POSTMODERN PLURALISM:  BEYOND MERE DIVERSITY

 

Definition:

 

1.  Cultural pluralism

2.  Ideological pluralism

3.  Intellectual pluralism

4.  Religious pluralism

 

Three kinds of Phenomena:  (See Carson, Anderson and Newbigin on Pluralism -note bibliography)

 

1.  Empirical pluralism

2.  Cherished pluralism

3.  Philosophical/Hermeneutical pluralism

 

A.  Empirical Pluralism:  This expresses the growing diversity in our culture and multiculturalism.  This plurality is a measurable fact. "Pluralism is one of the many possible evaluations of that fact."  (William Schweiker and Per M. Anderson, editors.  "Christianity in The Wider Context--Demands and Transformations" in Worldviews and Warrants:  Plurality and Authority in Theology (NY; University Press of America, 1989), p. 2).

 

1.  The U.S. is the largest Jewish, Irish and Swedish nation in the world.

2.  It is the second largest black nation.

3.  Soon it will be the third largest Hispanic nation.

4.  It has radically diverse smaller ethnic and racial communities.

5.  Diverse demographic statistics in American social fabric (cf. Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990; Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the U.S. and Canada (Eerdmans, 1992); and George Galiup, Jr. and Jim Castelli, "The People's Religion" in American Faith in the 90's (NY: MacMillan, 1989).

6.  WASPs will be a minority by (ca. 47?) by the year 2000 (Barna).

7.  There is a growing number of "fringe" groups.

8.  Pressures of secularization coexist with the marginalization of Christianity.

9.  Private decisions have replaced loyalty to denominational structures and inherited doctrinal bastions (see esp. Russell Chandler's Racing Toward 2001; The Forces Shaping America's Religious Future (Zondervan, 1992).

10.  Empirical pluralism cannot be seriously denied.

 

B.  Cherished Pluralism:  This dimension of Pluralism entails approval or conscious commitment.  Leslie Newbigin rightly says that pluralism is commonplace ii} the secular city—"not merely a society which is in fact plural in the variety of cultures, religions and lifestyles which it embraces, but pluralist in the sense that this pluralism is celebrated as things to be approved and cherished."  (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Eerdmans, 1989), p. 1).

 

That this is not a universally held value is precisely what generates "cultural wars" to use Hunter's expression (James D. Hunter, Cultural Wars: The Struggle to Define America (NY: Basic Books, 1992; see for critique, John D. Woodbridge, "Cultural War Casualties," Christianity Today 39/3/Mar 6, 1995/20-26.  The Media and the intellectuals of the West cherish

pluralism. The consequences are devastating on both society and the Church.

 

C. Philosophical and Hermeneutical Pluralism: "This form of pluralism entails that any particular ideology or religious claim is intrinsically superior to another is necessarily wrong, i.e., politically incorrect. The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth." This philosophy derives from Kant's First Critique and the 19th/20th century development in mathematics, logic, philosophy, theology and hermeneutics. The new hermeneutic generated the stepchild, deconstructionism. These developments produced postmodernism and multiculturalism (for a brief tracing of the issues from Modernism to Postmodernism see Thomas Finger, "Modernity/ Postmodernity--What in the World Are They?" Transformation 10/4 (Oct/Dec 1993); 20-26; David Tracy, "Theology and the Many Faces of Postmodernity," Theology Today 51 (1994): 105f.

 

The essence of postmodernism is its denial of the existence of True Truth. If all interpretation is culturally conditioned, reason itself may be nothing more than a tool of domination (see Thomas Finger above). If Truth itself is claimed, you betray an old fashioned bigotry, your enslavement to an eclipsed modernity. You have failed to recognize the subjectivity of all interpretation, the significance of the "turn to the subject." The limits of this position is "self evident," but its only alternative is the Judaeo Christian position which is not politically correct.

 

Modernism held that ultimately knowledge would revolutionize the world, squeeze God to the periphery or abandon him to his own devices, and build an edifice of glorious knowledge to the great god science. But this stance has been abandoned in postmodernism. Deconstructionism has been most vociferous in denouncing the modernist vision. They hold that language and meaning are socially constructed, which is tantamount to saying it is arbitrarily constructed. Its meaning is grounded neither in "reality" nor in texts, per se. Texts will invariably be interpreted against the background of the interpreter's social "home" and the historical conditioning of the language itself.

