THE LORD OF ALL MILLENNIUMS: MAJOR TURNING POINTS,
PERSONS AND EVENTS
Our trek cannot possibly explain all that happened (happens). We must up front disavow anything but superficial description. While a Christian view of history necessitates explanation, not mere description of changing times, persons and events, only the most superficial notation can be unpacked in the following pages are only a panorama of turning points of the 2000 years of the Christian story. Christianity developed into the world’s multiple bruises, batterings and divisions to become the world’s creator of the universe and unfolds through largest religion. The story begins with the history of Israel and God unfolding of the coming Messiah, the only expected man in history. The person and Gospel of Jesus was both simple and powerful. The “meek shall inherit the earth,” “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and your neighbor as yourself.” and “having gone to all the ethnics of the world with the Gospel of grace, forgiveness and eternal life. In His simple Gospel was the most powerful message ever heard in the history of the world. The events of Jesus’ birth, crucifixion and resurrection/ascension are the factors that separate Christianity from all the worlds’ religions (see my work, Beyond Mere Diversity). God’s use of Peter, Stephen, John and Paul, et.al. in the growth of the early Church does not have adequate “naturalistic explanation” of its rapid growth in spite of many human efforts to silence the Church’s voices. All forms of postmodern hermeneutical efforts to explain the origin of the New Testament Scriptures by the creative powers of the faithful community are futile efforts. The fundamental question remains, is the historical Jesus or the faithful community the origin of scriptures? Did faith in Jesus create the community or did the community create Jesus? But if there is no available data of the historical Jesus, our present plight is inevitable! But this is nothing more than revisionist history!
The very essence of post modernism is that The Community creates its own faith/belief system. This is certainly true regarding classical search for the historical Jesus. The Patristic Church carried on Christological debates, each in its own way responding to at least ten questions: (1) Is it possible to write a biography (history) of Jesus? (2) What is he place of miracle in the life of Jesus? (3) How should the resurrection of Jesus be interpreted--literally or in some other way? (4) What is the nature and place of mythology in the New Testament, if any? (5) What is the historical value of John as compared with the Synoptics? (6) What is the central significance of Jesus? (7) Are there paradigm shifts from biblical, classical, modern to postmodern Christologies? (8) How is Jesus Christ related to the universe, history, society and individuals? (9) How does the He overcome the fragmentation of every factor of the universe? (10) Is the Deity of Christ a necessary and sufficient condition for the truth claims of the Christian Gospel? (11) Why is Jesus under fire in the postmodern Christological debates? (12) How is the person and nature of Christ related to our post modern inclusivism, exlusivism, syncretism debate, i.e., is personal faith in Jesus Christ necessary for salvation from sin and death? Or is our multicultural/diversity/universalism/ annihilationism debate misguided? i.e., biblically unsupportable? (13) How are the narrative displacements concerning Jesus Christ from the modern search for the historical Christ to the postmodern Jesus seminar to be understood? (see my work, The Search For The Wrong Jesus) (14) How are the narrative displacements from The Search For The Historical Jesus related to present preoccupation with reassessing even Moses and Paul?
Any naturalistic efforts to explain the origin of the community that changed the world, as we enter the 21st century it is still the world’s largest religious community. Some major turning points were the 64 A.D. fire, which destroyed much of Rome, by 70 A.D. Rome fell. By ca. 177 A.D. persecution of Christians was renewed by Marcus Aurelius. As a result a martyr cult developed within Christianity (e.g. 250 A.D. Emperor Decius intensified Christian persecution). By ca. 303 A.D. Emperor Diocletus responds to Christianity’s growing popularity with the intensification of persecution and a final effort to restore emperor worship. In 313 A.D. Constantine converts to Christianity and here we must take note of the historical origins of Christendom. In 313 A.D. Christianity is proclaimed as the only legal religions in the Empire. In 325 at the Constantine Council of Nicene, God’s relationship to Jesus was defined and Christianity began to sweep the empire as the origin of the relationship of God to Jesus.
By 395 A.D. the Roman Empire divides into East and West. By 430 A.D. Augustine, an African bishop, become the most important theologian since Paul.
In 616 A.D. Muhammad heralded the new religion of Islam in Arabia. The Muslim invasion of Western culture was to be the most serious challenge to Christianity until the scientific revolution from Galileo, Kepler, Newton, et.al. The brilliant work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) was the most brilliant response to Muslim Aristotelianism.
SOME PATRISTIC TRENDS
Early Christological controversies (2nd to 4th centuries) were: (1) Gnosticism (Nag Hammadi); (2) the Doctrine of God; (3) Arianism and the Council of Nicea; (4) Apollinarian Heresy; (5) Nestorian Controversy; (6) Eutychianism and Pope Leo’s Tome, Council of Chalcedon, (7) Nature of concept of Personality, Person, God as personal (see my syllabus, Christ: The Incarnational Model in the library); (8) Justification of our Knowledge/belief claims concerning the Deity of Christ (e.g. Kahler’s Jesus as History) and
The Christ of Faith, separation of history and faith) (9) Incarnation and Non Christian Religions and Vatican II, “Christians Anonymous” (Rahner, Kung, et al); (10) Jesus Christ and the Modern and Postmodern Debate over Transcendence and Immanence.
NARRATIVE DISPLACEMENT FROM THE PATRISTICS
Augustine was a soul on a journey to God! (1) The first step was Faith; (2) the second step was Rational Evidence. (3) the Third Step was The Soul and Life; (4) the Fourth Step was Sense Knowledge; (5) Fifth Step, Rational Knowledge. A second search for God was through the Will (e.g. elements of the moral act, virtues, the Law of Order, will and love, Charity. Augustine developed a system of thought that was the foundation of Christendom and Reformation theology. His thought controlled the Christian world till the scientific revolution. All forms of Reformed thought is based in Augustinianism (see the classic work, by Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of Saint Augustine (Random House, 1960).
In his De Doctrina Christian, Augustine (354-430) discusses the ways that various interrelated disciplines may serve to assist the Christian understanding in the faith he derives from scriptural sources. Much in Augustine’s theory of knowledge has Platonic origin. He defines the soul as “a substance endowed with reason and fitted to rule a body (De Quan Anium 13.22). Augustine never worked out a consistent view of sense and imagination, reason and illumination. While Plato sought to account how his theory of the mind’s knowledge of the forms in the theory of the language of myth, Augustine grounded his theory of knowledge in God’s revelation. His influence flourished into Augustinianism. The stage was set for the Avicenorian and Aristotelian influences. Such a tradition dominated medieval thought to the time of Aquinas. After Aquinas it gradually disintegrated through the impact of Thomism. Augustinianism set the agenda for intellectual discussion under at least seven categories: (1) Faith and understanding, (2) Psychology, (3) Epistemology (credo ut intelligum, I believe in order to understand), (4) Rationes seminales (physical power of “seeds”), (5) Hylomorphism and plurality of forms are creatures composed of matter or forms), (6) Meaning of History - He rejected the cyclical conception of history as expressed in Christian Revelation and the doctrine of the Incarnation and salvation. History is a part of the divine purpose and providence and reflects the presence of the divine reason. (7) Ethics of Charity and Superiority of the will. The will is the nobler of the two faculties and commands the intellect (see the works of Cayre’s Congres international Augustinian, Augustinus Magister (3 vols., Paris, 1954); F. Copleston, History of Philosophy 1950, vol. II and III; E. A. Portalie, A Guide to The Thought of Augustine (Chicago, 1960) and all of E. Gilson’s works, A Christian Philosophy of Augustine (NY 1950); A History of Christian Philosophy in The Middle Ages (NY 1955).
FROM AUGUSTINE TO THE MIDDLE AGES
By the Middle Ages (from ca early 5th century to the 15th century Christendom reigned) Western culture experienced rebirths of pantheistic Gnosticism. Gnostic themes were carried into the Renaissance by Ficino Companealla and especially Georidan Bruno (see the Hermeneutic Tradition, NY: Random, 1969). Bruno rejected the “closed” universe of the Middle Ages, in which everything was ordered by creation and providence. He opted instead for a model of an infinite cosmos. Bruno’s view of god and the cosmos is parallel to resurgent Postmodern Gnosticism and New Ageism (see C. Becker, The Heavenly City of The Eighteenth Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932); see my work, “Confronting New Age Alternative to Holiness: Personal and Cultural Transformation; Presuppositions of Pagan Temptation (Pantheism/Panentheism); for excellent brief structural analysis see Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (IVP, 1997).
Turning Points can be observed from the vantage point of at least three indicators: (1) Balance in Biblical Christianity; (2) Emotion and Reason; (3) Emphasis on Intellect, Imagination, Story, and Narrative.
TURNING POINTS IN PERSPECTIVE
e.g. Modern/Postmodern Denial of Biblical Norm
Montanism (ca. 2nd century) Intelligence (story, myth)
Monasticism (ca 3rd to 10th century)
Mysticism (ca 14th-15th century) Scholasticism (11th to14th)
Pietism/Methodism (ca 17th-18th century)
Reformation Orthodoxy (ca.16th, 17th, 18th centuries
Pentecostalism/Charismatic Liberalism/Modernism (ca Movement (20th century) 19th-20th century) conflict between Positivism and
Counter Culture, Resurgent non-Postmodernism (ca 1980sff)
Christian Religions, Animistic Emphasis on Myth, Narrative
Pantheism of New Age Story, demise of Word in favor of Image/audience analysis; visibility and not audibility; multicultural Pluralism
FROM CHRISTENDOM TO THE REFORMATION
(1500 - 1650)
Transition from the Middle Ages to the Reformation is the next turning point. The essence of The Reformation Revolution was that the “Scripture was restored as an authoritative norm. The European context on the eve of the Reformation was expressing a radically changing social structure. Some changes were expressed in economic, social, the rise of territorial states and declining influence of The Church. The intellectual life expressed Medieval piety and mysticism, Christian humanism throughout Western Europe, especially Germany and Erasmus’ Rotterdam. Perhaps the most significant consequence was Luther’s break with Rome, thus precipitating the development of Evangelical Theology, especially during the indulgence controversy. Luther’s Wartburg experience and the Radicals at Wittenberg precipitated the rapid spread of Lutheranism. The rise of Zwingliism and the sacerdotal controversy, fused with the political developments (1521-31) ultimately consolidated Lutheranism. Luther’s death in 1546 was a turning toward the development of Scandinavian Lutheranism. This radical growth was expressed in the religious wars to the peace of Augsburg (1546-1555). In this milieu Protestantism spread and so did the revival of Catholicism. New forms of Protestantism developed, especially the Anabaptists. The break with Rome developed in England and Scotland. In this context Calvinism emerged. The Geneva revolt fused with Strasburg (1536-1541).
The Catholic Reformation unfolded in reforming the Papacy/Canons and Degrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Catholicism and Calvinism, religious wars in France. In this context of Catholicism and Calvinism, the religious wars intensified in France. Some expressions were visible in the “Thirty Years’ Wars”, absolute monarchies and State Churches, Jesuit theory of law, Protestant State Churches and Dissenters, Anglican Church under James I (e.g. Jansenism The Puritan Revolution, English Catholicism.
The Puritan Revolution - Independents (Cromwell) the conflicting views, the tension between toleration and Sovereignty, run rampant. (Huguenots, esp. Jean Boder (1520-1576) and Calvinism in Scotland became at he outset identified with popular and national opposition to the Catholic regent, the queen, the convert, and ecclesiastical hierarchy, all allied with France. New views of freedom were on the horizon, the remarkable advances of science during the Reformation Era, like the Reformation, were an outgrowth of man’s courage to question inherited authority and were made possible by scientific advancements. Greek and Roman arithmetic and geometry and Mohammedan algebra (new mathematical heritage). Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), a German Pole, discovers the principle of spherical trigonometry and Rene Descartes (1596-1650), a Frenchman, laid the groundwork for the development of a practical system of analytical geometry. The Copernican Revolution challenged the received Pythagorean heliocentric theory. In Copernicus’ Revolution of Heavenly Bodies, he showed that the earth moved around the sun and the moon was a satellite of the sun. Both Protestantism and Catholicism held Copernicus’ views to be ill founded. But the Copernican Revolution won the day. (For the revolution from Copernican to Newton see esp. Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1957); and Bernard Cohen, The Newtonian Revolution, (Cambridge University Press, 1980; and W. P.D. Wightman, Science and Renaissance (16th Century) (2 vols. Hafner, 1962)
Galileo Galileo (1564-1642) proved further the validity of Copernican astronomical equations. William Gilbert (1540-1603) laid the foundation for the study of magnetism and electricity by the publication of his observation. Christian Haygen (1629-1695) applied the law of the pendulum in his invention of the pendulum clock. W. Otto von Guericke (1602-1686) made an air pump that he used in the study of the properties of air and Torricelli (1606-1647) invented the barometer.
