A Look at Postmodernism—Part 4

Just a reminder that my thoughts are a reaction to Crystal Downing’s book How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith.

One chapter of this book sheds light on two important things regarding postmodernism and the reactions to this philosophy. From Downing:

Despite the fact that there are as many kinds of postmodernism as there are of Christianity, one attitude unifies most postmodernists: the desire to raze foundations. This, in fact, is what disturbs Christians about postmodernism. How can we welcome postmodern “antifoundationalism” while also singing with certitude “The Church’s one foundation / Is Jesus Christ her Lord”? Isn’t antifoundationalism antithetical to the truth of Christianity?
– p. 99

Downing then proceeds to reiterate that during much of the era of the Church, belief in Jesus served as the foundation and only when modernism raised its ugly head [some adjectives in this summary are mine 😉 ] did Christians react by putting faith in reason to counter the faith of reason. Her conclusion:

[Foundationalism] is nothing other than the philosophical base for the house of modernism: a tacit trust in the “objectivity of truth”—in contradistinction to the backward “superstitions” of faith. Nevertheless, we can understand its attractions, as the word foundations evokes the image of rock-solid stasis. That’s why we like the word; we want our truth to stay put.

Clearly, Truth does stay put. Well, I say, “clearly,” and yet it is evidently not clear to everyone. It is clear to me because I have God’s word on it.

First, there are verses in the Bible that say things like “The sum of Your word is truth, / And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Ps. 119:160). And “Forever, O Lord, / Your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89)

There are also verses in the epistles stating that Scripture is inspired by God, the One who describes Himself as unchanging.

And there is the parable Jesus told about the two men who built houses, one on a foundation of rock and the other on sand. The wording here is important:

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words, and acts upon them, … he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock … But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation.”
– Luke 6:47-49

The key here is that the word is constant. It was how the two men handled it that made the difference.

Interestingly, Downing takes that same parable along with verses in several Pauline epistles mentioning “foundations,” reaches the conclusion that action is the key, then extrapolates this:

The foundation is sealed not by human knowledge but by God’s knowledge; it stands firm not simply through confession of belief but in the actions that follow. Hence, when the New Testament repeatedly aligns foundations with the performing body, it implies that foundations move.

confused I think that would be news to Luke, Paul, Timothy, David, Solomon …

Was this what God wants us to think when He says He is a rock that is higher than I? Or that the righteous have an everlasting foundation. Or how about this?

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, / A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. / He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

I’ll spare you Downing’s analogy with the moving foundations to accomodate earthquakes that are standard for high rises here in Southern California. But here’s the point. These are reasoned conclusions, so once again, whether utilizing modern thought or postmodern thought, Man’s ideas trump the clear intent of Scripture.

This should not be so.

Published in: on September 6, 2006 at 11:36 am  Comments (4)  

4 Comments

  1. I’m not sure we can do without reason in biblical interpretation – the ‘clear intent’ of Scripture may be clear to us, but we’ll soon find other sincere Christians who read it differently, and more beyond that.

    Even if everyone agreed perfectly, we’d still be using reason to understand what the Bible says – determining that without reason is like trying to see without eyes!

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  2. Yes and no, Elliot. I believe the Holy Spirit plays a part in this understanding of the “clear intent.” The Bible says that’s His role, or part of it—to guide us into all truth. So while we are the thinking individuals working to understand the words, it happens first because God gave us His revelation and second because He gave us His Holy Spirit to illuminate His revelation.

    To me that’s a lot different than reading Kant, Aquinas, Derrida, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and comparing and contrasting, and deciding what I think is wrong with each and what I think is right.

    In all cases, I believe we should hold the Bible up as the lens of Truth and see how other thinking … Maybe a better metaphor is to hold the Bible as a black light. Thinking that is True will glow white-bright under its illumination. All else will appear dim. To use reason as a black light just doesn’t have the same effect.

    Becky

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  3. I’ve heard it said that Christianity is more a religion of the intellect than of the heart because the Bible presents a logical argument that often goes against what the heart wants. Reason is certainly important because it allows us to study the Bible, to search out its truths, and to have the confidence that it is the Truth.

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  4. Kameron, I agree more with this point than I do with the postmodern notion that all knowledge is nothing but what we believe.

    I wrote those earlier posts about the evidences of God and the veracity of Scripture. I believe God gave us our brains to figure stuff out.

    I guess my point was, the postmodernist is decrying the modernist’s reliance on reason alone, but to get to that position the pomo uses reason and not Scripture.

    I use reason to come to the place where I put my trust in Christ, then do just that—believe even when I don’t see how He’s working.

    I think that’s the way friendships are, how marriages are. A person comes to a point—after a reasonable time in which the other individual discloses himself or herself—where he trusts his friend or trusts his spouse, and even if things aren’t always clear, trust enables him to serve, give, love, whatever.

    So intellect, yes. Belief, yes. Enlightenment, yes. Revelation, yes. God is not locked into using just part of what He created. 😉

    Becky

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