 

Philosophical pluralism is the approach to cultural diversity that is supported by and supports, postmodernity. Our Biblically based Christian faith cannot accept either postmodern nor multicultural perspectives, while both perspectives have much to contribute to our multicultural discussion.

 

D. Cultural Consequences of Philosophical Pluralism (for conflict between the intellectual elite and mass men see John Carey, The Intellectual and The Masses; Pride and Prejudice Among The Literary Intelligentsia—1880 to 1939 (NY; St. Martins Press, 1992). Unlike classical liberalism, which took two or three generations to work its way down from the seminaries and the universities to the ordinary person in the pew, postmodern pluralism has made its way down to the person in the street in about half a generation. Stephen Carter traces, what he calls a "culture of disbelief" (S. L. Carter, The Culture of  Disbelief; How American Law and Politics Trivializes Religious Devotion (NY: Basic Books, 1993).

This demise of Christian influence is expressed in Robert Bellah's Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post Traditionalist World (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970).  Bellah popularized Jean Jacques Rousseau's expression "civil religion."  Our social maze is expressed in Barna's critique.  He asserts that which 74% of Americans strongly agree that "There is only one true God who is holy and perfect, and who created the world and rules it today."  Fully 64% strongly agree or agree somewhat with the assertion that "there is no such thing as absolute truth."  (George Barna, What Americans Believe: An Annual Survey of Values and Religious Views (Ventura; Regal Books, 1991); also see the classic work of M. J. Alder, How To  Read A Book (NY; Simon and Schuster, 1940).

 

One of the consequences of this situation is that media shapes the moral behavior of millions of Americans.  There is no basis for moral consensus left in Western countries.  Talk shows set the moral agenda of masses of Americans.  We read in H. T. Engelhardt, Jr., Bioethics and Secular Humanism: The Search for A Common Morality (London: SCM) that "all that remains to ground a general secular morality. . . is the possible bond of mutual respect among persons."  It is not difficult to demonstrate the appalling instability of so fragile a basis.

 

1.  Philosophical Pluralism influences the reading of history (Postmodern denial of the availability of authorial intentionality).

2.  Philosophical Pluralism is also expressed in new forms of religious pluralism. All religions are saying the same thing.  The roots of this phenomena were planted in the words of Hegel and Feuerbach and find full fruition in a postmodern relativistic pluralism. (Leonard J. Sweet, "The Modernization of Protestant Religion in America," in Alternative Landscapes:

Christianity in America, 1935-1985, eds. D.W. Lotz, D.W. Schriver, Jr. and J.F. Wilson, (Eerdmans, 1989), PP. 19-41).

 

The demise of True Truth in postmodernism entails at least 3 responses:

 

(1) Radical religious pluralism. This stance holds that no religion can advance any legitimate claim to superiority over any other religion.

(2) Inclusivism. This stance affirms the truth of fundamental Christian claims; nevertheless insists that God has revealed himself, even in saving ways in other religions. Salvation itself is available in other religions.  (See S. M. Hein, Is Christ The Only Way?  Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1985), p. 111-114; R. Panikkas, The Intrareligious Dialogue (NY; Paulist Press, 1978), p. xviii).  Such a position can be reasonably adopted only when the truth claims of the respective religions have been relativized or abandoned or reinterpreted.

(3) Exclusivism.  This position teaches that the central claims of Biblically faithful Christianity are true. This view entails a specific view of Jesus, Bible and how salvation is achieved.  (Compare with John Hick, Problems of Religious Pluralism (NY: MacMillan, 1985), p. 99; and his "Pluralism and Its Theological Implications," in The Myth of Christian Uniqueness (Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 1987), pp. 37-50).

 

The resurgence of Christianity in our postmodern world is prima facie evidence against the prediction of the demise of Christianity and with it its supposed foundation of ignorance, superstition, magic and myth.  (The impact of religious pluralism extends to all denominations including the Roman Catholic Church (see P. Berry, A. Wernack, eds. Shadows of The Spirit: Postmodernism and Religion) London: Routledge, 1993); and Chester Gilles, Pluralism: A New Paradigm for Theology (Eerdmans, 1993).

 

The documents of the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions clearly exposes two features:

 

(1) Mutually contradictory religions, yet under pressure to avoid saying anyone else is mistaken.

