I’m situated in a local community—and that’s okay!

Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity – 3

Among ideas that feed into a distrust of metanarratives is the postmodern belief that all attempts at creating universally true worldviews are, in fact, social constructions of local communities that can only understand the world through their community’s peculiar conceptual language.

We Christians must affirm this point. Whereas modern thinkers thought they could master language through the science of linguistics, postmodern thinkers offer the helpful insight that no matter how much linguistic work one does, the data is only applicable to a local community. No single community’s conceptual language better describes reality than any another’s. They each simply give their point-of-view. Just about every postmodernist insists that language situates us, and that no one conceptual language or vocabulary is universal or absolute because every conceptual language is limited by the context of the community’s situatedness. For instance, because I was born and raised in suburban Ohio, I have a different construction of reality than, say, those in an Eastern and impoverished community, and vice-versa.

If postmodernity is right that all metanarratives are social constructions, then deconstruction is the only right thing to do to them—in order to understand how those local communities built these concepts in the first place. We need not fear postmodern deconstruction—for it is beneficial because it tears down what Bruce Benson calls the “Graven Ideologies” of modernity. Once our modern idols have been destroyed, we Christians will be capable of living a more pure Christian faith.

My Personal Application:
I will strive to deconstruct the way I understand God and life and my Christian Faith based on my situatedness. The way I conceptualize things is a product of the time, place, and linguistic influences upon me. The way my Christian faith is articulated is through the construction of a western, American, capitalistic, individualistic, jingoistic, suburbanite worldview…and even beyond that, the way my Christian theology has been articulated is, “We’ve got it right, those other ‘Christians’ are not orthodox like us.”

Kevin Vanhoozer’s words strike a chord with me:

“postmodernity reminds us of something we should have known from Scripture and theology, namely, that we need the many human interpretations to hear the one Word of God. The Word-ministering Spirit has not been given to one person, denomination, or interpretive tradition, but to the whole church. Seen in light of Pentecost, plurality need not be the enemy of meaning and truth, but the enabling condition…Monogamy is not a virtue when Christian thinkers are so wed to one conceptual scheme that they cannot appreciate or appropriate wisdom from other systems of thought.”
"Pilgrim's Digress" in Christianity and the Postmodern Turn, p. 94

Index of this series: Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity


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