In a book dreamed up and edited by Myron Penner, called Christianity and the Postmodern Turn, Kevin Vanhoozer, a friend from my TEDS days and a scholar whose writings I always cherish, has proposed ten theses about postmodernism. (Incidentally, Penner’s focus on postmodernism as a linguistic turn is most helpful.)
I shall summarize Kevin’s theses about postmodernity (=pomo):
1. Pomo is the condition of being fully aware of one’s situatedness, and hence of one’s contingency and deconstructibility.
2. Christians can learn the “criticism of isms” from pomo.
3. Christians must not “correlate” with pomo but only with Christ and canon, which determine one’s credenda and agenda.
4. Christian thought is faith seeking understanding — biblical and trinitarian.
5. Pomo has not discovered anything that was not already available.
6. Christian thinking means thinking “out of a mythopoetic framework of scripture (e.g., in terms of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation).”
7. Christian faith is realist but insists that some truths can adequately be grasped only by a plurality of vocabularies or conceptual schemes oriented to different levels or aspects of reality.
8. Long sentences here: The aim of Christian thinking … is wisdom; the norm is the wisdom of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
9. Christian thinking is holistic, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
10. Modernity and pomo are digressions from Jesus Christ.
As always, Kevin’s on the mark and has said things well. There are abundance of things to quote, but I wish to offer subtle, and not substantial, demurrals on a point or three.
1. Pomo is more than “thinking” and “epistemology.” The “pomo turn” in the emergent movement concerns “knowledge that emerges from performance” as much as from “reflection.”
2. To the degree that #1 is right, #10 must be modified. If we have learned from pomo, then it is not totally a digression — even if the subject is Jesus Christ. The issue is our “knowledge” of Jesus Christ.
3. #5 is in tension with #1 as well. Unless Kevin is thinking exclusively of Solomon’s thread-bare words that there is nothing new under the sun, then there is something profoundly informative about a growing consciousness of the linguistic turn. I don’t think Bible or tradition deals with language as a power game, a rhetoric used to empower and disempower. Not at least as a linguistic device, consciously that is.
The article by Kevin is worth the price of the book.