 

(2) The delegates emphasize the call for truthfulness and tolerance regarding global ecology, resulting in "global ethics." The document contains little theology, any unbeliever could agree with the decisions. The peace-fostering and earth friendly document invites "all men and women, whether religious or not, to do the same." (any Theravada and many Mahayama Buddhists and Jain participants, who are explicitly atheistic - participated. Daniel Taylor's The Myth of Certainty (Zondervan, 1992) exposes the extent of postmodern influence even among evangelicals. He asserts that the pursuit of certainty and any pretension to omniscience is idolatry. Taylor must and does retreat to a final fideism, i.e., faith is its own defense!! It is a Christian response to philosophical pluralism.

 

(3) Under the impact of radical hermeneutics and of deconstructionism the nature of Tolerance has changed (see esp. D.A. Carson, "Christian Witness in an Age of Pluralism." in God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F.A. Henry, ed. D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge, (Eerdman, 1993), P. 38-39).

 

Postmodern discussion of Tolerance has focused less on the merits of competing ideas and less civility. Tolerance means avoidance of criticizing the opinions of others (outside the "plausibility structure" - Peter Berger's term). All ideas have equal status in the universe of discourse. There is no "True Truth". There is only Truth within Plausibility Structures!! Is this statement true across plausibility structures? It is self destructive!! Exclusivism is the one religious idea that cannot be tolerated. Correspondingly, proselytism is a dirty word. Philosophical pluralism has set in place "rules" or playing the game of religion - rules that transcend any single religion. In the secular market these three forms of pluralism are locked in mortal combat (see Richard J. Neuhaus, The National Public Square; Religion and Democracy in America).

 

When philosophical pluralism is allied with popular acceptance of its consequences and notion of progress, so that those who disagree are often pictured as quaint vestiges of a bygone era. The pressure to conform is enormous, since the notion of "progress" has been a cultural indicator of Western culture for over two centuries (see attack on concept of progress by Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (NY: Norton, 1991); see my "Loss of Transcendence in Explanatory Modes Contra Positivistic Science, Technology, Education as Messianic").

 

In postmodern philosophical pluralism, tolerance is no longer a virtue; political correctness is in. "In the past, PC [political correctness] generally centered on issues that were quite substantive. . . . Today, PC, however, is intolerant not of substance but of intolerance itself. Thus, although the politically correct would have a great deal of difficulty agreeing on what constitutes goodness and truth, they have no trouble at all agreeing that intolerance itself is wrong. Why? Because no one deserves to be offended. (See S.D. Gaede, When Tolerance Is No Virtue: Political Correctness, Multiculturalism and The Future of Truth and Justice (IVP, 1993), p. 23). David K. dark sharply states our challenge - "Postmodern apologetic practice must face both the perspectivism that erases all truth and political correctness that arbitrarily reinstates it."  (D.K. dark, "Narrative Theology and Apologetics," Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society 36 (1993):515.

 

(4)  Diversity in Western culture (empirical pluralism) and the loss of cultural consensus, fused with rising intolerance generated by philosophical pluralism, has produced what TIME magazine calls "A Nation of Finger Pointers" (TIME, 138/6 (Aug. 12, 1991):14-22).  Robert Hughes astutely observes this generation as a "culture of complaint." (R. Hughes, Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (NY: Oxford University Press, 1993).  His resolution is impotent, just try harder to tolerate each other and get along.  Hughes promised so much and provides so little!!

 

(5) Our radical cultural revolution enters Education (QBE) Value Clarification, Goals 2000, etc., (see my critique of QBE).  Education gurus tells all who enter his sacred halls that no one conversant with Derrida, Foucoult, Fish, et al, could possibly believe in a transcendent claim on everybody everywhere. Many Christian students often abandon their personal faith in the lecture rooms of our politically correct universities (Duke, Illinois, Iowa, etc.), never to return.  You shape your own identity and reality, but it is not culture-transcending reality.  Nothing is!

 

E.  Causes and Effects of Pluralism: Pluralism contributes to Biblical illiteracy.  This condition precludes constructive encounter with Pluralism. The postmodern culture has marginalized and trivialized God.

