As a reaction to a recent article on Patheos on Five Challenges Postmodernism Presents for the Church, it helps to understand what Postmodernism is, not put words in its mouth. People like to condemn what they don’t understand because they see it as a threat. And some just need to create threats to keep a following.
Does Christianity represent ultimate truth? The over 2000 Christian denominations worldwide makes us say, “huh?” They don’t agree so which one is correct? Is ultimate truth in the eye of the believer?
Related article: The Dangers of Dualism
People don’t like it when their version of truth is challenged
Postmodernism is a reaction to Modernism and the thought that everything is known and there’s nothing else to be known. It’s not so much a philosophy as a set of tools for critical thinking. One type of thought coming from Postmodernism is useful to the church. It’s “not knowing,” which means we can be comfortable with not knowing everything. This applies to faith.
We like to think in terms of absolutes. It makes us feel comfortable that “we know.” Yet not knowing is a part of faith. There is no faith without doubt. Yet the more this is a reality the more we dig in our heels.
The time of Postmodernism is in decline. I think the age we are now in is realism and pragmatism. This is most likely where new generations are, and generations have emphasized this since at least the 1950s.
Jesus was likely the first Postmodernist
Jesus challenged the traditions of the Jews of his time without challenging the validity of larger truths such as God and love. For example when challenged about picking grain on the Sabbath (work, forbidden) to eat, he explained that the Sabbath was for people, not God. And he challenged the Traditions of the Fathers when it took a higher position than the laws of God.
He foretold that the Temple and need for priests was going away and Jews would be dispersed to other countries or killed. None of these were things the Jews wanted to hear.
While the Jews had strict “laws” from the Fathers about mixing with non-Jews and people like lepers, Jesus went to those considered unlawful such as prostitutes, tax collectors, and others and presented the Good News of forgiveness to them. This was not the done thing and drew the ire of many.
Postmodernism asks us to think not follow blindly
Postmodernism asks us to be skeptical of these kinds of traditions and grand stories (metanarratives) that are misleading and maybe worn out. For example the idea that if you work hard you will become wealthy or own a home in the US is patently wrong on the face of it. There are many who work harder than three of us and never get anywhere financially.
Capitalism doesn’t reward hard work – it rewards those who can get an education that business wants, or who are sharp enough to be entrepreneurs. The rest is mythology.
Postmodernism doesn’t challenge us or anything directly. It asks us to be skeptical and gives us the tools. God gave us a brain and the ability to think critically.
Truth in Christianity?
What is the truth in our traditions? In our beliefs? The tool of “deconstruction” enables people to strip away the veneer of traditions that build up over time and get to the kernel of truth at the base of it. Or disprove it altogether. The danger of deconstruction is that people can end up not believing anything. But God judges our heart and actions, not our beliefs. People have God within them as a guide.
Reconstruction is a tool that enables us to build on a solid foundation of truth. This is what we should be doing.
Many demonize these tools because they see people who have been hurt by some denomination of the church tear away the scum of false notions that have accumulated over the centuries. But these are harmful things that need to go away because they drive people away. People recognize truth when they hear it, and when they hear hurtful crap it drives them away. Generation Z won’t put up with it.
Others demonize these tools because some take their criticism too far. There has always been criticism of Christianity. They’re no different than Christians who take their beliefs too far.
It may be uncomfortable to hear some notions about Christianity be stripped away, but it’s for the greater good to reveal the truth in Christianity and cut out the harmful stuff. Without critical thinking Christianity will continue to fade away. With critical thinking it will survive for future generations.
The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. God is love. We’re asked to be like God.
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