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Thoughts on Interpreting the Text (Post-Modernism)

October 14, 2008 2 comments

The post-modern critics learned one thing well from there modern mentors: to be critics. It seems the modern critical distrust is still present in the post modern except now I apply the skeptical eye of distrust to everyone, including myself. So in this sense, post-modernism might be better termed: late modernism or modernism unleashed. It seems the modern corpus has become a corpse, and we call this dead body post-modernism.

Post-modernism finally stuck the knife in the heart of modernism by taking distrust to the extreme and losing all potentiality of meaning or reality for that matter. In this sense, post-moderns finally freed form from content only to discover that content disappeared, leaving an empty shell of form like a discarded cocoon.

Post-modernism did actually recognize the imperialist tendencies of the modern voice, and so it welcomed other voices to the table. And it served distrust and unbelief to all voices, taking us from one dominating voice to many voices with a dominant insistence that there are no voices.

Post-modernism is more like a magic trick where the assistant in box A reappears in Box B (with a different headscarf). Post modernism rejects one prevailing idea, one prevailing narrative, and seems to affirm all narratives. Now the prevailing “narrative” is that there are “no meta narratives,” resulting of course in one meta narrative. If that didn’t make sense, it’s okay because it doesn’t mean anything anyway.

While I may seem to be hard on post-modernism, I appreciate some of the gifts it has given us. It has suggested there is value in many perspectives, in many voices. It raised the question of meaning. I think it opens the door for a serious consideration of particularity vs universality. And it loves stories. Lots of them. Narrative rhetoric has been a great treasure for the church, helping us to recover the stories beneath layers of moralisms and judgments upon the texts.

Post-modernism is not a project, not a system, not a paradigm, and not a model. It is a series of noises that fill the modern void as we learn to articulate the coming era.

The Late Great Medieval World

April 8, 2008 Leave a comment

I love studying the Christian Celts, particularly the golden period of the 5th to 8th century. What little we know about this world seems offer a balance to our world today. Their faith was less abstract and more rooted in every day living. Their prayers engage every activity of the day with God’s grace–from sweeping to stirring fires to milking cows to taking walks. They are rooted in community. They seem more in touch with creation.

It is easy to project back all our ideals to a period in the ancient past. (And to ignore many of their fatal flaws.) And we really don’t have enough information to paint a clear picture of that period. But we do have some writing and images that suggest a more integrated worldview between natural and supernatural as well as a connectedness to the land and the community/tribe.

While the Christian Celts may have brought some unique perspectives to the world, they also represent a way of thinking and living that was characteristic in that world. But this world came to an end. In a simplistic summary of history, I’ll point out a few major events.

The Western Church and the Eastern Church officially split in the Great Schism of 1054. While this split resulted from centuries of tension, it marks a formal break in the church that violates the love of God among His people.

A series of Crusades took place between 1095 – 1272. Millions of people lost their lives and the participation was debated then as now.

It appears to me that the next two events are judgments on the West possibly as a result of the Great Schism and some of the abuses of the Crusades but also maybe for other factors. These judgments in one sense represent the end of the medieval world (just as WW1 and WW2 represent the end of the modern world).

The Great Famine 1315-17 – While famines were a constant threat, this famine resulted in 1 million deaths, marking the end a population growth between the 11th and 13th centuries.

The Black Death – 1338 – 1375 – During these years, it is estimated that over 75 million people died. The Western world looked completely different. Entire towns ceased to exists, families lines ended, the social fabric fell apart.

The Medieval worldview did not have the energy to move this broken population forward. If we were using our terminology today, we might say that the world entered into a post-Medieval world. The world had to be rebuilt through new ideas, symbols, economic systems, cultural orders and more.

Part of reaching for a new world emerged in what we now call the Renaissance (14th – 17 th century). This emerging world had two competing interests: secular and Christian.

Martin Luther posts his 95 theses in 1517. While reforming voices and movements echoed through the church, this seems to mark the articulation that leads to a new world view. Secularist would prefer to speak of Renaissance, but I think the Reformation maybe the more defining transformation of the period. The energy of this worldview gave birth to modern science, classical music and more.

While the shift was not so dramatic, this new world gave birth to our modern world (both good and bad). The strain between secular and sacred only grew during this period. The doctrine of the Trinity was not guarded or articulated much during this period. James Jordan suggests that the unequally yoked marriage of Christianity and Greek thought propelled this world forward but eventually corrupted this world as well.

(I think Ingmar Berman’s “Seventh Seal” is exploring the end of the modern world via a story on the end of the medieval world while inverting Kirkegaard’s aesthete, ethicist and knight of faith.)

This world showed signs of breaking in the 19th century but the fundamental collapse was World War 1 and the echo of World War 2. We live in the arftermath of a world that died before most of us were born. Much like the post-medievalists, we live in a time that awaits a fresh articulation.

More on this later. I’m going to bed.

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