Jean Baptiste van Halmont (1577-1644) described the behavior of some gases, recognized carbon dioxide and suggested the use of alkalies for the correction of acidity. Robert Boyle (1627-1691), in his The Sceptical Chymist, disproved the Aristotelian assumption that there are four basic elements--earth, air, fire and water, which suggested the modern theory of elements and formulated the law concerning the effect of pressure upon gases which still bears his name. Georg Bauer, better known as Agricola (1491-1555) laid the basis for the scientific study of metals. In his book, On Metals, he estimated the amount of metal in ore and explained the process of making steel.
The field of anatomy developed anatomical and physiological studies. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) dissected more than thirty human bodies and made exceptionally accurate anatomical sketches. Andreas Vesalius (1514 - 1564) published the first modern book on anatomy. A revolutionary advance in the study of physiology was made when William Harvey (1575-1657) discovered that the blood was forced by the beating of the heart through the arteries and back through the veins in the heart and that the function of other organs of the body was dependent upon the circulation of the blood.
The study of medicine was advanced by Paraclesus (1493-1541) and Theophrastus Bombastus von Halendein, a Swiss physician. Biologist, Konrad Gesner (1515-1565), whose catalog of plants and history of animals contained the results of much careful observation. The methods used by the scientists of the period were best described and propagandized by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in his works, The Advancement of Learning and Novum Organum, works in which he opposed the scholastic method and urged men to acquire knowledge by observation and experimentation. He advocated that men discard all inherited errors (e.g. Narrative, Paradigm, World View, Legitimization, Structure, etc., traditions and prejudices which he called “idols,” and rely upon clear thinking. He retained one of his own ideals by refusing to accept a number of important scientific discoveries, including the heliocentric system of Copernicus. This critique also applies to our Postmodern anti science movement. Postmodern anti scientists assert that “science” has its origin in Eurocentricism and class objectivity and True Truth which always seeks to control, dominate, and/or destroy all world systems which do not understand or/or espouse the Scientific Enterprise. The history of scientific development completely rejects such an evaluation. It is the assumptions of secularistic, naturalistic pluralism that have “used” science to control and destroy, but the nature of the scientific enterprise is not the “cause” of the situation. World Views in conflict are at the heart of the issue. The demise of Positivism and Goedel’s Theorem seemed to give the lie to “objectivity.” The naturalistic fallacy derives from the unsupportable presuppositions of Empiricism as scientific epistemology. (See my paper, “Whatever Happened to True Truth? in view of Quine, Rorty, Demann, Lyotard, et.al.” and “Quantum Mechanics versus Science, Secularism, and Post Modern Culture.”)
The great scientific discoveries are “irrefutable proof that controlled critical realism is the method for decoding reality versus the Postmodern Maze of the Social Construction of Reality (see esp. Helmut Thielicke’s Modern Faith and Thought (Eerdmans, 1990, trans. by G.W. Bromiley).
THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES
There can be little question that this is the most radical transition period, which negatively impacted on the Christian World View in prior centuries. The Enlightenment united a vastly ambitious program, a program of secularism, humanity, cosmopolitanism, and freedom above all--freedom in its many forms--freedom from arbitrary power, freedom of speech, freedom of trade, freedom to realize one’s talents, freedom of aesthetic response, freedom, in a word, of moral man to make his own way in the world. In 1784, when the Enlightenment had done most of its work, Kant defined it as man’s emergence from his self-imposed tutelage, and offered as its motto Sapere aude, “Dare to know”: take the risk of discovery, exercise the right of unfettered criticism, accept the loneliness of autonomy (Kant’s What Is Enlightenment) Man come of age! Mature adults were responsible only to themselves.
“Enlightenment is the liberation of man’s self-imposed tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity of using one’s own understanding except under the direction of another.” (Kant, 1784)
“Human understanding is capable by its own power and without any recourse to supernatural assistance, of comprehending the system of the word. . . and this way of understanding the world will lead to a new way of mastering it.” (Cassirer)
“No other epoch has accumulated so great and varied a store of knowledge concerning man at the present are:. . . But also, no epoch is less sure of its knowledge of what man is other than the present one.” (Martin Heidegger, Kant and The Problem of Metaphysics)
Some of the ideas that penetrated the period were--(1) Underlying structural change, e.g. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire,(1776-88); (2) The Science of Human Nature and the Science of Legislation; (3) Progress and Perfectibility; (4) Stages of Evolution; (5) Nature; (6) Liberty; (7) Reason; (8) Happiness and Utility; (9) Politics; (10) Critique of Society; (11) Education; (12) Uniformity amidst Variety; (13) The Counter Culture (The Dictionary of the History of Ideas (Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas) Vol. II, Charles Scribners and Sons, pp. 89-112), 1973).
In our Postmodern maze, astronauts have stepped into outer space; physicists have surveyed the properties of minute atomic particles; psychiatrists have described our psychic make up; and behavior scientists have compared our behavior with those of other living species. Yet the farther we have gone and the more we have acquired the more uncertain we have become about ourselves. Neurological scientists reduce the mind to the brain and the brain to a low-grade computer, i.e., man is a computer. No wonder we are “cosmic orphans!” Humanity seems under a magic spell of constantly exceeding the limits of what is presently available, insatiably plundering and exploiting the earth and its own kind. There is no visible satisfaction connected with this activity. The faster our pace, the higher the living standards, the more we want and the more dissatisfied we get. Here the question that Jesus posed-- “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” (Mark 8.36) - become very real to us. Oz Guiness is correct when he said that we are dancing with the Devil in our consumer society. We are indeed about to lose our lives while we frantically attempt to gain everything; things are the source of our self-identity in our Postmodern maze. Rejected by Postmodern epistemology, e.g. Anti Science, Revisionist History, Postmodern multiculturalism repudiates the very possibility of scientific observation independent of neutral observation instruments. All observation is theory laden, i.e., we are all locked up in Wittgenstein’s “Language Game.” There is no metanarrative because metanarrative has too often produced destructive, dominating control. This debate between German Historicism and Franco-British-American Positivism has precipitated the Postmodern multicultural relativism. One crucial result is resurgent multicultural Tribalism. This debate forced all major players in this turning point in history to examine these “presuppositions.” The very internal dynamics of the age can no longer be marginalized. This new understanding of the World View of the period is fundamental for tracing the narrative displacement.
This new force was produced by university-trained members. If the solar served as the symbolic intellectual center of the Western Enlightenment, the university fulfilled that function in the German University system, which was going through a period of reform, expansion and reinvigoration. Most European universities were in a state of decline. In Roman Catholic countries the universities carried on the same curriculum that had been forged to further The Counter Reformation. Perhaps Gibbon’s harsh criticism of Oxford is a bit extreme. But there was no unifying consensus as to a “standard” curriculum for the university. We are on the way to our multi university of Postmodern specialized divergence. In our Postmodern multicultural maze nothing orders the university (compare Newman’s Idea of University, reprint Princeton University Press; Theology was the central unifying category). Our present situation is tolerant tribalism. The process of German University invigoration began with the founding of the University of Halle, received added impetus from the establishment of the University of Gottingen and reached fruition with the opening of the University of Berlin. Throughout the 18th century and especially from mid century on, the university became the vital center for the dissemination of knowledge and the formation of educated public opinion. The rise of Pietism and Anti intellectualism, was very inadequate for any constructive response to Enlightenment influences. This period of radical narrative displacement seriously challenged accepted Lutheran and Calvinist assumptions. The new spirit produced a revolution of the relationship between institutionalized religion and spirit, and in an examination of the nature of religion itself, they sought to resolve the contradictions between critical reflection and philosophical inquiry. Their goal was to rescue religion, not destroy it, through contextualized redefinition of its meaning and function in this context of an ever widening circle of historical, psychological and philosophical problems.
The Roman Catholic Church did not experience a parallel intellectual development. Vatican I (1860-1864) was preoccupied with pantheism and modernism, while Vatican II was concerned with encountering the Postmodern mind and a resurgent concern with Kant’s epistemological revolution (e.g. Kant’s influence on Rahner, Kung, et.al. and S. Jaki’s critique of this influence). This radical development took place in the context of French Cartesianism and British Empiricism and the radical developments in the scientific enterprise. In fact, all the problems faced from Hume and Kant forward stemmed from the enormous “success” in mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, medicine, etc.. These intellectual giants cannot be critically engaged outside of awareness of narrative displacement in scientific progress during the 18th and 19th centuries (Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, et.al.). Kant held that Aristotelian Logic, Newtonian Physics and Euclidian Geometry were unmodifiable! But in two centuries all three foundational claims of Kant were called in question, by developments in mathematics (Reimannian geometry, et.al.) and limitation of two valued Logic (e.g. the so-called conflict between Deductive and Inductive Logic and probability calculus (see my paper “Theories of Logic”), Einstein’s equations, Heisenberg, Plank, et.al.).
Leibnitzian (1641-1716) assumptions forward, German thinkers evolved a method of social analysis founded in historical consciousness.
There have been three elements which characterize the aufklarung as an intellectual movement: (1) Legacy of Leibnitzian philosophy, (2) the Standestoot tradition and (3) the Protestant religious revival generated by the appearance of Pietism. Primarily it was bourgeois in spirit, critical of absolutism, opposed to attitudes associated with the court, but not revolutionary in nature. Its intellectual center was the University and its leading proponents were drawn primarily from the professional classes. The most important single center of the Aufklarung was the newly founded University of Gottingen. The University of Strasbourg, though under French jurisdiction, was an important center of the Aufklarung.
The basic difference between France/British Enlightenment and the German perspective is the discovery of Historical Consciousness. We are on the way to Historicism and the Sociology of Knowledge Thesis, i.e., cultural/epistemological relativism! Only Tribalism or the Wittgensteinian Language Game “can” escape total individual solipsism (see the brilliant work of Peter Hanns Reill, The German Enlightenment and The Rise of Historicism (University of California Press, 1975; Thomas J. Schlereth, The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought (University of Notre Dame, 1977); Irr O. Wade, The Intellectual Origins of The French Enlightenment (Princeton University Press, 1971); and Peter Gay, The Enlightenment, Vol. I, the Rise of Paganism, 1962 and Vol. II, The Search of Freedom(NY: Knopf, 1969).
The term “Enlightenment” shed very little light upon the period which bears its name. There continues to be extensive debate about the definition, its characteristics, its extent and its modernity. Most of the debate has been limited to the Franco/British world (esp. leading French and British thinkers). The analysis is too often applied to other thinkers of Europe and the Americas. This limitation is nowhere more evident than in German historiography; only Lessing, Kant and Hegel have received extensive treatment. German Aufklarung was not merely a poor imitation of the Western model, it produced its own unique character. In George Lukics’ Goethe and His Age, (Tr. London, 1968), he pointed out the continuity between the German Enlightenment and German Idealism. Lukics also pointed out (pg. 15) that Goethe “was a participant in the general evolutionary process of the Enlightenment and in the German Aufklarung does not form the dialectical antipode either to Sturm und Drang of the German idealism (Janine Buenzod, “De Aufklarung an Sturm und Drang: contimuete see in Studies on Voltaire and The Eighteenth Century, ed. Theodore Besterman, xxxiv (Geneva Institute et muses Voltaire les Delices, 1963, pp. 289-314).
The German Enlightenment is a necessary correction to concentration only on Franco and British sources. German Historicism is a direct contradiction of the Positivistic concept. The debate was a fundamental conflict between the physical and social sciences. Positivism claimed the availability of “True Truth” and “Objectivity”.
NARRATIVE DISPLACEMENT IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT
“The death of Kant in 1804 marks a decisive turning point in the history of European thought. What distinguishes the era of Louis XIV, Reubens, Poussing, Bernine and Moteverdi from the years of Napoleon, Darwin, Wagner, Nietzsche and Marx [and Freud] is the emergence of reason as a scalpel to be applied to all areas of life, the arts, the human person, the structure of society, nature and, of course, religion. Nothing can any longer be merely accepted, it must be explained and justified. Even where the scalpel of reason was too sharp for some (such as the mystique of nature from many of the Romantics of the early nineteenth century) there were only attempts to temper reason in its application to realms which were considered better left unassailed. While other areas of life--religion being one notable example--continued to be prime targets. The intellectual foundations of the widespread secularization of Western society which accrued in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were laid between Descartes and Kant.” (James M. Byrne, Religion and The Enlightenment: From Descartes to Kant (Westminster, 1996, p. 228; see my extensive syllabus on The Enlightenment/Narrative and “Rationality and Scientific Progress: The Demise of Rationality in Our Postmodern Maze.”)