 

1. Secularization: Abolition of religion or marginalization of religion?  "By secularization we mean the process by which sections of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols."  (Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (Garden City: Doubleday, 1967), p. 107; for extensive analysis of Secularization see David Martin, A General Theory of  Secularization (NY: Harper & Row, 1978); and Klaus Runia, "The Challenge of the Modern World to The Church."  Evangelical Review of Theology 18 (1994): 301-24; David F. Wells', No Place for Truth, p. 79).

 

Secularization has marginalized God and silenced God /Providence talk, especially after the Holocaust.  The powers of secularization stalk the land.  How can we still preach the Gospel of Christ when the vast majority of the auditors hold such claims irrelevant.  Many have attempted to bridge the gap by becoming entertainers, because people understand entertainers. Others withdraw into a culturally conservative cocoon and produce another generation of Rip van Winkles.  The effect of secularization on the academy is enormous, not merely in the pulpit and pew.  (E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Boston; Houghton/Mifflin, 1987); Allan Bloom, The Closing of The American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Soul of Today's Students (NY:

Simon/Schuster, 1988); George M. Marsden/B.J. Longfield, eds. The Secularization of The Academy (NY: Oxford, 1992); also his The Soul of The American University (NY: Oxford, 1994).

The marginalization of God has provided space for the infusion of idols for destruction.  Everyone who does what is "right" in her/his own eyes unwittingly conforms to the fragmenting dictates of secularizing pluralism.

 

How long can such a culture survive remains an unanswered question!

 

2.  Hew Age Pantheism:  Another idol in the Postmodern Pluralistic temple is New Age Pantheism.  The "New Age movement is ubiquitous (see Russell Chandler, Understanding The New Age (Dallas: Word Books, 1988); J.R. Lewis, J.G.  Melton, eds.Perspectives in The New Age (Albany: State University of New York, 1992); Peter Jones, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for The New Age (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Reformed, 1992). Most visions of 'god' in New Age are pantheistic and tied to ecology or radical strains of feminism (esp. Rosemary R. Ruether, Gaia and God, An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing (San Francisco: Harper Press, 1992). Within this pantheistic worldview the focus is on the 'self; evil is reinterpreted and thus emasculated, and any notion of judgment imposed by a personal/ transcendent God whose wrath has been and will be displayed, is utterly repugnant.  This "spirituality", a popular notion that enjoys full scope even in the New York Times Book Review, is divorced from any biblically faithful worldview.  Needless to say, there is no need for a mediator, let alone a suffering priest who takes our sin on himself. Biblical illiteracy makes possible this radical infusion of New Age pantheism in the name of postmodern pluralistic spirituality (see esp. D. Carson, "When Is Spirituality Spiritual?" and Gordon Lewis, "The Church and The New Spirituality" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 36 (1993):433-444).  Melvin Tinker places us in the framework which calls "a battle for the mind," even though many have not perceived the nature of the fight (M. Tinker, "Battle for the Mind," Churchman 106 (1992): 34-44.

 

3.  Rise of Biblical Illiteracy:This phenomena is widespread in Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish social contexts.  In many part of America we cannot assume any biblical knowledge on the part of our hearers at all.  We are presently ensuring that Generation X will be even theoretically ignorant of the most elementary structures of the Judaeo/Christian heritage on which our civilization has been nurtured. Neither Christian preaching nor teaching will have hooks on which to hang the biblical message.  In our Postmodern Pluralism the audience determines the message!!  But massive silence regarding all things religious, a silence fostered by our culture of disbelief, is not the best option.  Philosophical Pluralism leaves us with no foundation for adjudicating (?) between alternative belief and behavior systems.

 

4.  The Cosmic Christ: Joseph Sittler made a vague appeal to the Cosmic Christ in his 1961 address to the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi (see esp. Sun and Sumethra, "Conversion: To The Cosmic Christ?" Evangelical Review of Theology 16 (1992); 385-389.).  Building on Colossians 1.15-20, where the word all is used six times, Sittler assigns these all to a pantheistic cosmic Christ.  This notion is also expressed by Panikkar who defends that the "cosmic Christ" is found not only in the historical Jesus, but also in certain strands of Hindu thought (Raimundo Panikkar, "The Meaning of Christ's Name," in Service and Salvation, ed. Joseph Pathrapankal (Bangalore: CMI, 1973), p. 242ff; his The Unknown Christ In Hinduism;  Towards An Ecumenical Christophany (Maryknoll: Orbis Books), 1981).  These radical reinterpretations of the historical Jesus of scriptures reveal a total break with the authorial intentionality, a la Derrida, et al Deconstructionism.  These distorted images of Christ are widely disseminated by mainline denominations and religious studies programsin universities where multiculturalism reigns.

