A Review of Heath White’s Postmodernism 101

postmodernism

by Rev. Brett Best, June, 2016

In several years of teaching a class on worldviews, I encountered a few students who, despite being enrolled at a Christian college, had negative views on the Bible.  A few even resented having to take the course I taught because they saw it as the college’s attempt to force Christianity on them.  Fortunately, the way that I taught the course rehabilitated even these prone-to-be-combative attitudes.  We had good discussions and I treasure all those opportunities to teach.

However, I had opportunity to teach during a fourth of the time I have been in ministry.  In the thirty-plus year scope of my service in professional church ministry I have had opportunity to wrangle with an issue that has grown and morphed into a political force: homosexuality.  When it first came up during my ministerial training, my naïveté was in evidence as I was first shocked that confessed Christians supported homosexuality and then immediately wrote a letter to the editor of the paper and wanted to preach on it.  Thank God I sought advice on the subject and received good advice and curtailed an aggressive response.  In thirty years my view on this issue has not changed.  I humbly pray that’s because I received godly instruction and have stuck to it, not because I’ve been stubborn or reactionary.

I mention these two things for two reasons.  One, I’ve come to understand that postmoderns prefer micronarratives to metanarratives and so I’m dabbling in it.  Two, these are two personal experiences with something that has only recently been named: postmodernism.

One of the chief characteristics of postmodernism has been provided for us by Jean-Francois Lyotard in his 1979 book The Postmodern Condition; “incredulity toward metanarratives.”  Some of my students’ views of the Bible suffered deniability of authority and even trustworthiness because of this predilection toward incredulity toward arguably the most pervasive metanarrative in human history.

My colleagues in ministry, activists, and social commentators in the media supported homosexuality because they figured the biblical metanarrative on the subject hand been traditionally manipulated by homophobes.  Of course there are many other strands of thought and motive in this complicated social epoch, but I believe I’ve gained some perspective on people who, to my thinking, had only ulterior motives for endorsing this lifestyle.

Of course, my thinking on this subject is still new, but as I publish my thoughts on White’s very helpful book, perhaps you will benefit in some way from insights I have received.  All that to say, “I pray my processing will help your processing.”

One of the things the text helped me understand is the scope of the worldview called “postmodernism.”  White has a genius for reducing sweeps of history and philosophy to accessible portions and I believe it fulfills it’s goal to introduce the subject to Christians who are intellectually curious enough to read his book.  It’s impossible for me to gauge the influence of postmodernism on our society, but I believe most observers of this worldview would take it as a fact that it is growing and is possessive of the last two generations of Americans.  For example, if you find the dismissive sexual ethic of the last fifty years difficult to understand, if you find the ease with which traditional ethics of all kinds have been left discarded, you have been observing the effects of postmodernism without knowing the name of the litterbug.

In his introduction, “Why Read about Postmodernism?” White introduces the topic with these words, “Postmodernism is not a theory or creed: it is more like an attitude or way of looking at things.  It didn’t drop our of the sky – it showed up at this juncture in history, in Western culture, for specific reasons that have to do with the history of the West.” (White, p. 11.)

He goes on to develop in the book the three worldviews that have dominated Western culture.  “Premodernism” was the prevailing view from year 0 to about 1500 A.D. (or C.E., which, when you think of it, may be another effect of postmodernism).  This view might be described and “retro-evolutionary” because it believed in tradition and antiquity, that the most true things were revealed in the past.  It is our intellectual and moral duty to accept and accommodate ourselves to what our forefathers passed on to us.

“Modernism” arose when the promises of the fruition first made by our ancestors failed to come to pass.  Reason replaced faith as the central aspiration and asset of our species and science increasingly took over dogmatic authority.  Christianity changed during that time, going from the centralized-authority and tradition-driven Catholic and Orthodoxy churches to the decentralized and theology-driven Protestant churches.

