Thursday, December 08, 2005

Guest Post

The following is excerpted from an e-mail discussion between some of my friends. I post it here for further discussion, because I think both the thought itself and various responses are worth considering.

Jesus: The Word Became Flesh

In a world of post-modernism, Jesus is THE WORD. Under the barrage of post-modernism, the Biblical text has come under much heat. Many are arguing for a strictly literary (neglecting history and theology) reading of the Bible. This has encouraged a reading of the Bible which has no correspondence to reality. It encourages an interpretation of the history of God's people and the Christian Theist worldview that takes the Bible as one of many options, that is, if does not deconstruct God's Word altogether. It makes it one of may worldview choices. Many would say that one could interpret the history of God's people in God's Word a variety of different ways. In fact, one could say that they think that, because of their culture and their own personal life experiences, God and his word means this to them. After all, could we all not just interpret God in a different way than our peers. Isn't it oppressive to say Jesus is just one thing? This utterly fails though, for God has always been a God not just of the text, but of reality. In the Old Testament the Holy Yahweh was intimately involved with his people; he appeared as a cloud and a fire, he split the read sea he wrestled with Jacob; this was not just a God of the text. Still though, these examples seem a touch to removed, they do not necessitate that the word of God be reality. To find this we must turn to Jesus.

Jesus is the climax of history for the God of reality who speaks in words. Jesus was the eternal and pre-existent Word of God. The post-modernists could say that this 'word of God' was just a construct of reality and not the real thing. Was Jesus was just a representation of reality that one could interpret in many different ways? After all, could God's words not also be deconstructed? But here we have the defeater for post-modernism in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was both the word and the flesh (the reality). There could be no ambiguity about the meaning of the Word of God, that is, the eternal Jesus, for he was both fully reality and fully word.

The Word of God cannot simply be misconstrued and deconstructed according to a plethora of presuppositions, but rather the reality of the eternal Jesus as the Word of God demands and interpretation for all time of the Word of God through Jesus himself. All other events in the history of God and the world must be interpreted through Jesus Christ. He is the true word.

Furthermore, we have the very Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, within ourselves. This Spirit is conforming us to reality and the Word. This Spirit, which calls us to reality, is the only thing which can help us see through the language games of our culture and the worldly structural system.

Even if the rest of the culture is dealt a crushing blow by post-modernism (which I do not believe it is), the Christ follower is not. They have the very spirit of truth within them which leads them to the meeting of reality and the Word in Jesus Christ. Indeed, in God, and most notably in his self-expression, Jesus Christ, we have they way out of the box of language.

5 comments:

Rielly said...

I believe that although it touches on something of postmodernity, the comments are indicative of a hostile reactionary approach I have seen in evangelical churches to the ambiguous "postmodernism"; in many ways the hostile approach to postmodernism (as though it were completely antithetical to Christianity) is a result of failing to understand postmodernism properly...and this talk about postmodernism being all about deconstructionism, the relativization of truth, and nothing else is nonsense. Although postmodernism does contain these things (lets just say ingredients), that is not what postmodernism is! Relativism, and deconstructionism existed well before postmodernity! If anything Modernism is responsible for those two concepts. I think that Christians can redeem postmodernism and if we understand what it's cry is....the answer to the cry inevitably leads to the historical Jesus. The embodiment of truth, the logos, the ontological root of the gospel...which previous generations have failed to understand, because they have not asked the right questions, as someone living with a postmodern mindset have asked questions begging such an answer

There is a few assumptions in those few paragraphs I would like to draw out...

1. "Under the barrage of post-modernism,the Biblical text has come under much heat"

-I think this statement is wrong. If anything, modernism is responsible for the authority and reliablity of the text to come into question. Liberal Christianity comes as a result of modernistic academia exaliting human reason as the centerpiece for understanding truth...this goes all the way back to Descartes' statement "I think therefore I am"...the Enlightenment set the stage for placing human reason above divine inspiration, not postmodernism.

2. "Many are arguing for a strictly literary (neglecting history and
theology) reading of the Bible. This has encouraged a reading of the Bible which has no correspondence to reality."

and then later you said tongue and cheek,

"Was Jesus just a representation of reality that one could interpret in many different ways? After all, could God's words not also be deconstructed?"

-I realize you are being sarcastic in the second part...hence making the point that it would be wrong to deconstruct God's Word because it has one meaning. But I think you are contradicting yourself...you are on one hand criticizing people for neglecting the history and theology of a text in the process of interpretation, then you are critizing other people for deconstructing it's meaning using the same fields you feel it is important to use when interpreting the text. How post-modernist of you! hehe j/k Once again as well, these forms of deconstructionism are a result of modernism, not postmodernism...if anything postmodernism just took the next logical step...