At a distance of over two hundred and fifty years since the high point of the Enlightenment, it is possible (if non revisionist history is employed) to look back in order to perceive the emphasis on The Universality of Reason, the shaking off of “internal” authorities (Church, Bible, etc.); the belief in the universality of human nature and a brave attempt to focus on what unites rather than divides us; a rejection of “prejudice” in all its forms; an emphasis of tolerance (see my “The Temple of Postmodern Tolerance”) and worship.
The search for simplicity in religion, a belief in the inevitability of progress and the rejection of all that appeared to hinder it (also the perfectibility of man, complete animality of man and at the hands of Freud “faith” was reduced to neurosis, ignorance and superstition. The Existential/Phenomenological revolt against this phenomena was ill founded. It did not “critique” the nature of the scientific endeavour, which was at the heart of the issue (see my paper, “Narrative Displacement in The Development of the Scientific Enterprise with special attention to the Thesis of Kuhn, Popper, Feyerband and the Polanyi Debate.
This is Enlightenment as Kant saw it: The emergence of humanity from the darkness and dependency of its self-imposed infancy to the brightness and freedom of adulthood. Clearly we are on the road to The French Revolution (contra the Roman Catholic Church, especially the Jesuit Order), the American Revolution (based in Scripture and French Enlightenment thought, and The Russian Revolution based on Marxian positivistic Atheism, contra the Russian Orthodox Church (see my paper, “Theism, Alienation and Humanism: From Hegel to Marx (Socio, Economic, Political Structure as the source of human alienation, not sin against our Holy God. The fundamental error of this development is, once more, confusion of description with explanation). This is still our most serious flaw in much Postmodern debate.
This epoch making period of history unfolds at least fifteen fundamental thesis for our concern. They are:
1. Rejection of history and the past in favor of Reason.
2. Institutions and traditions inherited from the past had to give way to Reason and Science--Religion, marriage and the family had to be supplanted by the state. The State became man’s vehicle of salvation.
3. The Christian doctrine of man as a sinner was abandoned. Man’s nature was neutral, if not good and perfectable.
4. The rule of society must be in the hands of the enlightened ones, the elite.
5. Basic to this view, faith is that man and society must be humanistic, not Christian.
6. Science must replace religion as the source of judgment and authority (see esp. H.G. Reventlow, The Authority of The Bible and The Rise of The Modern World (Fortress Press, E.T., 1985).
7. Biblical view of sin and punishment are replaced with psychotherapy (see U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 10, 1990 and March 25, 1991).
8. Conscription came in the French Revolution. The professional army is replaced with a State created army and a hold on youth.
9. Foreign policy is given priority over domestic or internal affairs. Hitler, Bush, Gorbachev (before and after the coup, August 19-21) spoke of “A New World Order.” A goal of politics has a world scope, not a local one.
10. The new god is man, or Humanity, and the goal is “to be truly human” which means to be stripped of all religious and moral standard and faith, derived from Supernatural Revelation,” i.e., the Desacralization and Demythologization of reality.
11. The world’s economic problem is seen as one of distribution, not production (cf. entitlement, rights and welfare).
12. Power is centralized in the state (cf. the coup attempt in Russia’s 70 hour plus coup, August 1991).
13. Reality is seen as basically impersonal, ruling out the Christian God, Creator, Redeemer.
14. The new established Church becomes the state school (see Bloom, Hirsch, Nash and my three essays on Western Education).
15. There is an increasing control over private property and a virtual confiscation by local and federal taxation.
The end results of these influences were the Desacralization of Christianity and the Demythologization of Christ and the origins of Christianity. Thus enters the brave new world of the Enlightenment which develops at least these seven categories:
1. The Demise of Natural Law, at least in its Augustinian sense, as grounded in a personal Law Giver: (a) Newtonian Science removed God from the cosmos; (b) Lockean psychology removed Him from man; and (c) Comtean sociology removed Him from society.
2. The Collapse of Aristotle’s Hierarchy of Being as an interpretative schema of all reality.
3. The New Hope was grounded in the Power of Reason.
4. The Promise of Science: Salvic Method
5. The Prospect of Utopia: Social peace, prosperity and progress.
6. Education as the Messianic Source of renewed humanity and society. Happiness is man’s Summum Bonum, attainable only through adequate education.
7. Autonomous Reason, i.e., the Law of Reason was in harmony with the Law of Nature, and both could discover the Law of Society, and produce The New Earth. God becomes irrelevant for explaining and understanding the cosmos, man as a sinner in need of redemption, and reasons for social disorder. Despair and powerless Existentialism, Romanticism, and Mysticism seek to fell the Word. (See Louis I. Bredvold, The Brave New World of The Enlightenment (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1961); also my syllabus, “The Christian Faith And The Influence Of The Enlightenment”
MODERNISM IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
The period was a marvelous one of English development. Anthropology was a creation of The Victorian Age. The conception of a comprehensive science of man, a synthesis which would illuminate the history and variety of mankind as a whole, this was typical of the intellectual ambition and industry of the Victorians. The great paradox of this brilliant period of development was The Victorian synthesis and modern relativism. This concept of Anthropology resulted largely from the impact of the doctrine of biological evolution (e.g. Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859), an 18th century idea of social progress. The achievement of geologists and naturalists has given a greatly lengthened perspective of the age of the earth, of life on the earth and mankind himself and so also the importance to speculation on the cultural and social development of man. Some 18th century thinkers like Hume and Ferguson had formulated general schemes of social development and the social progress of men was already being schematized in stages of savagery, barbarianism and civilization.
One ultimate consequence of this period of development was the growing recognition of the unity of mankind, which helped to break down the dichotomy between God-fearing and belief among many peoples of the world could no longer be disposed of so simply. The theory of organic evolution first propounded by Lamarck had brought coherence into the bewildering divinity of having forms by assuming a gradual but prolonged process of small cumulative changes. A similar development from more elementary forms would account satisfactorily for the immensely varied details of forms in the social life of men. This approach owed an immense debt to Herbert Spencer. The opening chapters of his Principles of Sociology expresses - “The essence of postmodern evolution - as a comprehensive statement of the general connection between the physical, biological and cultural phenomena involved in the study of man.” Evolutionary anthropology contained the tacitly assumed culmination points to which human evolution has been moving through millennia. Western Europe was the point of reference for the world. This is completely rejected by postmodern multiculturalism as Eurocentricism (e.g. WASP; Becker claims that- “every man is his own historian.”) (Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of 18th Century Philosophers; and Jackson Turner’s, Frontier Thesis has enormous influence on American Historiography, specifically for our purposes the Disciples’ interpretation of the Frontier Spirit. Turner’s position was grounded in Marxism.)
Thus the anthropologists of the later 19th century cast their theories about social institutions and culture in a pseudo-historical form. The actual study of societies was neglected for the constructions of their hypothetical precursors presented as plausible starting points for an evaluation that culminated in our own Western institutions. The Victorians accepted their world and society as satisfactory and stable. They were not preoccupied as we are today with what is to come next (e.g. Turn of the 21st century, Y2K, educational chaos, immorality in politics, etc.)
Postmodern Anthropology is a search for “meaning,” but without any foundation for this aspirations. The search for “meaning” is a major postmodern concern as we turn to the 21st century. “Functionalism” dominates postmodern anthropologists. This position espouses both epistemological and cultural relativism! The “only” possible outcome is our resurgent “Tribalistic Multiculturalism.” Since neutrality is impossible, Evangelicals are no more “ignorant” or “prejudiced” than any alternative Tribalism. We are locked in Wittgenstein’s “language game,” playing only within a plethora of game rules. The Christian missionary seeks to uproot savage beliefs that conflict with Christian values. The political leaders of nations and classes denounce and organize acts against the ideas as well as the acts of those who threaten or thwart their values. But anthropologically speaking, these are the conflicts between systems of ideas that cannot be set in opposition as right or wrong nor are they ideas for which their supporters are to be held personally responsible by opponents. All decision making is contingent on their functional outcome. (see my essays on Structuralism, Operationalism and Functionalism--three major Postmodern Forms of Dewey’s Pragmatism. Only a Christian MetaNarrative World View Paradigm Legitimization Structures can adjudicate complementary or often contradictory positions.)
Cultural relativism is characteristic of these approaches to the understanding of culture and society and of the position of the individuals within it. One fundamental result of the anthropological development during the Victorian Era was a “comparative study” yields no ultimate, metanarrative stance for adjudicating alternatives, complimentary or contradictory cultural ideas (see my Relativism Bibliography and Victorian Britain, James R. Moore, ed., Religion and Victorian Britain, 3 vols., Sources (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1988; also my essay, Turner’s Frontier Thesis; David M. Ellis, The Frontier in American Development (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1969).
FROM DARWIN EVOLUTION TO DEWEY’S PRAGMATISM
The brevity of this study precludes encountering the great contributions of “Charles A. Beard, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., James Harvey Robinson and Thorstein Veblen - these men supplied the American mind of the twentieth century with the concepts of instrumentalism, progressive education, legal realism, the economic interpretation of politics, the new history, institutional economics, and political liberalism.” (Morton White, Social Thought in American, The Revolt Against Formalism (Boston: Beacon Hill, 1952, 2nd edition, p. 236).
“Is dualism--the concept of subjective appearance and objective reality--a ‘passed mode, an outworn theme’? Or is it the corner stone of the physics? Is Descartes dethroned or is his sovereignty vindicated in the light of modern philosophy? Do the results of scientific research justify or overthrow the old ideas of dualism of mind and matter.
This last quarter century will have distinctive interest to future historians of philosophy as the age of the great revolt against dualism, a phase of the wide revolt of the 10th against the 17th century.” (Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Revolt Against Dualism, W.W. Norton, Open Court Publishing Co., 1930), jacket cover.
Perhaps the two most powerful shaping forces in our post modern culture are (1) Pragmatism, which derives from Darwinian evolution and (2) Postmodernism, which repudiates the very existence, not merely a possibility, of True Truth and Objectivity, thereby leaving us in a maze of both epistemological and cultural relativism. Here we are engaged in resurgent Tribalism.
American philosophical theology was greatly stirred by the scientific and technological progress of the 19th century. Persons of the stature of Herschel, Hodge, Whewell, Bridgewater, et. al., addressed scientific development from a firm commitment to God as creator of the universe and scripture as the Word of God. But we cannot escape from the fact that Darwinism and Pragmatism were able to combat their conservative theological adversaries (cf. our heritage’s allegiance to Scottish Common Sense Realism and Baconian scientific paradigm precluded effective encounter with the shaping forces of the 19th century. Its Restoration Theme emphasis was totally at variance with the development toward historicism from Hegel to Darwin. Its emphasis on the ‘Unity Theme’ did not address the wars and rumors of wars expressed in denominational conflict, cults warring against ‘established religions,’ labor vs. capital, farmers vs. factories or manufacturing, rural vs. urban interests, west vs. east, north vs. south). Unity Movements merely shattered more light. Any student not engrossed in these cultural crises could look with relief and hope, as the founders of pragmatism did, to the steady and brilliant discoveries by scientific men of different religious, political, national and racial origins. The perspective of science was displacing the transcendental brooding of conservative theology, revivalism and Christian education.
The Scientific Method was universal, objective and ethically neutral (cf. Bacon’s Novum Organum (New Method, a methodological rejection of classical Aristotelianism). In the context of the Darwinian Methodological victory was the 18th century preoccupation with saving the faith from scientific destruction by articulating a natural theology (Philosophical Theology/Philosophy of Religion), which harmonized classical theology with the scientific paradigmatic revolution.
