Some forms of conservative Christianity are in reality post-Modern

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Matt Black, Aug 2, 2004.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    I've argued earlier that fundamentalism, despite its avowed renunciation of Modernity, does display certain Modernist traits eg: assertions of certainty, reaction to liberal higher criticism and Darwinism etc. Now I'd like us to look at to what extent conservative Christian theology is post-Modern...


    A lot of people think that post-modernism is about relativism and a denial of absolutes, when in fact it really isn't.

    Essentially, it's about context. Or, more accurately, about a lack of context.

    Post modernist and/or deconstructionist criticism works like this:

    The idea is that a text (by which I mean a source of meaning, which communicates some idea or narrative, which is often written, but can be spoken or seen) gains its own independent existence, apart from authorial intent and context. The important thing, these people say, therefore, is not what the author meant by it, but what the reader thinks it means. So the study of texts for a deconstructionist is less about the writer than the reader, since it's the psyche of the reader that's affected by the ideas and signifiers* in the text.

    A deconstructionist will, then, consider the reaction of a person to a text or a signifier more important than its actual intended meaning, since it's about the person and their relation to the text, rather than simply the text itself.

    The idea that I am kicking around here is that some of the more extreme Conservative expressions of Christianity (a tendency which is just as present in some Orthodox and Catholic Christians as it is in Protestant Evangelicalism, so please note, I'm not getting at any given Christian expression here) do in fact do this.

    Now a while back, there was this guy I was talking to who claimed that the Bible didn't need to be placed in its historical or cultural context, because, being the Eternal Word of God, it existed beyond context and its literally transmitted meaning was the same as it always had been. And that's a really, really post-modern thing to say, since it recognises the concept of the text as entirely independent of its composition, and asserts that the only thing that matters is what we think it says ("we" here meaning the people who hold this view).

    I think also of those Christians who segregate themselves from the outside world, in a kind of Christian ghetto ("this world is not my home").

    It's like they look at this alien outside world as their text and read motives and ideas into it which are entirely separate from context - so they see anyone who is not with them as evil, aligned with Satan, under demonic influence, corrupted, only able to conceive any kind of morality as a twisted, hypocritical attempt to get away from the wrath of a God they're in denial about.

    Now, we can start a new thread if you like and argue about whether the above stance is untrue, but I don't want us to do that here; the point I do wish to make is that the stance becomes a kind if willed-ignoring-of-'reality', a way of constructing meaning from the world that doesn't depend at all on outsiders' real attitudes or intentions; instead, our PoMo Conservatives read the meaning they desire into the actions and words of outsiders, which goes beyond simple misunderstanding.

    Now, to an extent, we all do this to people outside of our immediate cultural frame, but the effect here is so pronounced, intense and deliberate that it becomes a profound expression of post-modernism in practice, if not theory.

    There's your proposition, kids. Now rip it to shreds.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  2. Michael52

    Michael52
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    I agree… I think?

    For some people the world is so utterly scary and unexplainable. They need to intensify this view of the “outside” so that the normalcy of their cloistered environment is not so scary, by contrast.

    Now, am I picking on these people just because they are “scaring” me? I, who like to think I am "normal", somewhat unafraid of the world and understand it; am I afraid of those abnormal, cloistered people because I can’t explain their intentions and attitudes? I certainly can't! I guess we ALL have to be afraid of something.

    Sorry, Matt, I uncontrollably slipped into my devil’s advocate mode while thinking about this. You have raised an interesting and thought provoking question.

    I'm not sure I can think "hard" enough to respond more intelligibly, at this time. [​IMG]

    Maybe someone else will help.
     
  3. Marcia

    Marcia
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    Matt, are you talking about the way some people read the Bible and apply verses or passages to themselves out of its context?

    One way I see this is when someone wanting to know what to do about a situation asks God to show them, then the person closes their eyes, opens the Bible to a random page, and points somewhere on the page and believes that verse is what God is telling them to do. I call this "magical Bible reading." It's really a lot like divination.
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    This is not to twist the subject into a "versions" debate, but I am firmly a "modernist" in the classical sense. I see the leap of faith over logic (ala Soren) into post-modernity by many who replace the Greek/Hebrew with a particular translation.

    Breaking the rules (or making new ones) is a hallmark of postmodern generation.
     
  5. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    I'm not so much talking about when someone gets a rhema word from a particular passage which really speaks to them when they're doing their personal devotions; I was thinking more of where an individual or 'faith community' (which can be as much a group or faction within a church as a church itself) produces a logos word ie: a doctrinal proposition from a particular Scripture and then asserts that that is the only valid interpretation of that Scripture and that anyone else with a different interpretation is either a second-class Christian or worse.

    Here's a example from Ron Sider (in quoting him I'd like to make it clear that I am in not necessarily endorsing his views!): “Social activists quote Luke 4:16ff to prove that faithful Christians, like Jesus, must meet the physical needs of the poor, blind, lame and oppressed. Charismatics quote Luke 4:16ff to demonstrate faithful Christians, like Jesus, should be “filled with the power of the Spirit” and therefore perform miraculous signs and wonders. Proponents of world evangelisation cite Luke 4:16ff…to show that faithful Christians, like Jesus, will present Good News to those who have not yet heard. Tragically, each group sometimes ignores or even rejects the concerns of others. The different interpretations of specific texts, of course, result from fundamentally divergent understandings of the kingdom. Medieval Catholicism, on the one hand, tended to identify the kingdom with the institutional, visible church. Modern social activists, on the other hand, have viewed the kingdom largely as a social-economic-political reality that beings can create through politics – whether democratic politics in the social gospel movement or Marxist revolution in some liberation theology. Many 20th century evangelicals understand the kingdom largely as an inner spiritual reality in the souls of believers…Other conservative Christians (in the dispensationalist tradition of Darby and the Scofield Reference Bible) have seen the kingdom as entirely future.”(Sider, “Evangelism and Social Action”, p.50). Now, the point here is that each of the above groups tend to view their own interpretation as the only one, to the exclusion of the others, often not even acknowledging the possibility of the existence of different meanings.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     

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