These are grand strokes, I grant you.  Exceptions abound, but they prove the rule.  Then, in the last fifty years of the Second Millennium and continuing on today, is “Postmodernism,” a reaction against the failed promises of reason to improve humanity or the condition of our home.

For Christians, White identifies three reasons to study postmodernism.  The moral concern is first.  Postmodernism’s relativism and situationalism are manifest in rejection of the moral absolutes we practice because we’ve inherited them from our spiritual forbears and because they are a reasonable outworking of biblical teaching.

In my personal experience, the evangelistic concern used to be manifest in worship styles and in charismatic renewal.  Then I saw it appear in the “seeker friendly” approach and other forms of the church growth movement.  But now it takes on all of that and more – remaking our churches so that they appeal to people outside them.  Is that what evangelism really requires?  If church is virtually indistinguishable from the outside over-culture, then when is the new convert to be aware that they are a convert?

The theological concern is based on the fact that the newer denominations have their roots in the Enlightenment, an expression of modernism.  But postmoderns are coming along and saying that the exercise of reason in clerical garb has done nothing more to allay the human condition than it’s exercise in a lab coat.  We’re being made to feel bankrupt, and that is understandably disconcerting.  (I wonder if the Emergent church isn’t postmodernism in church settings.)

White’s development of premodern and modern views is well done.  A table that simplifies points of comparison would be enormously helpful here, but I don’t yet have one to offer.  The chapter is well written and I came away with the sense that the Church retains aspects of both views.

The chapter entitled “The Postmodern Turn Against Reason” may sound indemnifying, but White’s point is simply that modernism placed its hope in reason and though it took us 450 years to become disillusioned, reason has failed to deliver the goods.  “In the eyes of postmoderns, then, modernism has failed, both as a prediction of progress and as a moral framework for culture.”  (White, p. 45.)  My first reaction is that it is lazy, irresponsible and immature to simply find fault and have nothing to offer as an alternative.  But, to be fair, postmodernism is relatively new and its decentralized and skeptical nature make it difficult to form a more cogent and comprehensive response to modernism, let alone offer a new hope.  White observed that postmoderns can be nihilistic, relativistic, constructivistic, or pragmatic in their approach.  It makes sense that a movement so individualized would have a diversity of orientations within its own fold.

The supposition that guides a postmodern’s incredulity toward metanarratives is the suspicion that they are exercises of power.  As it is usually quicker to dispose of bath water and baby, postmoderns dispose with metanarratives.  Logically, they are loathe to offer any of their own.  As the chapter “Truth, Power, and Morality” shows, these three subjects are objects of suspicion in the eyes of postmoderns.  White develops a thoughtful response by the Church on these subjects, then offers homosexuality as an example of a current issue that exhibits the differences between these worldviews.  I found that particular section to be too brief.  In my opinion, homosexuality has been made THE issue of our time and I fear it is the handle to the club with which an increasingly anti-Christian culture is going to use on the church.  This may be alarmist.  But that conviction left me unsatisfied with White’s treatment of the issue.  It could have been of greater use as an example of how the Church might hope to synthesize, premodernism, modernism, and postmodernism into a viable alternative to our seemingly hell-bent culture.

The chapter on “The Self” did a good job of using that vantage point to compare the three worldviews.  To me, it exposed what I call the “Satanic Conspiracy” of our time, “divide and conquer.”  In my lifetime we have become “atomized;” rendered more alone and lonely by the effects of culture and technology.  Consider an example.  When my parents were teenagers and wanted to be entertained, they joined their community in a movie theater where they received information and entertainment together.  In my growing up years, families were sequestered in their homes as they watched the family television together.  In my children’s years at home, we had multiple TV screens and computers, so we further split into different rooms of the house.  Now cell ‘phones and other devices bring all the entertainment and news we can consume to the individual.  We’ve shrunk from community to family to individual.  Indeed, one of the things about postmodernism that troubles me most is its atomizing effect by enshrining micronarrative and denying metanarrative.

