Archive for June, 2012

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POSTMODERNISM: DARING TO DECONSTRUCT CHRISTIANITY Part 3

June 29, 2012

This is part three and the final of the paper. 



The stories we tell
While Postmodernism holds narratives suspect it becomes painfully aware of the metanarratives that drive the conscience to tell such stories. The Postmodernist realizes that the truth (while slippery like a fish) needs to be seen and held onto order to retain authenticity and integrity. While it appears that truth is relative, and it is from a finite perspective, the Source of Truth or Truth Absolute (not to be confused with the abstract absolute truth) becomes less hidden as the stories we tell become retold not for revisionist sake, but for the need for this hidden Truth we seek. Slowly we develop new “strong poets” who give us new words to express and ideas to explore. [1] As these strong poets deconstruct old ideas and possible wrong ideas there is great possibilities of a fresh and more accurate picture of True Reality.

Death of substantial self
As was already explored, death of self is a very biblical concept and essential to becoming as God intends us. The reduction to power plays gives way to a sort of death of metanarratives. If God is Truth, then only His metanarrative is reality. If Jesus is Truth, then He is reality. In a real sense, the death of human metanarratives is the death of our own power and thus giving way to the truth that is Christ Jesus being seen as the narrative and metanarrative of true power, and that power is love.
The danger, of course, is that if not careful, Christians will be immersed in Postmodernism as they have in modernism. While there is much in Postmodernism is dangerous, the Christian has hope in Christ, and if wise, becomes more dependent on Jesus and can use the tools of Postmodernism for expansion of the Kingdom.


[1] (Sire 2004, p.223) 








Bibliography
Brainy Quotes. Brainy Quotes. 2001 – 2012 BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dietrich_bonhoeffer.html (accessed 6 19, 2012).

Luther, Martin. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Second. Augsburg Fortress: Fortress Press, 2005.

Oord, Thomas Jay. The Nature of Love: a theology.Danvers: Chalice Press, 2010.

Palmer, M.D. Elements of a Christian Worldview. 2nd. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2002.
Sire, J.W. The Universe Next Door. Madison, WI: Inter Varsity Press, 2004.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma.1998. http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Resurrection_Postmodern.htm (accessed June 19, 2012).


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POSTMODERNISM: DARING TO DECONSTRUCT CHRISTIANITY Part 2

June 29, 2012

The second part of my paper.

picture source

Reality
In the past the idea of relativity has been mocked. Yet if we are honest, we filter through finite minds and taint truth to our own flavor. Even if we try, we fall victim to unfortunate interpretations and beliefs either out of laziness or it feels most comfortable. The Christian in a Postmodern world needs to understand in whom they have reality. The understanding that I am not God and God is God should be ingrained in every Christian. Humility should be the staple food for helping come to the Reality that is Christ Jesus. So often we get caught up in the “things” of God or doing the things we believe God wants us to do, people often begin to force others into that very things without thought to what God’s will is for him or her. This is what Paul spoke against in Colossians 2:16-17 warned against when he wrote:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or in regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath Day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come, the reality, however is found in Christ.”
To take this idea one more step Jesus spoke of himself as “real” food and “real” drink (John 6:55 NIV) and shows us He is Reality that we feed from.

The true believer in Jesus is called to love and not be doctrine junkies or as N.T. Wright explains it the believer needs to be “living a true Christian praxis”. [1]The Postmodern world goes far to help true believers see the system, doctrines, teachings, and teachers that just do not work. Postmodernism exposes the lies, and though it may bring us to our own road to Emmaus, [2]it can also expose us to the truth we need to know to grow into authentic and truly “loving as we have been first loved” Christians.[3]We can look at Postmodernism as a tide that overcomes us, thus making us run back into the arms of Modernism (which has its own dangers) or push ahead in faith knowing God is already there.