 

5.  The Radical Pragmatism of The Baby Busters: The literature differentiating between the "baby boomers" (born between ca. 1945-1964) and "baby busters" (born between 1960-1975) is legion (see esp. Neil Howe and William Strauss, "The New Generation Gap" (Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1992): 67-89.  The logical inconsistencies espoused by many of the "generation group" is legend.  Often, this group is cynical, not idealistic.  They vehemently deny the existence of absolutes: that is, their one absolute.  They have often been raised in homes without coherent vision or value system, and they have embraced pragmatism with a vengeance.  Many are furious with the materialism that has ruined the economy and dumped a tax load onto their shoulders.  Their pluralistic pragmatism is often expressed in the hostility of some Christians who reject the condemnation, hell, etc., of "good" people who make no pretense of being Christian.  No amount of argumentation is adequate.  Their interest in "spirituality" tends to place them in a high spiritual pecking order.  This moral maze finds expression in churches designed for baby busters.  (Leith Anderson, Dying for Change; An Arresting Look at the New Realities Confronting Churches and Para-Church Ministries (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1990).  The solution of some is to design what are in effect baby buster churches, or at least baby buster church services. Often this model is not grounded in biblical foundations but rather cultural indicators of a foundationless cultural group.  This phenomena is a radical contextualization of the Gospel of Christ to gain audience acceptance. (This phenomena exposes the biblical tension between the "individual" and the "corporate."  See esp. H. Wheeler Robinson, Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel (Fortress Press, 1964 reprint of 1935 edition); and Frederick J. Gaiser, "The Emergence of The Self in The Old Testament: A Study of Biblical Wellness," Horizons in Biblical Theology 14 (1992): 1-29.  Many are captured by this pragmatic maze and are not genuine converts to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who only pursue growth in holiness and service.

 

6.  The Presence of "Pop Culture": There has always been tension between elitism and Pop Culture.  (Kenneth A. Meyer, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Westchester: Crossway, 1989).  The medium of television dominates the structuring of the values of this generation.  But of course, all of T.V. is not evil (cf. McLuhan, Ellul, Simon Vibert, "The Word in An Audio-Visual Age: Can We Still Preach The Gospel?"  Churchman, 106 1992): 147-158); see esp. Q. J. Schultz, Televangelism and American Culture: The Business of Popular Religion (Baker, 1991).  We must grant that a cultural addiction to visual presentation of data presents a unique challenge to the proclamation of a God who is invisible, while our pop cultural audience demands visual security and relevance, which is Idolatry"!  T.V. has often become an unpaid Nanny in too many homes.  Though T.V. is often contaminated, there are many positive benefits, as long as Christians view MTV and scan/surface the programs critically in light of God's revelation in scripture and ultimately in Christ.  Only a strong Christian moral base can constructively engage media's influences on the generation shaped by postmodern pluralism.  These cultural influences are the air we breath. This is the cultural context in which our Christian witness must take place.

 

7.  From Radical Individualism to Narcissism: Radical individualism is commonplace in the U.S.A., Australia and to some extent, Canada, more so than most Western countries.  The Bible fuses the uniqueness of the individual with the corporate values of the family, covenant people of God, the New Testament Church as a body and the Kingdom of God.  Christian individualism emphasizes courage, an entrepreneural spirit, individual heroism, self denial, deferred gratification, thrift, and often duty, honor and industry.  The negative side of individualism can encourage narcissism, self-indulgence, instant gratification, self-promotion, greed, arrogance, and pride.  Robert Bellah has marvelously traced these alternative responses of Individualism in his book, Habits of The Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (NY: Harper Books, 1985).  An earlier generation saw emotions as properly subject to larger values:  commitment, duty, reason, and honor.  But this view has largely been replaced by the therapeutic model.  Feelings, emotions, and individualistic self-fulfillment have been the prime good.  Self-discipline and self-control are now dismissed with contempt as dangerous repressions.  Even marriage is now merely a means to the end of self-actualization and self-fulfillment, to be readily discarded if emotional "needs" are not met.  The habits of the heart have changed.  These developments have sometimes helped people escape genuine repression, yet far more societal damage has been done than societal good.