While metaphorical appeals to biology have been commonly used in all ages, not only in the post Darwinian period, William James is surely correct in his assertion that-- “The entire modern deification of survival per see, survival returning to itself, survival naked and abstract, with the denial of any substantive excellence in what survives, except the capacity for more survival still is surely the strangest intellectual stopping-place ever proposed by one man to another.” (William James)
The prophets of Social Darwinism, e.g. Words respecting biology as a source of social principles, was no less natural than Spencer’s assumption of a universal dynamic common to biology and society alike, the Christian denial of Darwinian “realism” in social theory was no less natural as a human reaction than the harsh logic of the “scientific school.” Darwinism had from the first this dual potentiality, intrinsically it was a neutral instrument, capable of supporting opposite ideologies. How, then, can we account for the ascendency, until the 1890’s, of the rugged individualists’ interpretation of Darwinism? The “tooth and claw” theories of natural selection dominates the entire spirit of imperialism as a good thing.
Ruthless business rivalry and unprincipled politics seemed to be justified by the survival philosophy. This unrestrained competition dynamic produced unstable pure business competition. Nothing was more disastrous to the unskilled competitor than was produced a growing number of the “unfit” and “unskilled.” Darwinian individualism was the first conclusive victory of the critics of Darwinian individualism.
While Darwinian individualism declined, Darwinian collectivism of the nationalist or racist variety was beginning to take hold. His model fit the world of international conflict ideologies, which is still with us through our global village--its main force is made visible in resurgent tribalism! The survival of the fittest had once been used chiefly to support business competition at home; now it was used to support expansionism abroad.
Two world wars have made Darwinian “survival of the fittest” less congenial to the mood of our global village. Both results, i.e., individualism and imperialism, were derived from Darwinism.
There is nothing in “naturalistic philosophy of life to make possible the acceptance of moral sanctions that can be employed for the “common good.” We are still in debt to the brilliant work of Philip P. Wiener, Evolution and The Founders of Pragmatism) Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949; and Morton G. White in his The Impact of Darwinism Upon the Whole of American University Life and Thought; see esp. W.P. Metzer, (chapter 7) Richard Hofstedter, The Development of Academic Freedom in The United States (NY: Columbia University Press, 1955; see my consequences of Darwinism on education in the USA in “Whoever Controls The Soul of Education Controls The Soul of Culture” (Outcome Based Education from Darwin to Skinner’s operant conditioning).
DARWIN’S LEGACY: PRAGMATISM
(See my essay, “The Victory of The Darwinian Method;” also J.Dewey, Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (NY: Peter Smith, 1951)
Evolutionary Pragmatism has borne several component ideas as the seeds of postmodern pragmatism. American pragmatism has fostered: (1) An empirical respect for the complexity of existence requiring a pluralism of concepts to do justice to post modern evolutionary struggles; (2) It has rejected the eternal-transcendence as an absolute frame of reference for thought and this emphasizes a pluralism of temporal change in the nature of things; (3) It regards the nature of things as unknown, to be relative to the categories and standards of the minds that have evolved modes of knowing and evaluating objects; (4) It insists on the contingency and precariousness of the mind’s interaction with the physical and social environment, so that all intellectual results are fallible; (5) it upholds the democratic freedom of the individual inquirer and appraises us as indispensable condition for progress in future evaluating science and society. Here we see the seeds of multicultural, pluralistic relativism which dominates our postmodern situation: (1) Pluralistic Empiricism--is the piecemeal analysis of the diverse issues pertaining to physical, biological, psychological, linguistic, and social problems which resist resolution by a single metaphysical formula. Chauncey Wright advocated this position in analysis as leaves around the stem of a plant (cf. the origin of Operationalism and Structuralism). But he denied that the evolutionary hypothesis applies to geology and cosmic weather or astronomy. Wright’s pluralism made distinctions concerning scientific, ethical, aesthetic and religious interests. It is the operational method, which Charles Pierce showed was the way to make our ideas clear in order to test these ideas would have been experimentally examined.
Experimentation becomes a rational method of adopting our ideas to an unknown but not unknowable environment of transforming it in relation to our needs. It is the heart of William James’ radical empiricism in which the flux of experience or stream of thought is regarded as marked by singular irreducible and genuinely novel, events or places that cannot be explained away by any single mechanical law such as Spencer’s or by a spiritual monism such Hegel’s pantheism. These problems continue to unfold in the work of Fiske, Green and Holmes when they took pragmatic cognizance of evolutionary adaptation of the law to social changes. This entire movement of thought constantly sought to escape the charge of subjectivism (e.g. adopting a “Critical common sense realism”).
The significance of the pragmatic epistemology runs deep into “critical realist,” “logical positivist” and the British form to bridge the School of Logical Analysis. All of these “schools” reject system building and synoptic truth for piece meal study of the basic concepts, procedures, and language of the sciences and mathematics. The analytic school sought to clarify the ideas of truth, causality, probability, meaning, values and the method of verification and deduction in the sciences as well as the common sense world of our daily lives. One of the “intimate” outcomes of this development was the ultimate rejection of ordinary language as a vehicle for “True Truth.” Only the univocal symbols of numbers could escape a pluralism of truth claims. Through such procedures as the verification principle was truth to escape the knife of solipsism (e.g. cannot escape Goedel’s theorem number theory). The pragmatic theory produced several crucial characteristics of how the founders of pragmatic school of knowledge/truth/acquisition was , or could be, carried on. In Temporalism the great “chain of Being” has become “temporalized” as Lovejoy has so aptly put it, in eighteenth century the theories of progress and evolutionism had met their match. (Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being, chp. ix; and my paper “God, Man and Nature in Carl Sagen’s Universe, esp. pp. 17-19, From the Greeks to the Great Chain of Time and Reality” and my “Science, Nature and The Supernatural, A Concept Beyond.)
Pragmatism is confronted with knowledge of the past by its inability to experimentally utilize the “principle of verification,” for we cannot verify or transform experimentally what is past or historical. Appealing to present evidence is hardly defensible on evolutionary pragmatic presuppositions. The ultimate consequence of this phenomena is present in “revisionist history” and postmodern denial of the availability of “authorial intentionality and all prophets of deconstructionism.
Pragmatic temporalism expresses nineteenth century Historicism. Evolutionary empiricism can speak only of our “opinions” which would converge on the truth, if an indefinite community investigates long enough. This position stands in marked contrast made by comparative or genetic method in nineteenth century philosophies of history, e.g. Hegel, Marx, Spencer. It is crucial to remember that this perspective in the history of law is an approach that influenced greatly Wright and Maine’s lawyer friends, Fiske, Green, Warner and Holmes. The rigorous method of mathematical logic is not a bedfellow with the genetic method (see my paper on “The Genetic Fallacy”). An extreme consequence of this development is that evolutionary Naturalism (Hegelianism) precludes the conclusion that any particular historical person or event (creation, the Exodus, Incarnation, the Resurrection, etc., had no metanarrative) can be used as an interpretive center of all historical periods, persons and events. No “one” person or event is any more important than any other! What?? Evolutionary pragmatism is clearly expressed by Dewey in his “The Study of Ethics: A Syllabus” (1894) and “The Evolutionary Method Applied to Morality” (1902). Dewey argues that we cannot adequately explain things or justify moral ideas without knowledge of the psychological and social processes or means which occur or are made to occur in the production of things and ideals (clearly the naturalistic assumption of Comparative Religion and Multicultural Pluralism).
These developments paved the way for the functional sociological realism of twentieth century America jurisprudence. The Sociology of Law Theory aims to adapt the law to changing conditions of society in order to minimize conflicting group interests and maximize their productive cooperation (see my paper, “The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis”; also note that the Redactor modified the Law to fit the changing circumstance of the land.)
Most clearly this analysis cannot account for Narrative Displacement in Scientific Paradigms. (2) Relativism: Epistemological/Cultural, which claims that all knowledge is not only context bound but context specific (e.g. Wittgenstein’s Language Game and Peter Berger’s “Fiery Brook”). This thesis finds fruition in the resurgent Tribalism of multiculturalism in our post modern maze.
The nineteenth century saw the breakdown of European centrism, the notion that only the civilization of Europe could produce the best in art, science and philosophy was challenged by growing independence and self-reliance of American writers, scientists and philosophers. Cultural anthropologists (Maine, Tyler, Spencer, et.al.) showered Fiske and other lawyer philosophers with much more historical data than was available to Locke when he attacked innate ideas - how different standards or right and wrong worked in communities with different cultures.
The ultimate expression of this thesis is espoused by the Counter Culture of the 1960’s. The bible of this generation was written by the trinity Toffler, Reich, and Marcuse, who in their own way espoused the results of J. B. Bury (The Idea of Progress) and Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the 18th Century Philosophers (1931), who was Turner’s mentor was the major voice in Disciples’ historiography of the Frontier thesis.
By 1934, Ruth Benedict expressed her cultural relativism thesis in Patterns of Culture) (see also Margaret Meads, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict (Boston: Houghton/Mifflin, 1954). Benedict’s work affirms seven propositions that shape the center of culture of the 1960’s. As a cultural relativist and multiculturalist she asserts that: (1) We abandon our illusions of cultural superiority; each culture makes its own claims. (2) Human achievement is not dependent on any force external to human culture. (3) Western culture has assumed religious superiority in viewing other cultures (c. one of the assumptions of the postmodern culture is the rejection of Western superiority (WADA) based in scientific development and Christianity). (4) Western Christian culture is plagued with the irrationality of race, prejudice, nationalism (patriotism, America, The Beautiful). (5) Cultural anthropology encourages mutual cultural tolerance. (6) Western Christian culture tormented women (the witches in New England), discouraged races (heredity, genetics, environment (1960’s Radical Feminist Revolution and the development of The Civil Liberties Union, Civil Rights, etc.). (7) Demise of the normative, superiority of Christianity (cf. Sin, guilt, responsibility after Freud, A Nation of Victims. Genetic and environmental determinism.).
In psychology and epistemology, experimental discovery of the relativity of perception of qualities, spatial relations, threshold limits, memory span, judgments of discrimination and so on, accompanied a revival of Berkleyan and Humean sensationalism. Wright and Stallo both admired by Fiske in his positivistic relapses favored the nominalistic view of Mach and Mill that scientific laws are correlations of sensations. Peirce, however, stood out as the chief antagonist of this nominalistic view, and proposed a modified Scottistic realism of objective logical relations. But both psychological relativism and the Peircean logic of relations aided in the revision of the Aristotelian subject/predicate logic (see my “Theories of Logic for Narrative Displacement”) and in the rejection of the absolutistic ontology of Schelling and Hegel. The categories of thought were thrown into the evolutionary cauldron to emerge as flexible relational forms.
Generalize the behaviouristic method of approach and you have a contextualistic or relativistic theory of meaning: the meaning of a statement varies with the spatio/temporal linguistic or socio psychological conditions of its occurrence. This generalization is in line with subsequently developed ideas of relativity in physics, logic, psychology and sociology and law. When Holmes defined truth as what he could not help but believe, he was a psychological relativist. So also we must classify James in his will to believe doctrine. Wright and Peirce were logical relativists. Fiske was a historical relativist, while Green, Holmes, and Warner were sociological relativists: the law is what the courts decide in different social contexts and there will be as many relativism as there are different theories as to what the objects dealt with are relative to!
Relativism in pragmatic ethics, which makes an action good if its consequences are desirable under specific but variable conditions, does not imply that there are no valid moral distinctions or principles beyond one’s arbitrarily expressed desires. An action is pragmatically justified not because it is subjectively approved, but because the beneficial consequences for all concerned outweigh the harmful ones within a given concrete situation. What the consequences and our actions are is an objective question. English pragmatists were brought up in an Emersonian faith in man’s ability to live nobly in accordance with an eternal ideal, which transcended the competitive world of action. Soon this ideal had to be fought for in the midst of an evolutionary struggle.
Another factor in this development is Probability and Fallibility. This development exposes two factors that are often distorted. (1) Probability Calculus mathematically extends the limitation of empirical confirmation of any given proposition and (2) that the Einsteinian Theory of Relativity Theory was critical realism, not the relativization of all knowledge claims. Historically, the metaphysical notion handed down from Plato, Leibnitz and Hegel, was that all empirical knowledge is unsatisfactory and inadequate because of the contingency and limitations of sense date--in which “merely” empirical science is based. Absolute knowledge is attainable only on the presupposition of the Truths of Logic, Mathematics and Metaphysics. Kant escaped this problem by claiming apriori structures of Newtonian physical laws and Aristotelian Logic by an analysis of the Greek language and the unmodifiability of Euclidian Geometry. From Hegel and Marx forward these unmodifiable foundations were called in question. Newtonian physics laws were not falsified by The Einsteinian Revolution or Goedel’s Theorem against the ontological structure of number theory, but modified by limitation. Classical logic was modified by mathematical logic (Russell and Whitehead’s Principia (e.g. multiple valued logic). And Euclidian geometry was modified by Non Euclidean Geometry, e.g. Reimannian Geometry (see my paper, “Narrative Displacement in Mathematics From Classical to Goedel’s theorem” and “The Problem of Demarcation; Comparison of Kant and Popper”.