Religious plurality or greater opportunity
In Postmodernism we have a movement from the premodern “I think therefore I am”, to the idea of “since I am, there for I construct reality”, to the Postmodern “But is the reality I constructed reality for others or the Prime Reality?” [4]The issue though is that Descartes fell into Platonist dualism. Descartes’s view of “matter and mind” as proof there is no God, overlooks that many theologians do not believe in “ex nihilo” but rather God is “creatio ex deo” (creation out of being God). The idea being express by some theologians like Thomas Jay Oord, is that God did not create out of nothing but rather from pre-existing matter. In a sense this matter is also eternal as God is the “eternal creator” who is and has been and never changes. [5] A simple reading of Genesis shows that there was “something” and not “nothing” with God:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Note that there are at least two other things with God here: “the deep” or in the King James, “the abyss” and the “waters”. These two things qualify as matter in a very real sense. Thomas Jay Oord points out that creation ex nihilo is not even biblical as he states:

Following the reference to the Spirit hovering over the primordial chaos, Genesis speaks of darkness covering the “face of the deep.” The “deep” in this last phrase, tehom in Hebrew refers to something nondivine and primordially present when God began to create. Biblical scholar Brevard Childs says, “the tehomsignifies here the primeval waters which were also uncreated.” [6]
Thomas Jay Oord also points out “2 Peter 3:5 supports this interpretation”: [7]
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.

So the idea that matter is eternal does not harm the argument for the existence of God, but in fact may support the truth of the existence of God. If we view creation as more multidimensional than the Platonist dualism, we then see truth is expanded as our knowing expands. Doubting does not have to be an end, but rather an opportunity to step further in faith. The self-realization that we are NOT God and God is God and that we are His creation (as imperfect as we are), nullifies the arrogance of modernism. Postmodernism then opens doors to see a bigger picture of God instead of bringing a Nietzsche style death.



[1] (Wright 1998)

[2] Ibid

[3] (1 John 4:19, NIV)

[4] (Sire 2004, p. 216-219)

[5] (Oord 2010, p. 101)


[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

Bibliography
Brainy Quotes. Brainy Quotes. 2001 – 2012 BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dietrich_bonhoeffer.html (accessed 6 19, 2012).

Luther, Martin. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Second. Augsburg Fortress: Fortress Press, 2005.

Oord, Thomas Jay. The Nature of Love: a theology.Danvers: Chalice Press, 2010.

Palmer, M.D. Elements of a Christian Worldview. 2nd. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2002.

Sire, J.W. The Universe Next Door. Madison, WI: Inter Varsity Press, 2004.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma.1998. http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Resurrection_Postmodern.htm (accessed June 19, 2012).


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POSTMODERNISM: DARING TO DECONSTRUCT CHRISTIANITY: Part 1

June 29, 2012

This is a paper I wrote on using the tools of Postmodernism. I will be posting it in parts as it is too long for just one blog post. So, here is part 1.

Picture Source

A defining moment


To begin this journey to understand if or how postmodernism can either hurt or help Christianity there must be a working definition. While some assert that Postmodernism is too wide to define, many others tend toward an oversimplification of a complex but possibly helpful tool that some elements of Postmodernism lets people discover. Many view Postmodernism as an infection from atheism. Nietzsche’s famous “God is dead.” is quoted often to show the damage that society may fall into if its philosophy or values are questioned[1].  However, many forget that Nietzsche was using a fictional “madman” to show that if people are not careful with our values, can kill God. Stating another way, if we are not careful to check what we believe and even take the courage to question the very core values of our belief system we lose sight of gaining truth. While there is the same danger of falling into the issues and pitfalls of Postmodernism as many have with Modernism (without realizing how deep he or she has fallen into the pit), the tools of Postmodernism may and has in some sense help redeem the power and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
As Sire indicates, even Ihab Hassan, “who is thought to be the first scholar to write on Postmodernism” confesses, “I know less about postmodernism today than I did thirty years ago [1971].While the definition itself is an issue, Mark Lilla states about postmodernism, “is long on attitude and short on arguments.” [2]


However, one must not fear the inability to have a clear definition (which in an ironic twist is the very need, want, and desire, of modernism) and remember the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”[3]So, even without a clear definition, a person of faith in Jesus Christ can move forward knowing that while there is no way to prove God’s existence, there is this substance we call faith. If we truly trust God, God can withstand any question or attempt to dismantle ideas or even truths; as God is God.

