When I arrived at the Seminary I was told that among many theologies, unless I adopted a “Postmodern” one I would be viewed by professors and students alike as a “Theological Dinosaur” – a virtual “Bacdonasuarus” I suppose.
I surveyed the playing field at the time and noted several things:
- The listed epistemologies were simply the latest in a long line of “lenses” which came and went in popularity over the 40 years I had been studying. The only thing each had going for them was they were “new.” They would be gone, or severely modified in 3-10 years.
- The institution I had just joined had 200 students enrolled in it when I first attended in the early 90s and featured world-class scholar Joel Green. Now their building was empty and they had an enrollment under 50. The GTU itself was selling off property. I wondered whose long heavy tail was sinking in La Brea?
- I knew enough about Postnodernism to understand that it was largely a reaction that has yet to provide any world-view (or so I thought). I certainly had nothing to fear from any view that debunked Big Grand Ideologies that enslaved millions. Bring it.
What I did not realize was this was really just a bad attempt by the Seminary to appear “hip” or intellectually viable in the current mileau – which is always a mistake. Being en vogue theologically is like worrying about fashion while working for NASA in deep space. better to be concerned about rips and tears.
As I have argued elsewhere – trying to be too hip is how you end up – decades later – trying to explain photos of yourself with that really bad hair and moustache you sported in the 70s. The polyester leisure suit? Plead drugs or long stints of drunken-ness. That is your best bet.
So it will be with those so enamored with Postmodernism as anything but the sort of sorbet they serve to cleanse the pallet before you get back to a meal.
Sure – it is helpful. Oh..and it is likely to kill a lot less people than Modernity (that is helpful too).
That (see above) is what Postmodernism proposes to be. As such, it will always fail. At best it can only debunk and then draw no conclusions at all. It can defuse bombs, but not construct any true meaning. To put it another way, when I hear people talk about “deconstructing” I can see the value in it. It is when they immediately go right back to world-building (“we need to then reconstruct…”- anything can follow) that they have lost it.
My primary objection (until I ran across a much better mind in David Bentley Hart) concerning biblical studies was the simple question “Why would you allow what is essentially a literary theory to be the primary lens for ordering your approach to the biblical texts?”
I mean why not view the texts primarily through Mason jars so long as we are just trying new things? (I’m not very sophisticated).
But leave it to David Bentley Hart to more accurately place his blast points on the problem:
this rigorous soupcon or critical incredulity becomes yet another attempt to extract thought from the quagmires of narrative; it becomes a meta-metanarrative, metanarrative, the story of no more stories, so told as to determine definitively how much may or may not be said intelligibly by others who have stories to tell; it completes not only the critical but the metanarrative projects of modernity (which prove to be indistinguishable). This is where the temper of the postmodern often proves wanting in courage and consistency. The truth of no truths becomes, inevitably, truth: a way of naming being, language, and culture that guards the boundaries of thought against claims it has not validated. (David Bentley Hart. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Kindle Locations 156-159). Kindle Edition.)
Postmoderns are often just attempting to propose a “the story of no more stories.” As such, it will always fail. At best it can only debunk and then draw no conclusions at all. It can defuse bombs, but not construct any true meaning. To put it another way, when I hear people talk about “deconstructing” I can see the value in it. It is when they immediately go right back to world-building (“we need to then reconstruct…”- anything can follow) that they have lost it.
I think a Postmodern lens can be helpful as one lens among many. In particular it is a good lens by which to perceive the nakedness of “Kingdoms.’ When the metanarratives of men are laid low the God who invades time and space bodily with His own stories – then lives and dies to rescue us- that may be a story one can enter into now – with one’s own personal narrative joining God’s.
*This is all in fun (the graphic). The “You Wanna Piece of Me?” hails back to an incident where a guy tried to run me over with a ’69 Camaro after a James Bond film – well, maybe not run me over – just scare me by “clipping me” with his car at a good speed. That brought out the phrase in a yell and some chest-thumping – all the while the Wademan laughing hysterically because he knew the actual context and I didn’t. Thanks.