(3) Pluralistic Empiricism or Contextualization would make it logically unnecessary for any postmodern pragmatist to assume that whatever was true of large scale or macroscopic phenomena would hold for each individual element in the small scale or microscopic field of observation. Perhaps Peirce had the clearest apprehension of the Statistical Principle.
Both James and Peirce accepted tender minded metaphysical individualism and indeterminism. Wright, Green and Holmes regarded all our empirical knowledge as contingent or fallible in both natural and social sciences. They claimed that in these sciences there was no knowledge that transcended the uncertainties of empirical evidence (see my “Theories of Evidence”). They found with Locke that the candle that glows dimly within us is bright enough for all practical purposes (the classical als ob, “as if”).
Hume dealt the death blow to alleged proofs of necessity in factual matters and insisted on probability as our only empirical guide, yet he still assumed for practical and oral certainty Hume’s psychological probabilism runs rampant in our postmodern multicultural maze. The neo-Kantian separation of Naturewissenschaften from Geisteswissenschaften was supposed to have bestowed on physical (social and cultural) phenomena a “higher” certainty than merely natural empirical science could possess. (See my paper, “Critique of Historicism and Positivism in Conflict” - source of Liberal Theology, separation of Faith and Reason. We are now on the road to Kierkeggard’s “Leap of Faith” and Freud’s reduction of faith to his naturalistic theory of projection, e.g. Faith as Irrational Neuroses.)
The materialistic naturphilosophers, Feuerbach and Haeckel, et.al. did not deny the necessity of sharply separating the physical from psychical and social phenomena, but simply inverted the order of dependence. What distinguishes pragmatic naturalism from both spiritualistic and materialistic philosophies is the denial of any necessary or privileged status for the findings or “laws” of either psychical or physical phenomena. Neither are demonstrably certain if the nature of any generalization is that of a prediction or hypothesis confirmable to some degree; only experience can furnish the “neutral” materials for physical or cultural generalizations. (Scientific generalization required theory paradigm, and legitimization structure and narrative or World View for “order.”)
Observation of individual data does not determine the data and these materials are temporal and complex, hence not deducible from any favored eternal and single system of timeless or simple entities, dwelling in realms of matter or spirit (see my essay, “Impossibility of Neutrality:” No Data ordering is “theory neutral”, e.g. World Views in Conflict) The plurality of events and qualities experienced in natural or human history requires recognition of the tentative, probable and fallible character of all empirical knowledge (e.g. see my essay, “Critique of Kuhn, Popper, Polanyi.” Feyerabend’s debate and their consistent attack on Empiricism and induction as the source of any True Truth statements. Induction in Science, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, etc., is a flawed position.
Experience deals with only individuals, while scientific formulation deals with their classifiable characters. Since this method is simply critical common sense, it should always be ready to “correct itself,” knowing that its findings are only probable or confirmed only to a “degree.” (e.g. the Kuhn/Popper/Polanyi debate concerning Narrative Displacement)
The diversity of pragmatic alternatives to the relationship of religion to science is ubiquitous. Peirce, Fiske, et.al. were evolutionary theologists. James rebelled against evolutionary theology and agnosticism by advocating a “crass supernaturalism” on the basis of the variety of religious experience as he had empirically investigated; Wright, Holmes, et.al. regarded science as entirely indifferent or neutral to religious issues, but “neutrality” is an impossible life system. Like Emerson, they looked upon religion as each person’s own affair, i.e., irrelevant to all the issues of reality; let each decide to what final tribunal he wishes to submit his way of living. They opposed religious intolerance, ecclesiastical authoritarianism and intervention in political or educational institutions. The last crucial identification of the characteristics of naturalistic, evolutionary pragmatism is its affinity with demarcation manifestation of their pragmatic liberalism. Note these influences are present in our postmodern multicultural relativism--also in Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000 and the National Association of Education.
The common political faith shared by all our early pragmatic thinkers was based on a utilitarian and ethic of individualism to which all social institutions were subservient. The pragmatic effort to escape the ideology of “Wall Street Imperialists” is a vain effort. This is pure socialism in the guise of democratic capitalism. In our postmodern maze “democracy” has become the epistemological basis of demographic analysis of our culture. Decision by “poll taking” is one of the results of evolutionary pragmatism as our culture’s interpretative method of decision-making. Decision by statistics is not the source of attaining True Truth! This is the happy position of our postmodern multiculturalism!
European revolutions of 1848 and 1870 were in opposition to “ruthless collectivism.” This naturalistic evolutionary pluralistic pragmatism maintains that it is possible for “man” to treat his social sentiments as capable of evolving beyond the animal basis of trial gregariousness and of transcending personal and social conflict by the slow process of education and social evolution, the brute level of the biological struggle for existence. Thomas Huxley’s essay on “Ethics and Evolution” pitted man’s enlightened moral will against the indifferent cruelty of “cosmic evolution” in a humane way.
Evolutionary pragmatism believes that man must continue the shaping forces of the reductionistic powers in our global village. And this leaves humanity in the postmodern situation of resurgent tribalism and confrontation of powers. (See Eric Toffler, Power Encounters); Toffler was one of the priests of the counter culture of the 1960s.)
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN HISTORICISM AND POSITIVISM
Running through our excursion of shaping ideas and consequences of Western civilization, we must note the 19th century and early 20th century conflict between Historicism and Positivism. History and Time have replaced eternity as the arena of full determination (see my “Changing Concepts of Time,” i.e., if Time is unreal history is an illusion and ultimate reality is removed from history). This means that the control of history/time have been transferred from God to Man and the State. The State began to dominate western thought in the 19th century and Hegel’s idea of the state as the embodiment of morality began to command men’s minds (see George Iggers, “The Dissolution of German Historicism,” Richard Herr and Harold Parker, editors, Ideas in History, p. 292f, 1965). The denial of the presence of German historicism is premature. For Hegel, the state embodied the current status of the Geist, or the developing spirit of the world, and, as such, it expresses the truth for the time and embodied the moral imperatives for the day. Postmodern politics seeks to use the state as the moral voice of humanity and to bring about humanity’s advancement by the state’s moral action (cf. Capitalistic Democracy, Socialism, Communism).
Fraternity in some societies has come to mean living in communal housing under the most wretched circumstances. Because the state’s purpose is by definition moral, the failure of collective housing is due to the failure and rebellion of individuals in such units. The state’s goal are by definition rational, whereas, it is held, Christianity is irrational and thus the great enemy of the modern moral state. This cultural battle for the minds of men is fundamental in our postmodern cultural war. Those who fail to recognize the nature of conflict will be victims of it!!
Before we enter the arena of postmodernism, we must critically understand that the results of the Enlightenment has developed along ten crucial presuppositions of classical modernism which are:
(1) Modernism emphasizes the centrality and autonomy of man contra the premodern Christian model, which emphasized the centrality of God and His sovereignty. Modernism shifted attention to the human contra the authority of God, Church and Scriptures (see Kant’s definition of Enlightenment).
(2) Another major assumption was the centrality of nature. The focus shifted from God to man, so the center of activity shifted from the heavenly to earthly preoccupation. The drama of human life was to be acted out on the stage of nature.
(3) The growing interest in nature was the context of the origin and development of the scientific method. This method became the major means of gaining knowledge. This became the paradigm of the only method for investigating truth. This method was extended to the behavioral sciences and sought to employ statistical methods to reduce findings to a mathematically quantifiable form (see my work, Changing Paradigms of Mathematics and Their Impact on Philosophy and Theology). Science and mathematics become the standard for all knowledge claims.
(4) Fused with these concepts was the idea of nature as dynamic and as the sole and sufficient cause and explanation of what is and what transpires. The concept of evolution was used to explain human origins. Rather than being a product of God’s supernatural act of creation, socio-politics, art, literature and music have evolved. Man was understood to be from other living forms, to be a part of nature bound by natural laws.
(5) This period of scientific development generated a growing conception of determination or absolute causation within the whole of the universe. This led to the assumption of uniformitarianism or complete regularity or complete causation in nature (cf. extended to uniformitarianism in geology). Research that proceeded on these presuppositions proved fruitful in its results. This presupposition of this observable pattern in all parts of reality could be extended to those parts that could not be similarly observed, or had not yet been investigated (cf. Randell, Murphy, McClendon, “Distinguishing Modern and Postmodern Theologies” Modern Theology (April 1989), pp. 197-98).
(6) From determinism there was a growing tendency toward reductionism, the effort to explain everything by fewer or more basic factors. This psychology has tended to reduce to biology, biology to chemistry and chemistry to psychics. (cf. Schaeffer’s “Nothing Buttery” Murphy and McClendon, pp. 196-97); see my section of “Scientism”--Loss of Transcendence in Postmodern Culture).
(7) The modern period was grounded in foundationalism. This is the idea that knowledge must be justified by being based on certain indubitable or incorrigible beliefs. From Cartesian foundationalism the task of the philosopher was a search for such indubitability. For Descartes, the foundations of knowledge were seen as institutions of clear and distinct ideas (a’ la’ Euclidian Geometry; Descartes was a mathematician). For Hume, on the other hand, the source of knowledge was sense impressions. While Hume seemed to be something of a sceptic (when compared to rationalists such as Descartes), he, too, was searching for and believed he had found a sound basis for belief. The Logical Positivists, in their early days, were seeking for such a certainty in sense data (Murphy and McClendon, Ibid., pp. 192,193). (See my essays, “Narrative Displacement in Language Theory” and E. Nida’s “Theory of Tagmemics”
(8) Metaphysical realism was a fundamental assumption. Physical objects were believed to have a real existence apart from our perception of them. These objects which are apprehended by us through sense perception are therefore real (Dean, History Making History, pp. 6,7); and Murphy and McClendon, Ibid, pp. 192,193).
(9) The modern perspective affirmed the representative/expressive theory of language. Language has as its primary role representing that to which it refers. Language names objects and represents facts about these objects. The representational theory of language is inadequate in the area of God talk, ethics, aesthetics although the grammatical form of sentences may be seen to indicate representation. Here the role of language is actually to express the feeling or emotion of the seeker. Hence, the reference is not to the ostensive referent, but to inward states or intentions of the speaker (Dean, Ibid., pp. 192-96); Emotive Theory of Ethics, Situational Ethics, Life Boat Ethics, etc., derive from this issue).
(10) Fundamental to the modern mode is a correspondence theory of truth (cf. Schaeffer’s “True Truth” versus Relativism/Radical Contextualization). That is to say, those propositions are true that correctly reflect or correspond to things as they really are (cf. Timothy Reiss, The Discourse of Modernism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985) p. 44). This theory of truth was supplemented and often competed with by the pragmatic theory of truth, but even William James’ first definition of truth in his essay on pragmatism is essentially a correspondence view: “Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their ‘agreement’ as falsity means their disagreement with reality.” (William James, Pragmatism (NY: Meridian Books, 1955), p. 132; see by Critique of William James’ Epistemology). This suggests that the pragmatist view of truth was more a theory about testing fro truth than an attempt to delineate the nature of truth. This “modern world view” has gradually begun to erode. Slowly at first, and then with accelerating pace of late, the inadequacies of this understanding of reality has been revealed (cf. compare the works of Randell and Henry on the Making of The Postmodern Mind).
Narrative Displacement in The Sociology
of Knowledge Thesis
Our brief excursion into Ideas and World Views in conflict with consequences implores us to take note of two further major issues: (1) The Social Construction of Reality and (2) The Neurophysics Revolution: Shaping Forces of The Counter Culture. Then we must take account of forces which shaped our postmodern culture from the 1960s to the new millennium.
In our cafeteria of cultural opinions we must lay the ground works for constructive encounter by placing all conditions of our journey in the context of World View Analysis (cf. totally denied by cultural relativists and postmodern constructionists. But even these denials presuppose answers to World View questions). All cultural and language games engage the issues before us with these seven questions in mind: (1) Perceiving the world (ways of seeing); (2) Cognitive Processes (ways of thinking); (3) Linguistic Forms (ways of expressing); (4) Behavioral Patterns (ways of acting); (5) Social Structures (ways of interacting); (6) Media Influences (ways of channelling the message); and (7) Motivational Sources (ways of deciding)
(James W. Sires, Discipleship of The Mind: Learning to Love God in The Ways We Think (InterVarsity Press, 1990) my study outline of Sires’ Why Believe Anything? and Dr. J. Hesselgrave, Communicating Christ Cross Culturally (Zondervan, 1978).
