own meaning w/o imposing that on anyone else. The question for the Church becomes how to reach out to people within and outside the church to present the faith as meaningful for themselves and for culture and society when so many people are suspicious of meta-narratives that claim to have the same answers for all people for all time. We Pomos are uncomfortable with this. So, what's the church to do?

ktismatics said...

So where do you guys stand on Moreland's "PoMo is for sissies" rhetoric? On what epistemological foundation does he stand when he makes this sort of pronouncement?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Interesting question...The Epistemologicaly He-Man might say that the Postmodern is an Epistemological Whimp b/c s/he lacks a rigorous epistemology....Then again, the Postmodern might retort with a charge that the Epsistemological He-Man is Existentially Dimwitted....

ktismatics said...

Jonathan -

Moreland has already called the PoMos wimps. The question is whether the PoMos are prepared to call Moreland a dimwit.

Umberto Eco put together a list of features characterizing fascism -- it can be found here. You can consider the list at your leisure, but here's what I see in your short excerpt from Moreland:

- He calls the postmodern theorists guilty, confused, immoral, unworthy. These are not the words of disputation and argument: they're meant to make the opposition the source of moral corruption, the source of the "plague" that currently besets the faithful, the cure that kills the patient.

- He invokes words of warfare: opposition, barbarians at the gate, take a stand outside the gate, officers in his army, the first shot is fired, the martyrs' blood. Moreland accuses the postmoderns of cowardice, of collaborating with the enemy, of promoting pacifism during wartime, of conceding defeat, of disloyalty.

- He wants to purge God's army of impurities and traitors by violently suppressing dissent. Then he wants to fire that first shot, to take the battle outside the gates onto the enemy's turf, to wage war on the barbarians, to lead the army officers in avenging the martyrs' blood, to re-establish the Christian cult of death.

This sort of harangue has nothing to do with epistemology, and the reasons to oppose it don't either. It's an ethical and political issue. Perhaps the manly correspondence theorists and the sissy anything-other-than-correspondence theorists can agree to oppose this sort of ideology, and to oppose this guy personally for abusing his position of authority.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Look, the inflammatory language is something I have a problem with, as well. But even more than the tone is the fact that Moreland took a very diverse and vague category and proceeded to make a moral judgment against it. He really doesn't spend much time defining what "Postmodernism" is, but simply takes the category for granted. To me this is a rather unscholarly move. As you imply, Ktismatics, it moves the debate into another realm. It is rhetoric that will rally the faithful against "Postmodernism."

But what about dialogue? I've always maintained that true dialogue must allow room for rhetoric on all levels, so openness seems to demand that we encourage the other and difference, even if that means that others inject the dialogue with combative language.

Where I think Moreland went wrong is not in the fact that he condemned Postmodernism as immoral or cowardly, but in the fact that he never really defines Postmodernism with any detail. The effect is a sort of frenzy amongst Evangelicals against "Postmodernism." But few who are following Moreland really know what "Postmodernism" is. As such if something sounds "Postmodern" it becomes immoral. Ultimately, this shuts down discussion and dialogue.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics:
Perhaps the manly correspondence theorists and the sissy anything-other-than-correspondence theorists can agree to oppose this sort of ideology, and to oppose this guy personally for abusing his position of authority.

I doubt that very much. As far as I can tell Moreland speaks for many Evangelicals, though I really don't know just how many. The current reaction to "Postmodernism" and to "Emerging" churching is similar to the response to Open Theism a few years back wherin the Open Theist advocates were nearly expelled from ETS (Evangelical Theological Society). There is a movement within ETS to tighten up the doctrinal statement so as to more quickly and efficiently deal with viewpoints like Open Theism and Postmodernists. I'm not sure how this Isolationist move is working out or how successful it will be, but I say all this to make the point that it is unlikely that Moreland's above rhetoric will be considered an aberration.

ktismatics said...

It seems that for Moreland you're either with him or against him. Any and all postmodern ideas are against; the details don't matter. It is weird that he frames this whole thing in terms of warfare and morality rather than dialogue, as you say. It's a crusader mentality, a fundie mentality. I remember the "King James only" guys at the Bible Church -- they were incredibly hostile over something that seemed like such a minor disagreement. Are those guys still around?

So at what point do the post-evangelicals decide to cut loose from this sort of militant evangelicalism, maybe ally with the post-liberals? Next generation? Or will they stay inside the camp and keep a low profile? Or maybe mainstream evangelicalism will shift in the PoMo direction in the next generation? What's your prophecy?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I really have no prophecy. I am an interested spectator. My roots are in the conservative/Evangelical camp, but at this point I am thoroughly unimpressed and a bit discouraged. I just don't see any real exploration of things like Open Theism and the various strands of Postmodern theory, culture, and philosophy. It is a lot of popular-level books and angry journal articles, but I don't find a lot of substance from either sides of these arguments. I think most publications are just cashing in on the divisions.