The chapter on “Language and Thought” presented the most difficulty to me.  Not on agreement, but on understanding.  The gist of it is that postmoderns are as skeptical of speech as they are of history.  They see language as one of the oppressor’s tools, a possible infringement on their individuality.  White quotes a paragraph written by French postmodernist Jacques Derrida as an example of the linguistic gymnastics practiced by postmoderns just to upset the linguistic wagon.  It was truly dizzying and meaningless, which may’ve been the point.  A more pragmatic person would dismiss this aspect of postmodernism as “BS.”  I’m tempted…

“Inquiry and Interpretation” is introduced with this thought, “For postmoderns, no knowledge is fully reliable and no concepts are absolutely indispensable.” (White, p. 103.)  Suspicion of what has come before runs deep in this worldview.  More than that, postmoderns’ rejection of reason alone has lead to the embrace of less subjective, more affective sources of information.  As Christians whose life is based on faith (related to reason but not based on it and sometimes existing in defiance of it), this should be a refreshing relief from our servitude to the Enlightenment.  White has a fantastic quote from a medieval monk named Bernard of Clairvaux on page 105 that expresses the premodern view of knowledge and may be an expression of truth many church folk would applaud.

Sometimes premodernism seems smoke and mirrors and attempts to complicate the issue into absurdity.  For example, White summarizes, “postmoderns have lost faith in the idea of objective verification.  Instead, they focus on the persuasive power of the stories we tell…  Thus, for a postmodern all disciplines produce a form of literature…”  (White, p. 108.)

Ever argued about the meaning of a poem?  That’s what our discussions about Scripture feel like to a postmodern.  It’s a matter of indifference to them because it exists only in the realm of opinion, where individuals are free to disagree, even to extremes, because it doesn’t really matter.

One chapter is titled “Culture and Irony.”  Here White rightly reveals the increased exposure to global cultures and the shrinkage of our world through media as part of the fuel that has fired postmodernism.   Part of what defines who we are is what we have experienced.  Premodernism was served by a sphere of experience that was community oriented.  Modernism was served by a sphere of experience that was national.  Postmodernism is served by travel, language and culture that is more global than ever.  When all cultured are viewed as equals, the parts of morality and religion that are harnessed to culture are also viewed as equal by association.

The “irony” part was less clear to me.  I guess that the irony is that when all cultures are equal, my preference for any one is simply that, a preference.  It carries no authority and there is no need for a decision on which is the most true, helpful, or civil.

In the Church, this is manifest in the breakdown of denominations, the structure of authority that mandated and enforced divisions between folk who basically agree with one another.  I’m not ready to accept “irony” as a virtue, but I can see the value in spinning down the difference between the streams of Christianity and emphasizing the similarities.

The chapter “History and Hope” provided yet another helpful vantage point from which to survey the points of similarity and difference between these three worldviews.  One of the downsides to postmodernism’s rejection of metanarratives is the loss of hope.  Premoderns hoped in god, moderns is reason, but for postmoderns, both these hopes are disappointed.  If anything is to be hoped for, it is on an individualistic scale, which lends to the atomizing I have already observed in our culture.

In his Epilogue, White does a good job of assaying the effect of postmodernism and its future as a philosophical system.  He wryly observes that the next philosophical mode will be searching for a name as we’ve covered the permutations of “modernism.”

Near the end of the book White identifies the big idea, the critical issue between postmodernism and Christianity.  This means, of course, that he does not develop the question or offer any answers.  Here, for the benefit of the reader, is the question; “So here is the numb of the issue between Christianity and postmodernism: what is freedom?”  Christianity answers that question theologically and authoritatively while postmodernism answers it emphasizing individuality and irony.  I hope this will be the subject of a future book.

To conclude, I have benefitted personally from White’s book.  I don’t believe I have taken hold of this subject, but have at least found a handle and a reference to orient myself in the discussion.  As I continue to read and study on the subject, I can refer back to Postmodernism 101 for a framework by which additional learning can be organized.  It is a book I recommend reading and digesting.