Social Construction of Reality
Perhaps the most insidious form of irrationalism is The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis. This intellectual development is concerned with determining whether man’s participation in social
life has any influence on his knowledge, thought and culture, and, if it does, what is the nature and significance of its influence?
Even after Kant’s achievement synthesized Rationalism and Empiricism, the “Sociology of Knowledge” failed to gain from his advances. Marx is surely the father of the Sociology of Knowledge Thesis. In the development of this thesis we must note at least three attempts to characterize the basic attitudes of the Sociology of Knowledge: (1) The Naturalistic School which claimed that human beings were products of nature before they were creatures of society which are dominated by certain genetic drives with decisive consequences for emergent mentalities. Nietzsche ascribes to man a “will to power.” Villfredo Pareto’s work, Trattio di sociologia, is the most elaborate articulation of The Sociology of Knowledge. According to Pareto, men act first and think of reasons for their action only afterward (cf. here comes Freud’s theory of projection). (2) Perhaps the most ambitious presentation of this theory is P.A. Sorokin’s Social and Cultural Dynamics. His analysis impacts three categories of “reality”: (a) Ideational, beyond space and time; (b) Sensate, describes both here, now and beyond; (c) Sociology of Knowledge. His distinction between primary and secondary conditions are pursued in practices and theory. This third description has the most empirical justification.
Derivative problems: (1) How to identify the substructure of knowledge and its relationship to the superstructure. There are three clear schools of response to this problem: (2) the Positivist Hippolyte Taines expected the future of science of culture would be no less deterministic than the sociality of matter. To Scheler, et.al., thinking means participating in the eternal pre-existent ideas. Max Weber called this doctrine the doctrine of “elective affinity.” (3) A third theory argues in terms of Interdependence and appears regularly in terms of connection with Functionalism (see my essay, “Functionalism in Post Hermeneutics”; see also Nicholas Labkonvicq, Theory and Practice: A History of a Concept from Aristotle to Marx (University of Notre Dame, 1967)
The Sociology of Knowledge thesis claims to supplement, if not replace, all forms of classical epistemology. This entire focus diverges into at least three schools: (1) Effect of Social Factors in Thought (Pareto et.al. claims that only senses are reliable sources of knowledge. This split the universe into the social universe and scientific universes. The new scientific mode entails no “True Truth” value. The denigration of the social elements in human beings and hence of human knowledge is responded to by both Emile Durkheim and Karl Mannheim with the exact opposite conclusion who see the individual as the most direct source of truth.
Another group, including Max Weber and Max Scheler, considered that social influence on mental activity consists essentially in “giving direction.” The influence of Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl is crystal clear (see esp. Herbert Siegeberg’s, The Phenomenological Movement (2 vols. The Hague, 1960, vol. I, pp. 228-270). Now it should become clear that there are two cultures in postmodern confrontation, Rationalism and Irrationalism. The knowledge of nature (Positivism) and the knowledge of culture (Historicism) are clearly locked in mortal combat. The facts of nature do not change from epoch to epoch or culture to culture, but knowledge of culture is contingent, i.e., relative.
The central issue in any discussion of The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis” is--is there a necessary, logical connection and not merely a contingent or causal one, between the social perspective of a student of human affairs and its standard of competent social inquiry and in consequence of the influence of the special values to which he is committed because of his own social involvement is not eliminated. Does this suggestion escape Hegelian “Dialectic” and Marxian “historical relativism” There must be distinction between the origin of man’s ways and their “factual” validity. All species of The Sociology of Knowledge thesis challenges the universal adequacy of the thesis that “the genesis of a proposition to this truth is its justification (see Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (NY, 1959, pp. 271, 288, 292), and Kurt H. Wolff, 1946, “Sociology of Knowledge and Sociological Theory,” in “Symposium on Sociological Theory,” (ed. Llewellyn Gross: Evanston, IL IVP, 577).
“The Sociology of Knowledge does not establish the radical claim that there is no competent evidence to show that the principles employed in social inquiry for assessing the intellectual products are necessarily determined by the social perspective of the enquirer. The facts usually cited in support of this contention establishes at best only a contingent causal relation between man’s social commitments and his canons of cognitional validity . . . Are any claims regarding human affairs “objectively” valid? Is there an intrinsic impossibility of securing an “objective, i.e., value free and unbiased conclusion?” (Ernst Nagel, The Structure of Science: Problems in The Logic of Scientific Explanation (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1961), p.459-573; Adolf Grunbaum, “Historical Determinism, Social Activism and Prediction in the Social Sciences,” in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, vol. 7, 1956, pp. 236-240; see Werner Stark’s brilliant survey of “Sociology of Knowledge Thesis” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vols. 7,8 (pp. 475-478); my essay, “The Social Construction of Reality;” P. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in The Sociology of Knowledge (Anchor Books, pb. reprint); and Richard F. Hamilton’s critique of this thesis in Social Misconstruction of Reality (Yale, 1996).
THE DEATH OF TRANSCENDENCE: POSTMODERNISM
“The one essential condition of human existence is that man should always be able to bow down before something infinitely great. If men are deprived of the infinitely great they will not go on living and will die of despair. The Infinite and the Eternal are as essential for man as the little planet on which he dwells.” (Dostoevski in The Possessed)
“ ‘Aslan is Tash. Tash is Aslan.’ More than once these words, unexplained, appear in The Post-Christian Mind, almost as a recurring motto. What do they mean?
They come from an episode in C.S. Lewis’ final Narnia tale, The Last Battle, where Shift the Ape browbeats and bamboozles the beasts into equating Tash, the devilish deity who is one of Narnia’s enemies, with Aslan, the Christlike lion whom the Narnians love. Says Shift: ‘Tash is only another name for Aslan. . . . Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know who. . . Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.’
The name “Tashlan” is later invented to confirm the identity. But when Tash and Aslan appear, embodying ferocious cruelty and lordly love, respectively, it becomes plain that they are distinct--and as different as can be.
What Lewis’ story reflects is his view of the attempts of the liberal theologians of his day to assimilate the world’s religion and religiosities to each other. As in the twilight all cats are grey, so in the second half of the twentieth century--what Blamires terms the post-Christian era--many have thought all religions must be substantially the same, however different in their outward forms. The idea has been taken even further since Lewis’ lifetime.
Harry Blamires uses this motto in his writing not to emphasize the dream of a transcendent unity of religions, but to underscore the threat posed by a secularist culture that is subjectivizing, relativizing, fragmenting, destabilizing, decatergorizing, and decomposing processes, hurrying us down the road leading to total nihilism, where everything is everything and so is nothing.” (from the Foreword by J.I. Packer for the book by Harry Blamires, The Post-Christian Mind, Exposing Its Destructive Agenda (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1999)
“In a brilliant parable written over a hundred years ago, Friedrich Nietzsche saw it all. A culture cannot lose its philosophic center without the most serious of consequences, not just to the philosophy on which it was based but to the whole superstructure of culture and even each person’s notion of who he or she is. Everything changes. When God dies, both the substance and the value of everything else dies with it. The acknowledgement of the death of God is the beginning of postmodern wisdom. It is also the end of postmodern wisdom. For, in the final analysis, postmodernism is not “post” anything; it is the last move of the modern, the result of the modern taking its own commitments seriously and seeing that they fail to stand the test of analysis.” “. . . Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but for a naturalist he is wrong. For a naturalist it is the examined life that is not worth living. Now, over a hundred years after Nietzsche, the news of God’s death has finally reached “the ears of man.” The horizon defining the limits of our world has been wiped away. The center holding us in place has vanished. Our age, which more and more is coming to be called postmodern, finds itself aloof in a pluralism of perspectives, a plethora of philosophical possibilities, but with no dominant notion of where to go or how to get there. A near future of cultural anarchy seems inevitable.” (James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door, 3rd edition), (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 173)
“Whither is God,” he [the madman] cried.
“I shall tell you. We have killed him--
you and I. All of us are his murderers.
But how have we done this? How were we
able to drink up the sea? Who gave us
the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?:
...Are we not straying as through an
infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath
of empty space? ...Do we not smell
anything yet of God’s decomposition?
Gods too decompose. God is dead.
God remains dead. And we have killed
him. How shall we, the murderers of all
murderers, comfort ourselves? ...I come
too early,” he said then; “my time has not
come yet. This tremendous event is still
on its way, still wandering--it has not yet
reached the ears of man.”
(Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Madman”)
In order to understand and critique the influence of postmodern thought in the West at the present, we must take note of twelve radical changes in thought patterns:
(1) The first scientific revolution (cf. Galileo to Newton); (2) The Industrial Revolution; (3) The Hermeneutical Revolution; (4) The Linguistic Revolution; (5) The Historiographical Revolution; (6) The Biological Revolution; (7) The Philosophical Revolution; (8) The Psychological Revolution; (9) The Theological Revolution; (10) The Technological Revolution (cf. Megatrends toward the 21st century); (11) The Brain-Mind-Computer Revolution; (12) The Postmodern Revolution.
The combined cultural impact of these radical shifts in thought are the foundations of the fundamental claims of the postmodern movement. Change has become radical in nature. The speed with which change occurs will intensify as we go deeper into the 21st century. Change can come by exception. Our belief and behavior system remains intact but we allow for a limited range of anomalies or unexplained exceptions to our thought paradigms. Just what is a paradigm? According to Thomas Kuhn, “A paradigm is what a scientific community share, and, conversely, a scientific community consists of men who share a paradigm.” Kuhn’s thesis is that science progresses, not through evolutionary development, a gradual growth, but through a revolutionary displacement of one paradigm for another. Scientific revolution is a paradigm shift. Kuhn defines “paradigm” in two senses: as sociological and as exemplary past achievements. The sociological refers to the set of “group commitments,” to definition, belief, values, and exemplars or concrete problem solutions by which we learn the paradigm. Exemplary past achievements refer to paradigms as shared examples, i.e., “acquired similarity relations” which serve as reference points. Foundational to any paradigm, Kuhn insists, is “tacit knowledge and intuition,” but this is not merely individual or unanalyzable. An example of such knowledge is that “the world changes.” That there is such knowledge tends to be verified by its transmission by education, that it has been found more effective than anything else, and that it is subject to change both through education and through discovery of misfits with the simplistically put, and one if falsified followed by concession and conversion by the proponent of this theory to the other. (Cohen, Revolutions in Science, pp. 197-269; “I.B. Cohen, Eighteenth Century Origins of the Concept of Scientific Revolution,” Journal of The History of Ideas, vol. 37, 1976; A. Koyre, The Astronomical Revolution, “Copernicus and the Cosmic Overthrow;” Margaret Masterman, “The Nature of Paradigm,” in Lakatos and Musgrave’s Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge.) We must now proceed to the soil, seed and roots of Postmodern thought.
I. The Roots of the Postmodern Revolution: What are the spiritual, cultural and intellectual conditions that makes postmodern thought a viable option in the West and at this particular period of history? The most significant work which traces the origin and development of contemporary postmodern themes is Carl A. Raschke’s The Interruption of Eternity: Modern Gnosticism and The Origins of The New Religious Consciousness (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1980). This work is not just a description of postmodern phenomena, but rather a probe into the historical origins of the so-called “new religious consciousness” (see also C. Glock and R. Bellah, The Religious Consciousness (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976) and the constant flow of articles in the journal, Scientific Study of Religion). For our immediate purposes we must forego all but the most modest sketch of the contributing historical factors. The ‘new religions’ and their psychotherapeutic surrogates are the final cresting waves of forces that have been at work in Western intellectual culture for the past two hundred years (c. 18th century pantheism, i.e., Romanticism. Note the emphasis on self-realization in much contemporary counseling (see E.B. Holifield, A History of Pastoral Care in America: From Salvation to Self-Realization (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983).