 

Perhaps Christopher Lasch has presented our dilemma succinctly;  Lasch affirms:  "In their emotional shallowness, their fear of intimacy, their hypochondria, their pseudo self-insight, their promiscuous pansexuality, their dread of old age and death, the new narcissistic fear of the stamp of a culture that has lost interest in the future, their outlook on life as revealed in the new consciousness movements and therapeutic culture; in pseudo-confessional autobiography and fiction; in the replacement of Horatio Alger by the happy hooker as a symbol of success; in the theater of the absurd and the absurdist theater of everyday life; in the degradation of sport; in the collapse of authority; in the escalating war between men and women -- is the worldview of the resigned."  (Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations (NY: Norton, 1978); flyleaf outlining the thrust of the chapters.)

 

Daniel Yankelovich exposes our need for accessing our "world turned upside down."  He thinks the change toward instant self-focus and self-gratification will be radically challenged.  The post World War II generation was determined to build families and communities, to leave something for their children.  The lingering assumptions of the inherited Judaeo-Christian culture kept selfishness in check (D. Yankelovich, New Rules: Search for Self-Fulfillment in A World Turned Upside Down (NY: Random, 1981).  Individualism was once allied with the pervasive assumption of "objective truth" and eternal verities and could generate at least some men and women of courage, honor, and vision; individualism allied with philosophical pluralism and the scarcely qualified relativism of postmodernity generates "a world without heroes." (George Roche, A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy (Hillsdale: Hillsdale College Press, 1987).  Privatized spirituality developed apart from a disciplinary church. Privatized spirituality is not conspicuously able to foster care for others (cf. Robert Wuthnow, Acts of Compassion: Caring For Others and Helping Ourselves (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).

 

Phillip Hammond goes so far as to argue that emphasis on personal autonomy during the past two decades has brought about the "third disestablishment" of religion in America (Phillip E. Hammond, Religion and Personal Autonomy:The Third Disestablishment of America (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992). The first disestablishment was legal, embodied in the First Amendment; but although it had profound influence, it scarcely diminished the enormous influence of organized religion on the public sector. The second disestablishment (a change in the relationship between church and culture) had occurred by the end of World War I, in a progressive erosion of direct Christian influence, such that until about 1960 the relationship of Christian Churches to the cultural core was more custodial than directional. The third disestablishment (Hammond) spring from the emphasis on personal autonomy and its effect on the religious sphere. Personal autonomy has become an ideology that is suspicious of ecclesiastical loyalty and doctrine alike. The new generation does not think in terms of service to God and church, but in terms of what it can get out of it; they "shop around" for churches until they find a product they like. The churches feel the pressure to respond to the ‘consumer'" by taking polls to find out what they want. Surely the postmodern victimization is tied to our pluralistic individualism. The new victimization ideology believes that no single individual heritage is in any respect inferior. To think otherwise is to display cultural bias.

 

This situation provides many ironies, as Thomas Sowell reminds us. "Any group whose past has not provided them with as many heroes, cultural contributions, or other glories as any other group's past now has a grievance against those who write history. Apparently a past to your liking has become an entitlement. ... It is not even considered necessary to demonstrate any reality before claiming that a group's "under representation" in history books shows "exclusion" or "bias." Many of those who argue this way also loudly proclaim the many injustices suffered by the various under-represented groups. Yet, somehow these pervasive injustices are not regarded as having inhibited the achievements of those who suffered them. Such is the self-contradictory visions of multiculturalists." (Thomas Sowell, Is Reality Optional? and Other Essays (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1993): P. 4). The proponents of modernism and post modernism alike "castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful." (Cf. C.S. Lewis)

 

