Sunday, July 15, 2007

Book Review: Post-Modernism 101, A First Course for the Curious Christian, by Heath White

It’s been a while since my last book review. This book was very succinct. Part of me liked that while another part of me wished that the author would explore some of the issues in more depth. This is especially true in the sections about how Christians ought to respond to the postmodern turn in both philosophy and culture.

Although, I sympathize with some aspects of postmodernism, mainly concerning it’s critique of Enlightenment arrogance. I agree with postmoderns that Enlightenment thinking has emphasized a type of objectivism that is subtly (or not so subtly) used to gain political power. However, humans can’t escape from their own point of view just they can’t escape from the law of gravity. This does not entail that one can never reach truth but that one ought to critically examine both one’s intentions and the evidence at hand. Moral relativism is the most troubling aspect of postmodernist thought that confronts the Christian who wishes to share the gospel with the postmodernist. The gospel speaks of our sin against God’s moral law. The Christian is thus thrust into the position of defending moral realism (or absolutism) when she presents the gospel. I think this is increasingly becoming a challenge for Christians not just with secular postmoderns but with secular moderns as well. As time passes our culture is becoming less and less Christian. Sadly, that is true of the church as well.

The most fascinating part of postmodern thought is that everything becomes a matter of literary criticism. The truth or falsity of a claim or set of claims is seen not from the empiricist viewpoint but through the lens of literary criticism. It becomes a matter of buying into the narrative or meta-narrative, as the case would be concerning Christianity. I wish he spoke more about the philosophy behind this but I think that one should not reject this out of hand but look more closely at this. Perhaps this new way of coming to truth can be brought to the advantage of Christian evangelists and apologists. I would have to research more to find out if this view is really good or if it is terrible.

The author makes a good point near the end of the book that many postmoderns live in a pessimistic world devoid of hope. I think that Christians can really speak to these people on this. In a world of relativism, Christianity is anchored to real hope. Unlike the arrogant modernist who confidently has faith and hope in his own reason, the postmodern does not even have that. I think this is a positive development because such people would be more open to relying on God than the modernist, both secular and Christian. Kierkegaard once said that to need God is perfection. St. Paul would add that abiding in faith and hope is great but that the greatest thing is to abide in love. The Christian ought to remember this when interacting with all people.

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