The seeds of new religious consciousness were planted in the soil of classical Gnosticism and have taken root in Western culture only after the transformational power of both Christianity and Science have been diluted, denied, and often all but destroyed, as high-tech rolls on toward 21st century megatrends (cf. note the acknowledge crisis in contemporary Evangelicalism, May 1989, Trinity Conference. Read the Evangelical Affirmation 1989 and it will be readily apparent that there is crisis in all the seats of power in the Evangelical world. Note also the response of Manila 1989 and Counter Challenge of 1992, International Conference of Non-Christian Religions; C.A. Raschke’s earlier warning in his “The Asian Invasion of American Religion: Creative Innovation or a New Gnosticism” (American Academy of Religion, 1973).
A brief word of explanation is essential for the use of Gnosticism in a broader scope that was understood in referring to classical illuminist cults of the Graeco-Roman world. The Gnostics were the chief competitors of the early Church. Contemporary Gnostics (New Age) encompass key themes found in the literature of the German/English Romantics, Nietzsche, Jung, Freud, et.al. Classical, modern and contemporary Gnosticism seek salvation through ‘esoteric knowledge’ within the sphere of the timeless. Salvation is available beyond the plane of the temporal, eternity. The Christian quest for ‘eternity’ is God ordered. The contemporary search for eternity is within the breast of every man. The sense of eternity is etched in the myths and symbols of the world’s religions.
Kant broke ground for the seeds of Gnosticism to take root as his analysis of temporal succession not as a feature of the external world but as a reflex of human consciousness itself. Thus the open door inviting Eastern pantheism is progressively opened in the West. His contention that the structure of time-consciousness remains inalterable and uniform among all cultures is in error. But his discovery that the time sense consists in the bedrock on which man’s knowledge of himself and his surroundings is built has far reaching implications. Man’s time sense is precisely what gives rise to what we denote as ‘consciousness’ (contra all evolutionary theories of the origin of “consciousness” which is fundamental to New Age presuppositions). Building on Kant’s insight, Hegel observed in his Phenomenology of the Mind that “consciousness is precisely that ability of man to separate subject from object, perceiver from the perceived, self from the world.”
(A) Nature of time and human perspective versus animal seeing, (e.g. a fly on the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel). If the above remarks concerning time are defensible, the entire postmodern consciousness, Hinduism, Pantheism collapses. All postmodern/Asian religions hold that time is an illusion. Man’s time sense engenders a conception of periodicity (Ecclesiastes 3.1-9), which is essential if historical events are to be significant and ultimately purposeful. (See T.S. Eliot’s examination of time life--“Burnt Norton” represents a motionless point at the hub of the revolving wheel of life--“At the still point of the turning world, . . .” The ‘eternal now’ of the mystical vision. M. Eliade’s “timeless” abode of the gods. Psychedelic drugs in particular, distort the time experience. Events seem chaotic and directionless, e.g. LSD experience/ T. Leary and A. Watt’s pantheism send users on a journey into madness, the yearning for “alternative realities”; note that Paul declares “redeem the time.”)
The symbol of the eternal in many non-western societies perform three functions: (1) Gives structure and direction to the temporal flow (see Hawkings’ and Toulmin’s studies on ‘Time’); (2) The immanence of the eternal order of life symbolized in the myths of the gods’ great deeds - “once upon a time;” (3) The symbol of the eternal is an escape from the temporal. (See the following works on Gnosticism and Time (J.F. Orme, Time, Experience and Behavior (NY: American Elsevier, 1969); Jean Praget, The Child’s Conception of Time (London: Routledge/Kegan Paul, 1969); Henri-Charles Puech, “Gnosis and Time,” in Man and Time (Eranos Year Book, Bolingen Series xxx.3 (NY: Pantheon Books, 1957); R.M. Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (NY: Harper and Row, 1966); Hans Jones, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963).
(B) If time is unreal, then history is unreal, and historical purpose/progress is an illusion. The consequences of the denial of the reality of time entails the rejection of finite creation (Time/Space), thus, the influence of Eastern cosmic humanism in the West. Compare J.B. Bury, The Idea of Progress and M. Elide, The Myth of The Eternal Return; cf. 19th century historicism, relativism, sociology of knowledge, radical contextualism grounded in evolutionary naturalism. Contemporary postmodern gnosticism is just as opposed to historical events as bearers of our salvation (cross/resurrection, etc.) as was classical Hellenistic and Judaic Gnosticism. History is thus a place of terror where only our shamanism can free us from our temporal bondage (cf. compare Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism).
(C) If ‘time and history’ are unreal, then historical/psychological evil, suffering and death are unreal. If this trinity is unreal, then the Christian Gospel of salvation from sin and death is nonsense, i.e., illusions caused by dependence on our senses. Christianity defeated all species of Gnosticism by the fourth century A.D.
(D) By the Middle Ages, Western culture experienced rebirth of pantheistic gnosticism. Gnostic themes were carried into Renaissance Europe by Ficino/Campanella and especially Giordiano Bruno (see Francis Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (Routledge, 1972); and G. Bruno and The Hermetic Tradition (NY: Random, 1969). Bruno rejected the “closed” universe of the middle ages, in which everything was ordered by creation and providence. He opted instead for a model of an infinite cosmos. Bruno’s view of god and the cosmos is parallel with classical Gnosticism and contemporary NA. (cf. C. Becker, The Heavenly City of The Eighteenth Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932); Roy Pascal, The German Strum und Drang (NY: Philosophical Library, 1953); Goethe, Egmont and Faust; the German Romantics’ discovery of the unconscious is treated in detail in F. Lion, Romantik als Deutschers Schicksal (Stuttgart: 1963); L.R. Furst, Romanticism in Perspective (NY: Humanities Press, 1970); see synopsis of Bohme’s thought in R. Kroner, Speculation and Revelation in Modern Philosophy (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961); and A. Gode von Aesch, Natural Science in German Romanticism (NY: Columbia University Press, 1941); compare with Capra and Davies and Bohm, all postmodern scientists.)
(E) Ironically, the Gnostic insurrection against time, history, and progress attained its present momentum within the very forces that created the new view of historical relativism (Historicism) and the belief in evolutionary progression toward the betterment of humanity. In the context of these 18th/19th century developments, there was an “Eruption of Feeling.” Against rationality, classicism, and moralism the seeds of a gentle and introspective kind of religion arose in the form of German Pietism and English Perfectionism (Wesleyan Revivalism). Men soon began to rhapsodize on benevolent emotion (‘aesthetic’- ‘feeling’- Hamann, Lessing, Herder, Schleiermacher, etal in Classical Liberalism). The ‘cult of feeling’ had its beginnings in the Germany of the 1770’s (compare French and American Revolutions and the context of the Restoration Heritage). German Romanticism secured the Gnostic option of “occultism” instead of political reform. The passionate wish to intensify every life experience is announced by Faust to the devil Mephistopheles, “I vow myself to frenzy, agonies of gratification, . . . I want to feel down to my sense’s core.” No man digests this ancient sourdough. This whole, believes the likes of us, for deity alone was made.” (Faust, (Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, p. 63); also Schiller’s poem on Genius). Here both pantheism and the deification of man are clearly set forth. For this age Herder announced that “feeling is everything.” Man falls under the spell of imagination (straight from the Romantics, Blake et al, to contemporary postmodern themes in educational and personality theories; note Blake’s influence among the Drug Culture of the 60’s and 70’s. Blake’s narcissism is evident in his avowal that “mental things alone are real.” This expression of Hegelian idealism presently finds a thousand postmodern voices. The value of imagination was preserved in the adulation of the Volk (Zeitgeist) in all forms of teutonic fanaticism and culture (cf. Novalis, a Berlin Romantic influenced Schleiermacher in his redefinition of revelation, inspiration, etc.) The rift between the Romantic ideal and the prospect of its realization bred disenchantment with the “will to power.” Man became the Promethean Rebel. This rebel would be the source of cultural revolution in the 18th/19th centuries throughout all western civilization.
Out of the ashes of the defeat of Romanticism unfounded optimism arose the Phoenix of ‘The Apotheosis of the Will.’ Despair and pessimism were the twins born to the illegitimate wedding of feeling and the industrial revolution through science and technology (see Husserl’s Crisis in European Science).
(F) In another place, Carlyle depicts the Gnostic luminary as helmsman of history in On Heroes and Hero Worship (c. Schopenhauer’s ‘The Will to Live’ - 1788 to 1860). Here we see Nietzsche’s The Will to Power come to adulthood and to spend its last days in the context of Hitler’s Nazism. We see the visible roots of earlier seeds of destruction. We are on the brink of our postmodern experience, the decades from 1950 to 1990.
(G) This world was unbearable, so many sought another world in the flowering of occultism. Nietzsche’s ‘Ubermensch’ and ‘transvaluation of values’ will bring a spiritual plague on Christian culture. Western man began to turn Eastward and inward.
(H) 19th century occultism and irrationality pronounced God and man incommensurable; Christianity had erected a wall between conscious and unconscious sectors of the personality (cf. the influence of Jung and Freud on postmodernism, esp. Jung’s The Seven Sermons of The Dead. In the text, Jung descanted on “The god whom ye knew not, for mankind forgot it,” the god by the name of Abraxas. In Jung’s own words “Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act.” Jung’s god is a magically powerful Gnostic divinity. Jung is the source of ‘depth psychology’ - compare the influence of Jung on Hesse’s novels, esp. Steppenwolf, which contains pantheistic themes and world view.
(I) The transcendental mind cure comes to America by the 19th century. The Gnostic filament in American thought winds out of the collapse of Puritan culture at the end of the 18th century. The Transcendentalists substituted nature instead of God as the wellspring of divine inspiration (see Perry Miller, ed., The Transcendentalists: An Anthology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950); esp. W.E. Channing’s ‘Likeness to God;’ W. Whitman, “Democratic Vistas,’ The Works of Walt Whitman (NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1968) vol. 2; Perry Miller, “From Edwards to Emerson” New England Quarterly, 13 (1940); R.W. Emerson, Works (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, Vol. I, 1876; his Journals, 1904-1914;J.S. Judah, The History and Philosophy of The Metaphysical Movements in America (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967); Leslie Bullock, “Theosophical Cults, The Bible and Modern Religions,” Interpretation (April 1958); note the relationship of the cult explosion in the 19th century and the postmodern revolution in the 20th century.
(J) From the influence on William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience (NY: New American Library, 1958) to the postmodern revolution of the 1950’s following the Gnostic flight by mind-magic into eternity is spurred by an unsettling realization of the loss of worldly place. The present impotence of naturalistic humanism is clear beyond all doubt, but the new Gnosticism still insists on the “tremendous potential of individual consciousness” as expressed in all forms transactional analysis and every species of the Human Potential Movement, including the Death and Dying Movement calls forth all human efforts to deny the ultimate reality of sin and evil, distinction between God and nature, truth and error, life and death and ultimate goal of time-history to be affirmed at the return of The Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The postmodern era is the church’s pay day for a lack of awareness of the forces at work in God’s creation, seeking to overcome the ultimate purpose of God as absolute origin and absolute consummation of all finite reality.
There needs to be an immediate re-mapping of Christian Education in order to accept the challenges of postmodern thought.
Here are eleven challenges to engage the twenty-first century:
(1) The rejection of Foundationalism must be taken seriously. Postmodern thought is based upon this rejection (cf. Richard Rorty, “A Reply to Dreyfus and Taylor” in The Review of Metaphysics, 34 (198); esp. p. 39). Einstein’s theory of relativity was formulated out of the paradox of addition of velocities. Velocities should be cumulative, so that the speed of closure of light from a star moving toward the observer should be greater than that of the light from a star revolving away, yet this proved not to be the case. Einstein proposed that we reject the underlying assumption of the absoluteness of time and space. Instead, he suggested that time and space are relative. This set of assumptions was validated by more nearly fitting the empirical data than by some sort of absolute justification (cf. James B. Miller, “The Emerging Postmodern World,” in Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World, ed. F.C. Burnham (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989, p. 9). William James pointed out that two men arguing about whether the spirals seen around the moon were not differing about a matter of fact, but about the interpretation thereof (c. Wm. James, Pragmatism, pp. 41,42). Truly foundations terms will have to be considerably reduced. Rather than being substantive in nature, they may turn out to be more methodological. They may be logical or linguistic assumptions that we cannot deny without assuming them in the process, or without resorting to sheer authoritarianism or dogmatism. Perhaps our approach must be more presuppositional than classical foundationalism. We will need to test these presuppositions, trace out the implications of these presuppositions, and show how these assumptions and the systems that derive from them are more consistent and coherent and fit the broad sweep of experience more adequately than do competitive views. The exhibition of the truth of a position will be less likely a deductive demonstration from first principles, than an inductive fit of the facts.