3. Let's be careful that in the process of being critical of postermodernism, we are not actually defending modernism instead of Christianity. There are indeed problems with postmodernism; but let's not assume that before postmodernism everything was ok and we had a proper understanding of truth. I say I big AMEN to your thoughts on everything needing to be interpreted through Jesus... all of history and it's meaning.
At the same time, the point is, God transcends cultural movements, God has seen it all, he watched believers go through ancient civilizations, the middle ages, the renaissance (I know it spelled it wrong probably), the enlightenment, revolutions of one million types, and even postmodernism...but He transcends them all, and there is great comfort there. My point is though, when we talk about postmodernism as bad--an enemy...we, by implication of the view, speak of modernism as good. That may strike you as strange, but think about it for a moment. Post-modernism's title alone shows how it is inevitably tied to modernism...it is the follow-up. If we reject all of postmodernism we would be modernists...then you say, I don't want to be either! That is when I say, as Carson says, Christians are neither postmodern nor modern...they take the understanding of both (as Christians have in every cultural movement) and transcend them...redeem them...take the good and throw out the bad. Defend absolute truth, and teach the personalization of truth...show the metanarrative of God's redemption, and reveal how God intertwines everyone's personal narrative into the metanarrative.

I'll leave it at that. Take what I said with a grain of salt...it is much easier to critique what others think then to put yourself out there to have the same happen...so cheers to you. I love hearing your thoughts on such a wide variety of topics, it really shows how well balanced you are, which is something to look up to and admire.

Blessings in the Lord Jesus

Bradley said...

Rielly,

I appreciated the email...i like your thoughts, especially this part..."
That is when I say, as Carson says, Christians are neither postmodern nor modern...they take the understanding of both (as Christians have in every cultural movement) and transcend them...redeem them...take the good and throw out the bad. Defend absolute truth, and teach the personalization of truth...show the metanarrative of God's redemption, and reveal how God intertwines everyone's personal narrative into the metanarrative." I like that, I think that is really the goal, not to be either, though in saying that, there is an element of shaping that our culture has on us that we cannot control, so it is not really entirely possible to be neither, but, even so, that is the goal, to redeem culture...and just for the record, postmodernism does not deny that there is absolute truth...so can we please just stop putting that label on it. Thanks boys...

Blessings, friends!
Brad

Anonymous said...

By the way Julian, I thought you would get a kick out of my results on that test you have further down your blog:

"You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists."

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
93%
Emergent/Postmodern
57%
Neo orthodox
57%
Roman Catholic
50%
Classical Liberal
39%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
39%
Reformed Evangelical
39%
Fundamentalist
29%
Modern Liberal
0%

Anonymous said...

oopps I didn't mean to be anonymous there...It's Rielly who left that last message

Rielly said...

Bradley,

Thanks for the words. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on you're comment,

"and just for the record, postmodernism does not deny that there is absolute truth...so can we please just stop putting that label on it."

I believe I am in solidarity with you on that point...but I would really like to see you explain that a little bit further, because at the same time, it just depends on the strand of postmodernism in my opinion. For example, Nietzchian postmodernism would deny absolutes along with the death of God.
No God, no absolutes; however, Kierkegaardian Existentialism (which happens to be very reminiscient of the Emergent church) recognizes the existence of absolutes, but considers absolutes meaningless if they are not personalized or relativized for the person.

I sympathize with you Bradley, because I hear pastors so often talk about postmodernism as though it was all about denying truth. I have tried to debate the issue with my sr. pastor, and he continually retorts "Well do you really mean what your saying? Because if you mean what your saying then you are contradicting postmodernism". I find this very irritating as though Christian ministry is putting it's fingers in it's ears. I really wish some respect speakers would get everyone's attention and clarify what postmodernism is and is not.

D.A. Carson's the Gagging of God is an excellent work on the topic of Pluralism, which he spends a significant amount of time on postmodernism as well. I do not agree with everything, but he outlines all the benefits to the church about postmodernism and pluralism, as well as the disadvantages.
It is refreshing to hear about how it benefits the church, and the church needs to stop living in fear about cultural movements all the time...being reactionary at best.

I found it fascinating to sit in on my church's celebration of it's past before moving into our new building. They had many former pastors of Emmanuel come and give a breif snapshot of their time at Emmanuel. I found it interesting that all of them elluded to some kind of controversy in the younger days of the fellowship. Eventually one pastor explained it...

There was in-fact a time when churches split, controversey raged between Modernists and Fundamentalists. I find that so fascinating! Fundamentalists were claiming that Modernism was undermining truth "capital T" by imposing fields of study on it such as science, history, literature, etc etc...

So now, I have been stewing over what really is the debate today about...is it Modernism (which we synonmously call Fundamentalism) vs Postmodernism? Is it Fundamentalism vs. Postmodernisn and Modernism?....or is it Modernism vs.
Postmodernism (which is really a return to fundamentalism)? I can't help but wonder if the latter is actually the case.

I would love everyone's input,
Blessings,