A Look at Postmodernism—Part 10a

OK, I confess—I want things to come out nice and neatly. 😀 Twenty-five of this. Fifteen of that. Ten is good, but eleven? Naaa, I just can’t bring myself to do it, and yet I can’t wrap up on a THURSDAY and start a new topic on Friday. So you see my dilemma. (And you just learned more about me than you probably care to know. What a paranoid, regimented soul. I feel so sorry for her. If some such a thought crossed your mind, just remember that I write fantasy—the stuff of imagination. Go figure. 😉 ) So here we are with Part 10a! A decent solution, in my opinion.

The final point to discuss is the postmodern attitude toward the Bible. Of course, the majority of postmodernists are not Christians and probably have no specific opinion about the Bible. They would probably see it as the language that Christians have constructed and which molds the community.

Of course, Christians, like Crystal Downing, author of How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (IVP, 2006) unfortunately take very similar views of the Bible.

We need to be humble in our use of the Bible as an arbiter of universal truth, for many times the truths we find are those we have been trained to see. After all, the Bible is not self-interpreting; it does not indicate which are its most important passages. Human beings are the interpreters, and all interpret according to the pane of glass [referring to a multi-paned window analogy] before which they are positioned. The truth of Scripture is therefore as pluralistic as the multipaned window before which Christin communities throughout the ages and around the globe have positioned themselves.
– p.220

The most glaring error in this quote is the false statement that the Bible is not self-interpreting. It most certainly IS self-interpreting. Why else do New Testament authors quote the Old? Why does the Old Testament contain prophecies fulfilled in the New? Even within each Testament, overlapping portions explain each other. And of course, Jesus explained much of the Old Testament with His life and death and resurrection as well as with His words.

Here is one small example. When asked which was the most important commandment, Jesus didn’t hesitate. He identified as most important the command to love God, but a close second, To love our neighbor as ourselves. Then He said, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets”—pretty much the whole Old Testament.

As to the idea that no one passage is more important, I think that verse from Matthew might be, but even then, Jesus ties it with other Scripture. The point is, what matters is the whole Bible, not isolated verses that might even contradict the central thrust. That’s a bit risky because on the surface, it seems to undermine using Scripture to prove a point.

The only problem with using verses as support exists if the verses are separated from their context. Anyone using a verse to prove a point should see that the passage that contains the verse requires the same meaning.

An example I think I’ve used here before is the verse that says “There is no God.” It’s in the Bible and if someone is yanking proof texts out of passages to make a point, they will find this phrase in Scripture, but the entire sentence says virtually the opposite: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” In summary, verses can be used to back up a position as long as the position is true to the Bible in its intended point.

I see a third problem in the Downing quote. The truth of Scripture is not pluralistic. Ultimately, the Bible is not about people but about God. Yes, there are lots of stories about people which show that God didn’t deal with each individual the same. Downing points to the way Jesus treated Niccodemus, the adulterous woman, and so on as some kind of evidence of a pluralistic message. I see, instead, God who loves us and who knows each one of us so completely He understands just how to approach us. But He consistently teaches about Himself and His work. There isn’t one message for women, another for Jews, another for Greeks, another for slaves. His message is consistent.

As if this wasn’t enough, Downing has some … questionable things to say about the Canon of Scripture too. We’ll take a look at that next time.

Published in: on September 21, 2006 at 5:00 am  Comments (1)  
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