To question “truth” is not to hate it or defy it unless the motive and attitude behind the question as in the case in Genesis where Satan questions God’s words to Adam and Eve[4]. However, like Jacob who wrestled with the Angel (who many believe to be the pre-incarnate Jesus), we are called to wrestle with God (not to be confused with “wrestling against God”).

N.T. Wright comes closest to helping understand what is happening with Postmodernism:
This quite sudden and threatening transition is bound up with [the] movement in recent years from what has been called modernism to what is being called postmodernism. To oversimplify, this has focused on three areas.
First, knowledge and truth. Where modernism thought it could know things objectively about the world, postmodernism has reminded us that there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. Everybody has a point of view, and that point of view distorts. Everybody describes things the way that suits them. There is no such thing as objective truth. Likewise, there are no such things as objective values, only preferences[5].

      N.T Wright goes on to explain that in Modernity, Descartes ‘s cogito ergo sum or the almighty “I” of individualism has been replaced with a deconstructed self. [6]This deconstructed self has become an “accidental meeting place of conflicting forces and impulses.” [7]    Third, N.T. Wright looks at the narrative that modernity created and holds it with suspect. [8]  However, as this is the Postmodern Age, preaching the Modernist Gospel “cannot be done”. [9]

Still for want of someone in need of any sort of definition, looking at Postmodernism as “a worldview that questions worldviews” is about as close as definition as possible. [10]With this as a working definition, the question to ask is whether the questioning is wrong or brings hope or despair? Most important, as N.T. Wright asks, “What does all this have to say about Christian mission in a postmodern world?” [11]

Part of the despair or perhaps eye-opening truth is that many postmodernist see the system (whatever it may be) as failing or worse a point of power in which evil wants to control him or her. We read this in the newspaper today as people hit the streets in protest as in the On Wall Street (OWS). The OWS see the gulf between the rich and poor. The OWS see the burden debt that overshadows and kills the narrative of the American Dream. This, of course, is not just happening in the USA but in Australia and even the Middle East as Iranians struggle for freedom against a corrupt and powerful regime. The world is a mess and while many desire to use peaceful means, even the authorities, whom we voted for or hired to serve and protect us, have turned it all into a game of violence. To turn a phrase uttered by Paul the Apostle in Philippians 3:8, “All is skubala.”  There seems to be no hope.

Likewise in the spiritual sense, the world (on one hand), seems more open to discussions of God and Jesus. However, many people still fear to utter a question against the local church or pastor, let alone the Bible or long held doctrines. Is the act of deconstruction a damnable sin? Does questioning if one believes in inerrancy or the virgin birth in itself make one a “heretic”? In fact the very word heretic is worn proudly by people I know and love and yet I see their faith clearer than those tossing the word at them.

The Christian is to grow in the love of Christ and not be held back by fear. 1 John 4:18 “There is not fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” While truth of corruption and power and narratives that have been proven horribly wrong (such as General Custer was a hero and not a mass murderer of women and children), truth also sets us free. Even Martin Luther understood that at times people need to tear down and question what they have believed if it does not go with the accepted norm. A brief reading of the 95 Thesis shows how far the accepted truth had gone until one person began to notice something was wrong. For example:

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or to be surely remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven. [12]

            To deconstruct in and of its self is not evil and in a sense is a reflection of the call to come to Christ. We are called to “die to self” 1 Peter 2:24 states this: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (EVS).