8. Freed of Fraud: Therapuetic Fad (Imaging Consummerism and Therapeutic Modes in Postmodern Culture) Freudian influence has been both good and bad. Criticism has continued to mount against the Freudian Fraud. (cf. Hubert Mowrer, The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion (Princeton, 1961);Karl Menninger, What Ever Became of Sin? (NY: Hawthorne, 1975); Robert C. Roberts, Taking The World to Heart: Self and Others in The Age of Therapies (Eerdmans, 1993); and E. Fuller Torrey, Freudian Fraud; The Malignant Effect of Feud's Theory on American Thought and Culture (NY: Harper, 1992). The therapeutic culture has so invaded the Church that some seminaries now have more students enrolled in counseling programs than are training to be preachers of the Gospel message. Some "evangelical" Churches pride themselves in being "Twelve Step" Churches, i.e., where the "Twelve Step" model of Alcohol Anonymous is taken as the controlling model for support groups dealing with everything from addiction to obesity to co-dependency to problems with self esteem. Biblical foundations alone can effectively challenge the therapeutic culture at multiple levels (R. C. Roberts, "Psycobabble," Christianity Today 38/6 (May 16, 1994): 19-24).

 

The foundational challenge of the Freudian model, locked in naturalism, has both reinforced and been reinforced by philosophical pluralism.  The loss of Truth and standards "out there," in objective reality, has encouraged this inward focus, this self-absorption.  The ego centricism is a far cry from the love of God, then love thy neighbor as thyself and take up your cross daily and follow me and you will find eternal life (Matt. 16.21-28; Lk. 9.22-27; see esp. Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self Worship (Eerdmans, 1994).  There is without question a growing diversity in postmodern Western civilization. Christians can respond to this challenge by: (1) Announcing that the new cultural dynamics are good, (2) Circle the wagons and retreat to our subculture, (3) Philosophical pluralism entails epistemological pluralism which entails the denial of True Truth, (4) Locates meaning of texts, not the text per se, but rather in the interpreter (egs. influences Seeker Friendly audience analysis in homiletics, preaching. Church growth).

Correlative pluralism exposes various elements:  (1) Secularization, (2) New Age Pantheism, (3) Rising Biblical illiteracy, (4) Vague appeals to the Cosmic Christ, (5) Radical pragmatism of the Baby Busters, (6) Hegemony of pop culture, (7) Radical individualism, veering towards Narcissism, and (8) Freudian Fraud.

 

BRIDGES AND FOUNDATIONS ACROSS

THE HATERS OF POSTMODERN PLURALISM

 

Signs of Cultural Decay: Diagnosis and Solution

 

(See Don Feder, A Conservative Jew Looks at Pagan America (Lafayette:Huntingdon House, 1993).

 

1.  "Because of the absence of a delicate balance between rights and duties, freedom and order - the social fabric begins to unravel.  The "rights" explosion of the past three decades has taken us on a rapid descent to a culture without civility, decency, or even that degree of discipline necessary to maintain an advanced industrial civilization.  Our cities are cesspools, our urban schools terrorist training camps, our legislatures brothels where rights are sold to the highest electoral bidder."  (Feder, p. 219).  Or as Charles Colson emphatically declares it: "As Dorothy Sayer observed:  'In the world it is called tolerance, but in hell it is called despair. . .  the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.'" (cited in Colson/Vaughn in Against The Night—Living in The New Dark Ages (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1989), p. 93).

 

2.  It is imperative that Christians remember how innovative philosophical pluralism is.  When Machen in his book, Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans, 1923) encountered Modernism he affirmed that it was not Christianity at all, even though it paraded itself as a contextualization of the Gospel of Christ. Almost two decades ago Stephen Sykes argued that tolerance for theological diversity must not be adopted unquestioningly but must be justified by argument (cf. Sykes, The Integrity of Anglicanism (Seabury, 1978) esp. pp. 7,8, cited by Jerry L. Walls, "What Is Theological Pluralism?" (Quarterly Review 5 (Fall, 1985), esp. p. 61; also Sykes, A Nation of Victims). Postmodern Pluralism will not be impressed by Sykes' suggestion. And this is the challenge. (See Norman Anderson, Christianity and World Religions (Inter-Varsity Press, 1981;

Lesslie Newbigen, The Gospel in A Pluralistic Culture (Eerdmans, 1989);Berit Kjos, Brave New Schools (Harvest House, 1995); Dennis McCallum, ed., The Death of Truth: What's Wrong With Multiculturalism, The Rejection of Reason and Postmodern Diversity (also Death of Truth Group Study Guide, 1996, Xenos Christian Fellowship (Bethany House, 1996); D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Zondervan, 1996); Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Word, 1992).

 

Dr. James Strauss

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656-2111