9.28.2005

Postmodernism primer

If you're into philosophy, there is an interesting primer on postmodern thought here. It's part of a new book-blog project called "A New Kind of Conversation" which purports to "discuss what a postmodern evangelical faith looks like."

It includes a discussion of Jean-François Lyotard's definition of postmodern as having "incredulity toward metanarratives." Metanarratives are the stories we construct to make sense of our individual stories; "world view" seems like a better term to me. There was a metanarrative behind colonialism; there's one behind jihad; there's a competing one behind "the American dream." Our constructions of how we do church are stories of this type, I think -- bigger pictures in which we find ourselves and our experiences at home. Even though all of those constructions reside in the ultimate Christian metanarrative -- God created the cosmos, and each of us; the Word took on flesh and pitched tent with us to redeem us; God continues to make all things new even today -- we often want to elevate them to primary status.

Incredulity doesn't mean that all such stories are rejected; it means that none of them can demand belief because of their own carefully crafted means of self-legitimization. That's bad news because it means that there are fewer and fewer people who will automatically subscribe to our Lutheran or Christian worldview and just come join us. But it opens spaces that long to be filled by something authentic, like Christ. And while it leaves it open for people to not believe anything, that's really almost impossible for humans. We need such stories, which is why we invent and tell them. But Christian belief then becomes not a verdict that we can't help but come to because of the evidence, but faith that we can't help but come to because of our experience -- of our own brokenness, of the world's unreliability, and of God's love and mercy. Anybody breathing today doesn't have to go far to find experience of the first two. Our task as Church is to bring this experience into the midst of the broken places.

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