(2) Postmodern thought will examine closely what language signs signify. The classical modern view has been that they correspond to objects--not necessarily physical objects, but objects inherent within the natural world of experience. The postmodern view has tended to identify the objects of words as other words, rather than non-verbal referents. This hermeneutical paradigm must be challenged if classical Christianity is to sustain both its truth and relevancy claims. The referent of our language is the concept (eg. chair-chairness/differing colors and materials(, cf. language acquisition, eg. das Fenster = the window, the car, the apple, etc. See my essay, “The Changing Concepts of Subject/Object Epistemology). Is this view merely an uncritical return to Platonism? What we must not deny is the concept of “verbal inspiration” in favor of some sort of dynamic or conceptual view. The real locus of biblical revelation, however, is the ideas or concept that the written words convey. Abraham in Genesis 22 was commanded by God to offer his son. However, Genesis 22 is teaching us more than the historical fact; it also teaches us about the holiness of God, his expectation of obedience from his followers and his faithfulness. This makes the message cross-cultural.
(3) Postmodern thought will need to take into account the fact of meaningfulness (as contrasted with meaning) and significance (as contrasted with non significance) is the main issue today for many, at least, of Generation X. For many people, the fundamental question is not “Is it time?”, but rather, “Does it matter?” (cf. Joe Holland, “The Postmodern Paradigm and Contemporary Catholicism” in Varieties of Postmodern Theology, ed. David R. Griffen, Wm. A. Beardalee and Joe Holland (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), pp. 11,12). Whether this ought to be the question is not the issue. The point is that hermeneutics must address the question of the relevance of a given truth in individuals and groups. Perhaps the ultimate question is--Why apart from the question of truthfulness is relevance important? Perhaps we have tended to equate meaning and significance with meaning then and meaning now, but such really should not be the case (E.D. Hirsh, Validity in Interpretation (NY: Yale University Press, 1967), p. 8). There is both past meaning and meaningfulness and present meaning and meaningfulness!!!
(4) The meaning of biblical propositions will not always be in terms of showing the meaning of each individual statement. Rather, it may be a matter of showing the meaning and meaningfulness of the scheme as a whole and then showing the relationship of individual parts to the whole (cf. my suggestion in Theology of Promise: Christ is “de mitte” and the source of ordering the parts, i.e., variety of literary genre). Is there a biblical message or are there biblical messages conflicting or complimentary? Two central concerns are exposed in this thesis: (a) It has often been thought that the meaning of language was to be found in the meaning of individual units or words. Logical Positivism modified this by contending that the proposition, rather than the word, was the basic unity of meaning. In narrative literary interpretation, meaning is extended to the whole story. The pertinence of the story as a whole can be shown in ways in which individual segments of it cannot. (b) Another proposal is found in the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg. Pannenberg has developed a concept of revelation in which the whole of history is revelation, not merely certain elements or motifs within it. Yet the meaning of history is seen at the end, not at the beginning or some intermediate point (cf. Creation/Incarnation - see W. Pannenberg, “Dogmaticness on the Doctrine of Revelation” in Revelation As History, ed. W. Pannenberg (NY: MacMillan, 1968), pp. 131,135). Without adherence to the theological paradigm of Pannenberg, it does suggest that the meaning of any story depends on its outcome, and its content of a message requires the conclusion.
(5) The meaningfulness of biblical texts will be demonstrated by showing their relationship to fundamental human needs (cf. God’s determined needs not necessarily postmodern Generation X’s felt needs). What are the needs? These needs are such things as the need to have significance as an individual. The depersonalizing impact of corporations, governmental agencies and consumer image in industry plays havoc with individual value. Man has become a commodity to be marketed (cf. marketing Christ and the Church based on needs satisfaction, i.e., our pragmatic/therapeutic syndrome in the mega Church mode (e.g. Matthew 10.19,30; John 10.3, need for forgiveness, hope, return of Christ, resurrection, etc.). Many texts amy not have a specific meaning. Often texts have meaning only in a system as a whole, i.e., meaningfulness by virtue of their coherent participation in the whole (cf. unifying parts and the whole via Theology of Promise).
(6) We will need to employ phenomenology as a method for identifying these dimensions of human experience to which the biblical material can be related. It is here that one hermeneutic will be postmodern rather than merely pre-modern, for it is an aim to take the experience of the postmodern, secular person as a point of contact in engaging the gospel. Langon Gilkey’s work, Naming The Whirlwind: Renewal of God Language (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969). (pp. 305-413). The modern secular person does not and cannot live entirely within the categories of his own system. Four dimensions of our experienced ultimacy are: (1) Source of what we are; (2) Experience of our limits; (3) Source and basis of our values; (4) and the element of mystery (cf. see my essays, “Worship in the Secular City” and “The Awe of God in Our Awful World” (Isaiah 6). The Gospel of Christ addresses each of these dimensions.
(7) Non-linear physics (Chaos Physics) has recently produced the breakdown of the conception of the universe as a self-sustaining, fixed, law-bound entity. The idea of absolute determinism has been affected by such factors as Heisenberg’s “principle of indeterminacy” and the “Big Bang” (see David R. Griffen, God and Religion in The Postmodern World: Essays in Postmodern Theology (Albany: State University of New York, 1989), p. 36; Diogenes Allen, “Christian Values in A Postmodern Context” in Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), p. 21). Taking seriously belief in an omnipotent, transcendent God, this approach held that he was capable of doing anything, nature notwithstanding (cf. see esp. John Polkinshorne, Science and Creation (S.P.C.K., 1989), p. 51-63). The recent developments in the physical sciences make the Christian concept that God has supernaturally caused all that has occurred, including the production of the Bible (cf. Allen, “Christian Values in a Post Christian Context,” p. 22).
(8) A fundamental claim of the modern era was the value of the individual (cf. Joe Holland, “The Cultural Vision of Pope John Paul II: Toward A Conservative/Liberal Postmodern Dialogue” in Varieties of Postmodern Theology, p. 120; Murphy/McClendon, “Distinguishing Modern and Postmodern Theologies,” pp. 196-198). The era of radical individualism (Deconstructionism) where each person formulates his or her own interpretation of any text is now passe’. Private interpretation expresses literary and cultural fragmentation in the midst of the paradigm explosion of information. A private world is insanity! (e.g. Pannenberg’s circle model of graduate students at Heidelberg in the early 1960’s, who collaborated in the development of a doctrine of revelation; also special interest groups in American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature; Evangelical symposium on Inspiration, Secularism, Hermeneutics in our Postmodern Culture, etc.).
(9) There needs to be a genuinely philosophical basis to the hermeneutical work before us (see my essays, “Search for Philosophical and Psychological Foundations--Postmodern Hermeneutics”; and “Logic and Epistemology in Postmodern Hermeneutical Debate”). A given hermeneutic will need to be understood as a part of a much larger system of thought and that system will have to be carefully evaluated. This means that postmodern hermeneutics will need to be more broadly prepared than in the past. Certainly the discipline of linguistics must inform what is done. An example would be the Biblical theology movement and the devastating criticism leveled at it by James Barr (cf. Semantics of Biblical Language (NY: Oxford Press, 1961). It was drawing conclusions that rested on unsustainable concepts of language. Any form of postmodern hermeneutics will require a better knowledge of linguistics (cf. esp. Nida and Pike; and my paper “Pike’s Theory of Tagmemics;” the magistral works of Anthony Thiselton, The Two Horizons and New Horizons, and my work, “Thiselton in The Postmodern Hermeneutical Maze”).
(10) The Postmodern hermeneutical challenge calls for a “meta-hermeneutics,” i.e., a foundation (vs. Loss of Transcendence in Our Postmodern Culture) for hermeneutical discussion classical hermeneutics are defective in light of our postmodern challenges. Whether there can even be rules for interpretation, whether truth is primarily subjective or objective, where meaning resides there are big issues that need immediate scrutiny. Since there can be no hermeneutical order without foundation, the loss of transcendence in our postmodern culture is our premium challenge.
(11) Hermeneutics will need to give more attention to global or multi-cultural issues. This will entail alternative worldview analysis and critique. The modern mode of hermeneutics made an endeavor to find universal conceptions. This hermeneutical mode presupposed a universal way to “see the world.” Contact with a variety of cultures has shown us that there are actually different perceptions of reality. There is a different way of grasping or integrating or conceptualizing reality in such basic matters as space and time (cf. Ernst Cassier, An Essay On Man (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1944), pp. 62-79). In a postmodern world, a world in which Christianity is growing faster in the third world than it is in Europe and North America, perhaps the full meaning of the biblical text is not white, middle class, male interpretation. A truly postmodern hermeneutic will need to be fully global and fully multicultural if the world Evangelism/Mission mandate is to be effectively carried on.
As we enter the postmodern unchartered waters we must remember that we must carry our new lexicon. “We are no longer in Kansas, Toto.” We are living “East of Eden” and our Narnian lexicon is not adequate for cross cultural communication. We are strangers in Orwell’s 1984 and a Brave New World. We must learn a new vocabulary of neologisms in order to cross culturally communicate in our diverse postmodern era.
The prophetic voice of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) was ahead of its time when the modern movements to intellectual stupidity were taking shape (he stated almost 70 years ago our present dilemma--truth is error/peace is war/freedom is slavery). Huxley was not concerned in his book with crude forms of intellectual suicide. He declared that America’s threat to intelligence and human creativity of one culture would not come from “Big Brother” or the Gulags and concentration camps. Another prophetic voice, Marshall McLuhan stated, “Indifference to the cosmic...fosters intense concentration on minute segments and specialists’ tasks” and “the specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.”
“When a culture becomes overloaded with a picture; when logic and rhetoric lose their binding authority; when historical truth becomes irrelevant; when the spoken or written word is distrusted or makes demands on our attention that we are incapable of giving, when our politics, history, education, religion, public information and commerce are expressed largely in visual imagery rather than words, their culture is in serious jeopardy.” (Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections (Vintage Books, p. 173
Perhaps the real gulf is not so much positional as linguistic. We need to remember that plainly expressed language is out of the question. Postmodern language requires that one uses play parody and indeterminacy as critical techniques to point this out. Postmodern speak might say, “We should listen to the views of people outside of Western society in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us.” This is honest but dull. Take the word “views.” Postmodern speak would change that to “voices,” or better, “vocalities,” or even better, “multivocalities;” Add an adjective like “intertextual” and you are covered. “People outside” is also too plain. How about “postcolonial others?” To speak postmodern properly one must master a bevy of biases besides the familiar racism, sexism, ageism, etc. For example, phallogocentricism (male-centered combined with rationalistic forms of binary logic). Finally, “affected us” sounds like plaid pajamas. Use more obscure verbs and phrases, like “mediate our identities.” So, a final statement should say, “We should listen to the intertextual, multivocalities of postcolonial others outside of Western culture in order to learn about the phallogocentric biases that mediate or identifies all “isms” (the phonemes) are clues to world views (e.g. related endings such as itis, tivity, ation, and tricity).
Postman is not attacking our technological entertainment as characteristic producers of culture. There is no mountaintop from which we can return. There are two ways the spirit of culture can be degraded; (1) The Orwellian world becomes a pristine art and (2) Huxleyian culture becomes burlesque. Huxley teaches us that in the age of technological advance spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling countenance than from one whose face exudes suspicion and hate. Orwell’s prophecy, Big Brother, does not watch us by his choice, we watch him by our choice.
When a culture becomes distracted by the trivial, when political and social life are redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when public conversation becomes a form of baby talk, when a people become in short, an audience (cf. Seeker Friendly audiences and resurgent pragmatism, the Church and culture at large) and their public business a vaudeville act, then Huxley argued a nation finds itself at risk and cultural death is a close possibility.
Postmodernism has been the buzzword in academics for the last two decades. Books, journal articles, conference themes and university courses have resounded to the debate about postmodernism that focus on the uniqueness of our times, where computerization, the global economy and the media have irrevocably transformed all forms of social engagements. For guides through postmodern thought, see Gene E. Veith, Postmodern Times (Crossway Books, 1994, pb.); Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There A Meaning in This Text? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998 - this is primarily a response to Stanley Fish’s deconstructionism (see his work, Is There A Text In This Class? (Camridge: Harvard University Press, 1980); for postmodern anti-science see the valuable work of Roger Trigg, Rationality and Science (Can Science Explain Everything? (Oxford/Cambridge: Blackwell, 1993).
Dr. J.D. Strauss, Emeritus, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL