I have been trying to follow Mr. Wilson’s threads on postmodernism lately, and well, I have to admit, I have become really confused by Christians who want to embrace post-modernism. In some sense, all that post-modernism seems to be is a swing from analytical, systematic type modern thought to much more creative, messy thought. But to simply embrace it seems to be borderline dangerous. Wouldn’t you want to know another person before you decide to take his or her side? Stanley Grenz in his book, A Primer on Post-Modernism, gives a description of post-modernism that at the face of it, seems like it should at least give people pause when they consider collaborating their theology with it. He says,
In a sense, postmoderns have no worldview. A denial of the reality of a unified world as the object of our perception is at the heart of postmodernism. Postmoderns reject the possibility of constructing a single correct worldview and are content simply to speak of many views and, by extention, many worlds. By replacing the modern worldview with a multiplicity of views and worlds, the postmodern era has in effect replaced knowledge with interpretation.
I think I can see the motive for Christians seeking to bring the gospel to a post-modern audience, and I even think I can agree with it to that extent but I think there is a big difference between that and syncretizing with post-modernism. I think there is error in syncretizing with post-modernism just as much as there is a problem with syncretizing with modernism, or greek-philosophy. Like Grenz’s comment makes clear, postmoderns reject the possibility of constructing a single correct worldview and Christians in a very important sense need to reject this element of post-modernism. As Christians I think we need to be careful in how far we take the use and application of post-modernism. I firmly believe that the gospel speaks to many views, it speaks to people from all walks of life, and it really isn’t as neat and tidy as a syncretized modernist gospel would have us believe. But at the same time, there is a very real sense in which the gospel does have an objective nature to it. And to be fair, the modernist rebellion against subjectivity is just as fruitless as a post-modernist rejection of objectivity and I don’t think that baptized elements of either are inherently superior to the other.
So why do we pit the two against each other? Christians serve a messy God just as much as they serve an orderly God and vice versa. We shouldn’t have to make such a fuss about these competing philosophies. Speaking ultimately, we can’t say that God is utterly messy. When we look at the many paradoxes that accompany Christianity, they might seem messy but so does quantum physics, and that doesn’t mean that it isn’t ultimately orderly. In many ways, being a Christian means we often accept a number of paradoxes. The Trinity, losing your life to gain it, and others. If anyone should be capable of embracing a paradox amidst the seeming contradictions of modernism and post-modernism, it should be the Christian. The gospel speaks to modern and post-modern alike. We need to be reminded that the Gospel transcends neat philosophical categories, and for a Christian to connect the Gospel to one philosophical category is neccessarily simplifying it. I don’t mean to pick on post-modernism over and above modernism, but it seems like it is the subject of the hour. In other words, it’s in. Post-modernism is the new modernism and it seems to be quite fashionable.
So what am I offering in this philosophical vacuum? Before we get stuck neck deep in post-modernism I think we should seek to speak to it instead of trying to speak through it. If this is the genuine goal of the self-proclaimed emergents, the more power to them, but if this is indeed their goal, it would be wise for them to place warning signs all around any and all forms of possible syncretism that might arise in order to cut short any future problems that could come out of mishandling post-modernism. Let us not forget the words of Colossians 2:8,
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
We have the revealed philosophy of scripture. Why do we need a new chic one?