Postmodern Apologetics

Myron Penner, at the book-blog, A New Kind of Conversation, offers this insight into how the apostles should be the model for a postmodern apologetic:

"Paul never tires of pointing out that apostles and prophets, unlike modern philosophers, do not predicate their authority on clever arguments, logical coherence, rhetorical brilliance, or anything like the modern conception of human reason, but on the divine source of their message. It is not so much that the apostle cannot or even will not engage in rhetorical brilliance or philosophical and logical argumentation—as St. Paul is certainly capable and often does; it is rather that the apostle does not base the authority of his or her message on his or her own intellectual resources. The apostle’s primary mode of address is, then, kerygma, proclamation or preaching, and any argumentation is a secondary discourse designed to facilitate the primary one."

This is right: Modernity placed authority in Reason as a reaction against the Authorities of Pre-modernism (the church and the king). Postmodern Christianity recognizes the fallacy of placing authority in Reason. It seeks to submit, rather, to the authority of the story of Scripture and in the story of the Holy Spirit's working in the Christian community.

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Phil Steiger said...

Bob-I continue to enjoy your blog! Your post reminded me of this book blog and I finally got around to producing my own set of thoughts on the issues involved. With this excerpt, I almost completely agree. But given the rest of the post, I am worried that its critique is based in a kind of false dichotomy between reason and kerygma. Anyway, hope all is well, and I posted some thoughts last night.

richard said...

Bob, just a little point I would like to comment on.

Do we really want to continue on the journey from submitting to pre-modern authorities, on to submitting to the authority of reason, and then to submitting to authoritative meta-narratives. We can not obey God by submission to any authority. Rather, we need God's empowering to reach our potential as children of God. True power is not characterised by authority and the power to force submission. True power provides the freedom and life required to transform us and the world into God's new creation.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have concerns with the advocacy of post-modern attitude toward modern thought. As it differentiates, it tends to form false dichotomies nearly "modern" in flavor - i.e. reason opposes kerygma, meta-narratives are the product of modern thought, thus skepticism is "the" solution, etc.

The assumption that the meta-narrative is the product of a particular philosophy is one that needs to be questioned. I think that Nazism and Communism and the other "cruelest" meta-narratives have far less grounding in reason, and far more in spiritual assertions. Karl Marx, for example, was not regarded in intellectual circles and certainly can't be deemed a "reasonable" man, in retrospect. Hitler's ideology has far less to do with a reasonable ideology, a story about a story born of the modern conceit, than it does with giving spiritual chaos a thoroughly "modern" logic process.

The Holocaust wasn't an orderly extermination of people because it was the product of modern reason and a reliance on absolute truth, but because precisely it defied modern reason, relied on a relative spiritual "truth," and cared enough about its own survival and prosecution to cloak itself in the guise of orderliness and modernity.

Thus, if post-modern attitudes are merely the "answer" to or a critique of "modernism" vis a vis Hitler, Mao and Stalin's atrocities, explain then Pol Pot, a slaughterer of post-modern stripes. And to toss the Taliban caliphate in as a product of modernity (when it is as critical of the malaise and corruption of "modern" thought as the post-modern critique is) quite simply defies any semblance of rational assessment.

The fact of it is that any "reaction" to a spiritual horror that is primarily an intellectual exercise (as is the post-modern attitude) is no more of a solution to the intellectual condition than is the modern paradigm.

In short, Jesus the Christ, Our King, Conqueror and Redeemer provides the only "answer", the only cogent "response" to the misnamed "Modern" problem of the totalitarian scourge. This is not a modern philosophy, nor a post-modern one. This is not a meta-narrative. This is, very simply, the one and only truth of our existence.