Monday, December 18, 2006

Postmodernism A Movement of God?

No one is above influence. Every one's beliefs, thinking patterns, actions, values, fears, dreams etc. are shaped by something. No one believes something "just because." No one can escape the reality of influence. Even those today who so boldly call themselves "free thinkers" are not above influence. Isn't it a funny thing that the majority of Americans are free thinkers. Free thinking is the thing to do in America. Free thinkers are the product of our popular postmodern society. You may say, "I like to think out of the box." To this I say, "Oh how original."

What I am teaching here is mild postmodernism. That's right, postmodernism does have it's values. Postmodernism really is an over reaction against the all too confident modernism. Extreme Modernism basically taught that anything could be attained by reason alone. Centuries went by and discovery after discovery was being made, which fueled an overly optimistic view of the abilities of the human mind. Those who embraced modernity to it's fullest extent ended up rejecting the Christian Faith, because, in their system, there was no room for the supernatural. The Modern mind could come to know everything fully, including God Himself. A few philosophers came along in the 18th and 19th Centuries and began to play with the basic thesis of Modernism. They began to ask questions like, "Where do morals come from," or "What drives a person to risk his life for the sake of someone he does not know?" The result of their questioning was the humbling reality of the feebleness of the human mind. No, the human mind does not have the ability to understand everything exhaustively.

What a wonderful God exalting discovery. God has been trying to convince humanity since the fall that they are helpless without Him. Modernity had placed man on an equal playing field with God. Modernity, of course, did have it's strengths. Modernism taught that you can come to absolute truth. This is a definite strength of modernity, especially since the Bible is full of absolute truth. Also, modern medicine and transportation, for example, would not be what they are today without the ambition of the optimism created by Modernism.

In the same way that Modernism had it's strengths and weaknesses, Postmodernism also has it's strengths and weaknesses. Postmodernism has done Christianity a great service by proving the limit of the human mind, but it would be a grave mistake to consider Postmodernism to be a Christian movement. Postmodernism, at it's most fundamental level, teaches that everyone is shaped by their context. The idea of Post (after) modernism (Modernity) is that we all see reality through a lens which has been shaped and molded by our surroundings. Postmodernism embraces the fact that everyone is unique. Everyone sees things differently, values things differently, emphasizes things differently, and defines things differently. Each individual sees any certain thing from a unique vantage point, namely from the vantage point that has been shaped by his/her experiences.

Postmodernism has the same sort of fault that Modernism had. Modernism embraced the fact that the human mind is capable of coming to absolute truth, which is good and true. The problem with Modernism is that they took this thought too far and ended up deifying the mind. Postmodernism embraces the fact that the human mind is limited because of experiential influences, which is good and true. The problem with postmodernism is that they take this too far and end up saying that we are so influenced by our experiences that we are incapable of coming to absolute truth.

Christianity is having a hay day dealing with all of the problems produced by postmodern thought. This has caused many Christians to reject postmodern thought altogether, which is a mistake. Modernism produced many problems for Christianity, yet most Christians would celebrate it's strengths. Christianity needs to do with the same with Postmodernism. I am in no way suggesting that we receive the movement as a whole, but we must embrace those ideas that are right and true.

Everything said so far in all of my posts has been the result of postmodern thought. I have been trying to expose those things that have influenced the way you read the Bible. We have been influenced by many things whether it be secular culture, christian culture, the beliefs and teachings of our parents, the beliefs and teachings of our younger or older brothers and sisters, the beliefs and teachings of our peers, the beliefs and teachings of our teachers, media, country, pastors, songs, movies etc. All of these influences have, to some degree, distorted our ability to decode (interpret) with precision. I agree with this. Postmodernism is right up to this point. But, contrary to the popular postmodern opinion, correct interpretation is not impossible. Difficult? Yes! But not impossible. It can be done. Yea! It must be done if we are going to be passionate about the call of Sola Scriptura.

Those who want to be faithful to the Bible must understand both sides of this reality. First of all, we must understand that absolute truth is attainable. And second, we must expose our presuppositions and those things that make our reasoning unique so that we might be able to interpret without bias. Correct interpretation does not happen naturally. Correct interpretation involves a lot of hard work. It involves letting go of one's presuppositions for the sake of building better ones--presuppositions crafted by the Bible alone.

No one can escape the reality of influence, but we can have some say in what we are influenced by. We must learn how to critique ourselves. We must learn how to stand over ourselves so that we might be able to see past our own preconceived ideas. We must learn how to discern those things that dictate how we interpret so that we might be able to get rid of them. We need to get to a place where we are not controlled by our presuppositions. As long as you do not know those things that dictate your interpretation, you will be controlled by them.

The more we work at exposing our presuppositions, the more we can get rid of them. The more we get rid of them, the more we will be able to interpret the Bible without bias. The more we are able to interpret the Bible without bias, the more we are influenced by the Bible. You see, we do have some control over what we are influenced by. Those who refuse to embrace this Postmodern thought will never be able to read the Bible correctly. They will always ignorantly throw their preconceived ideas on the text.

What is it that controls your thinking? What shapes you? Is it secular culture? Is it a backwards Christian culture? Is it what you have been taught your whole life? Is it your experiences? Is it the Bible? Let me be ever so picky. Is it the Bible as seen and interpreted through your own unique grid? If so then your ideas are just as determinative than the Bible's. Are your ideas just as good as the Bibles? Or do your ideas need to be critiqued by the Bible's ideas?

"Well," you say, "I got my ideas from church."

"Well," I say back to you, "What makes you think that your church's ideas are just as good as the Bible's ideas?"

We need to get to a place where we say, "My ideas are good and valid because they have been formed by the Bible read in context."

The Bible read in context is the only firm foundation--the Bible loosed from the faulty foundations of secular and humanistic presuppositions.

My goal as a Christian leader is to have context driven interpretation be that which determines meaning. The one presupposition that ought to drive our interpretation is the one that says "context determines meaning." Embrace this presupposition. Let it guide you as you read the Bible. Let nothing stand in the way of it.

Seek to be rid of your presuppositions so that you might be controlled by better ones--ones that are not formed by a secular culture, but rather those that are formed by the word of God as read in context. Seek to be influenced by the Bible. Form biblical context-driven, presuppositions.

Two books have been incredibly influential for me on this issue 1. The Gagging of God; and 2. The Francis Shaeffer Trilogy. In the next few posts I will be discussing the danger of popular Christian cliches and how if used wrongly they can render a person incapable of being shaped solely by the Word of God.

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