            In chapter eight of Michael Palmer’s Elements of a Christian Worldview C.B. Johns and V.W. White write of a college freshman named Jeff. Jeff is a good person and does all the right things. Jeff derives his morals and ethics from the Bible yet as explained in the Elements of a Christian Worldview, this does not mean Jeff is equipped to face the Postmodern world. This book attempts to explain that Jeff needs to have a “the heart and the mind of a Christian” and “this will transform his view of reality.” [13]This sounds good and yet without Christ being Jeff’s reality, just being a Christian in the Postmodern world is not enough. Of course I understand what Palmer is getting at. However, in the real-world the word “Christian” itself is held suspect and often looked at as another fundamentalist or even ignorant worldview. Many who hold faith in Jesus have stopped using “Christian” as they feel it does not have much to do with their faith and is tainted. The idea of a “Christian mind” brings images of Fred Phelps and the hate he spreads instead of the original meaning of “little Christ”.


[1](Sire 2004, p.214)

[2] Ibid p. 215

[3] (Brainy Quotes 2001 – 2012 BrainyQuote)

[4] (Genesis 3:1-7)
[5] (Wright 1998)

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] (Sire 2004, p. 217)

[11] (Wright 1998)

[12] (Luther 2005, p. 41)

[13] (Palmer 2002, p. 284)

 Bibliography
Brainy Quotes. Brainy Quotes. 2001 – 2012 BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dietrich_bonhoeffer.html (accessed 6 19, 2012).

Luther, Martin. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Second. Augsburg Fortress: Fortress Press, 2005.

Oord, Thomas Jay. The Nature of Love: a theology.Danvers: Chalice Press, 2010.

Palmer, M.D. Elements of a Christian Worldview. 2nd. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2002.

Sire, J.W. The Universe Next Door. Madison, WI: Inter Varsity Press, 2004.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma.1998. http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Resurrection_Postmodern.htm (accessed June 19, 2012).



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Thoughts on the Abrahamic covenant

June 22, 2012

Picture source with a very interesting blog post itself.
Been a while since I did a blog post so I figured I submit this. This is from my class discussion at Regent University. The topic was our thoughts on the Abrahamic covenant. 
One highlight of the Abrahamic covenant is that it showed that while one of faith may sin, grace still abounds.  The example I refer to is the issue with Hagar and Ishmael. [1] While Sara had a lapse of faith and Abram may have had other misplaced judgment, God not only blessed Abram, but gave grace and changed Abram’s name to Abraham and gave a greater promise.[2]Though, I somewhat smile that initially the covenant was one sided, later Abraham was told to circumcise himself and whole household, which makes me cringe whenever I read it. [3]My smile is from wondering how connected the tie between circumcision and the issues with Hagar and Ishmael were.
The similarities between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant is the extension of grace and expansion of the initial covenant. Like with the Abrahamic covenant God extends grace to a people who did nothing but are descendants of Abraham.[4]God keeps his promise to Abraham as now the Hebrews are a great nation.[5] The differences between the two covenants are that of community separation and individual separation to be holy unto God. As I recall from my past studies, both covenants were based on a type of contract. [6]Abram’s cutting of the carcass was a type of contract used at the time. Likewise the Mosaic covenant was based on ancient Near Eastern vassal treaties with some differences. [7]Again, the overall theme is God’s grace to both a person (Abraham) and a nation (the Hebrews). For me, this shows God’s overall worthiness to keep his word. This theme is displayed from Genesis after the fall and even to Cain after slaying Able. While man progressively steps further from God, his hands of grace reach more and more out to his beloved created image. This theme that fully is seen later in Christ Jesus fulfilling the covenant by not only His life and death, but his resurrection.
—————————————————
1.  1.     (Genesis 16 n.d.)
2.   2;    (Genesis 16; 17)
3.    3/  Ibid
4.   4.    (Genesis 17: 9-10)
5.    5.   (Exodus 2:25)
6.    6.   (Bibletools.com 2012)
7.    7.   (Hill 2009)
Citations
Bibletools.com. Covenant, Symbolized by Divided Carcasses. 2012. http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/6867/Covenant-Symbolized-by-Divided-Carcasses.htm (accessed 6 21, 2012).
“Genesis 16.” (NIV)
“Genesis 17.” (NIV)
“Exodus 2: 25.” (NIV)
Hill, Andrew E and Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament,. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.