Thursday, July 03, 2008

What's Right and What's Wrong with Post-Modernism

First, two caveats:
1. Post-modernism is not one thing. Since this is a blog post I will of necessity be simplifying things.
2. By post-modernism I am not referring to post-modernity as a cultural reality, but post-modernism as an intellectual stance/approach. The two are related yet they are distinct.

What's good about post-modernism is its deconstruction of the modern/enlightenment project. It critiques the modern notion that humanity can restore/discover its true self in history. In space and time humanity can restore human reason, nature, the authentic self, and the true economy (rationalism, empiricism, romanticism and Marxism/capitalism respectively.). The modern project is a kind of secular eschatology. Post-modernism rightly critiques and seeks to undermine this hubris. Christians ought to applaud this and join in. We believe deeply in human sin and ought to reject out right any human eschatologies.

What's wrong with post-modernism, at least from the Christian perspective, is its rejection of any eschatology. Christianity is rejected as another meta-narrative used to control people.

Now, one must remember that many of the post-modern thinkers arose in the shadow of Hitler and Stalin, both preachers of a secular eschatology that led to millions (6 million and 32 million respectively) killed in cold blood. Those two and others like them used their meta-narrative as a means of asserting and achieving the will to power.

Post-modernists are right for deconstructing and running from these things. However, the Christian must be careful here. We do believe in eschatology. In fact, our faith is at heart eschatology. We do believe in a restoration of true humanity, etc., only we confess our faith that this will finally and fully happen outside of history - at the eschaton. Though we can join forces with the post-modernist in rejecting the hubris of modernity, we must exercise discretion and not reject the eschatological nature of our own world-view.

5 comments:

Rob Yost said...

Peter,
I read your post on post-modernism and I'm still not sure what it is, but you may know a book by an Australian historian, Keith Windschuttle, called The Killing of History that critiques post-modernism as applied to historical methods. I don't know how right the post-modernists are for running with it, as you suggest. But I thought this post was worth at least one comment.

p.s. Hitler's Holocaust encompassed millions of non-Jews, including several million Soviet POWs along with Gypsies, etc. So I've seen numbers ranging from 11-18 million. Also, numbers under Stalinism can go much higher than 32 million. And don't forget other utopians such as Mao and Pol Pot.

Hope you guys are having a nice summer!
Rob

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