Melody said...

Mr. Erdman:
It is a lot of popular-level books and angry journal articles, but I don't find a lot of substance from either sides of these arguments. I think most publications are just cashing in on the divisions.

That may be true, but it is the same for publications in churches that embrace more open theistic/post modern ideas.
Found that out during my stint as office administrator for an Episcopal church. I used to thumb through the pastor's magazines when they came in and they were pretty inflamatory.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yea, I definitely meant "both sides". I think publishers are cashing in on the divisions and the controversy. But who can blame them! Fights sell! You don't stop in the hallways at work to watch a couple of guys sitting on the floor playing chess. But if those guys are rolling around throwing fists at each other's faces then the crowds are going to gather!

Jason Hesiak said...

All righty...The Erdmanian Tornado...I finished your paper a while ago now, and I wanted to address it, and what I meant by: "I think the Erdmanian Tornado is misinterpreting the relationship between Ecclesiastes and postmodernism..." (from Doyle’s “Father of Logos” post). What did I mean by that?

To quote you: “From an apologetics standpoint I think the question is not about whether the Postmodernist can have true knowledge or true propositions, but rather whether or not s/he can find meaning in life. Not meaning in a meta-narrative sense (an overarching meaning for all people at all times), but what it means to answer the question of meaning on a deeply personal and existential level.”

So…first of all, I agree with the basic thesis of your paper. I really like what you say about reality/the world and hebel. I like the relation to give this concept to deconstruction. And at the same time, though, I don’t think that Qohelet was talking about or exploring “what it means to answer the question of meaning on a deeply personal and existential level.” That to me sounds more PoMo than Qohelet.

I mean, I really like where you describe deconstruction as exposing where meaning in any given system or text is derived from within a limited and pre-given context or horizon of meaning, and that the underlying sub-text is therefore hidden from its subjects, so to speak. But I get the sense, though, that you are reading Qohelet from a contemporary context of meaning in which experience and meaning are “deeply personal,” which ultimately was handed to us by modernity. In other words, I don’t think that Qohelet was talking about or assuming and individual or “deeply personal” horizon of meaning or experience. I don’t think that Derrida necessarily was, either, so far as I can tell from the little I know of Derrida…but I still hear some voice voice foreign to Qohelet itself in your reading of Quohelet.

Maybe I am misreading you, though?

Look foward to your resonse, sir dude man.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

The reason I interpret Qohelet's interpretation of meaning strictly along personal lines is primarily because he writes the majority of the text in the first person. That is, Qohelet writes from his personal experiences as it relates to his personal quest for meaning. In chapter one and two Qohelet talks about finding what it is good for a man to do and then details how he had done everything and still found it to be a chasing of the wind and hebel. On the quest for meaning Qohelet continually runs into what he calls hebel, which either undercuts the efforts to find meaning or else looms over and above the quest.

Jason Hesiak said...

Good point. Crap! Lol. No, but really...I think there was a certain theatrical aspect to the whole thing back in such days as Qohelet. I don't know if Solomon would have read the "book" to Isreal in the courts of the Temple, or what...but there's definitely...I think...a sense of Ecclesiastes being addressed to the Ecclesia, and having meaning for the Ecclesia...and I would even say having meaning that is primarily derived from the Ecclesia as a whole.

I mean, this is partially because the book was written by the king, and everyone looks to the king. But also partially because...prior to like 1750, there wasn't really such a thing as an individual horizon of meaning or experience, in the way that we now take for granted. Take, as one example, provisions for food and shelter that arise from the ground. All of that...drought, plenty...precious stones for the temple...was thought of as either a communal bless/curse or a communal effort of attainment, really...at least primarily.

The individual efforts of folks within that body is exactly that; and the individual effort/horizon of meaning is attained only in light of the whole...really...I think.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Fair point.

I do see a definite communal aspect to Qohelet. The search for individual meaning is definitely within a community context.

I don't mean to cram Qohelet into 21st the century perception of human being. My main purpose was just to point out parallels for sake of reviving discussion on Qohelet in the contemporary setting. Part of that is to note that Qohelet really does embark on an individual quest for meaning to "see what is good for a man to do all the meaningless days of his meaningless life". I think he explores the search for meaning in a way that resembles our contemporary understanding of deconstruction.

Jason Hesiak said...

Also fair. Understood. Would it be too much of me to suggest that you make that clearer in the paper? Or should have? "That" being "The search for individual meaning is definitely within a community context. I don't mean to cram Qohelet into 21st the century perception of human being."

Take it as a suggestion, or something. For me that was sort of missing in the paper. Although you may consider such issues/clarifications as beyond the scope of the paper...since the your central point is still served even without such a clarification, I suppose?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I appreciate the feedback. It's always good to hear you, and I'm really glad you took the time to read through the paper.

Thanks.

Jason Hesiak said...

Y'er welcome. I enjoyed it.