Faith of Our Fathers

(Please read 2 TIMOTHY 3:10-17 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I have used the NIV.)

Can You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You Deported                                         Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra                               [posted 6/07/2016]

<Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/june/19-christian-questions-converts-deported-uk-asylum.html on 6/13/16.>

You know how desperate the Syrian refugee situation is affecting European nations.  There are thousands of people applying for asylum based on the claim that they are Christians.  How would anyone be able to prove such a claim to an immigration officer?  In Britain, the approach has been to ask applicants a series of “Bible trivia”-type questions.  The more wrong answers you give, the greater the chance of deportation.

Imagine taking a test under such circumstances!  Talk about stress!  The quiz is included below, with the answers at the end.  Take it yourself and see if you’d face deportation or be granted citizenship.

Of course, this practice is not without controversy.  A group called UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom of Belief and the Asylum Advocacy Group has recently released a report condemning the use of the quiz.  They stated that correct answers can be given by anyone, regardless of their actual commitment.

Another problem is that the case workers administering the test don’t necessarily understand Christianity.  A third problem is that there is some room for debate about the answers.

For example, Mohammed, a Christian convert from Iran, was asked what color the cover of the Bible was.  “I knew there were different colors,” he told the BBC. “The one I had was red. They asked me questions I was not able to answer—for example, what are the Ten Commandments. I could not name them all from memory.”

Mohammed’s application for asylum was rejected. So was a convert who didn’t know that Catholics abstained from meat on Friday. So was another convert who correctly named the last book of the Bible but did so in Farsi and was misunderstood.

The Christianity Today article concluded, “In the United States, only 60 percent of practicing Christians (those who identify as Christian, say their faith is important in their lives, and have been to church within the past month) can name the first five books of the Bible, according to an American Bible Society and Barna Group report released last month.

“It is better to ask how a convert feels about Jesus, what being a Christian means to that person, and how being a Christian had affected his or her daily life.”

This is the kind of situation you’d expect when non-Christian bureaucrats try to make snap judgments about t authenticity of a person’s claim to faith.  Fortunately, for us, there is a better way.

The best way to “get” faith is in the way Paul describes in his second letter to Timothy; by passing it along, one person to the next.  This has been God’s plan all along, as indicated by the fact of our human nature that things are more likely to “stick” with us if they are “caught, not taught.”

Today, on Father’s Day, it seemed especially appropriate to me to look at how we need role models, people who demonstrate faith to us.  We need fathers and others who live out what they claim and encourage us in BOTH word and deed to follow them as they follow the example Jesus set for all of us.

The best result is that, rather than preparing us to pass a quiz, our mentors and leaders are preparing us to live LIFE in a way that proves our claims to be true and draws others to join us in inspired living.  Let us learn today how to pass along a true, saving faith.

  1. How many books are in the Bible?
  2. How many books are in the New Testament?
  3. How many chapters are in the book of John?
  4. What are the 10 Commandments?
  5. Which gospel relates the story of Jesus’ birth?
  6. Where was Jesus born?
  7. What were the names of Jesus’ earthly parents?
  8. What was his earthly father’s occupation?
  9. How many disciples did Jesus have?  Name them.
  10. Where did Jesus become angry with the money lenders?
  11. Who did Jesus raise from the dead?  Which book is this miracle in?
  12. Recite the Lord’s Prayer.
  13. What happened during the Last Supper?
  14. Who betrayed Jesus to the Romans?
  15. Where was Jesus arrested?
  16. What is Ash Wednesday?
  17. Is Easter celebrated on the same date every year?
  18. What is the date of Pentecost?
  19. What is the meaning of Lent?

Do we have a faith we’ve received or one we’ve invented?

  1. Paul had set a good example (3:10-13).

Timothy had personally experienced Paul’s ministry: YOU KNOW ALL ABOUT MY…

– TEACHING = He had heard many of Paul’s sermons and his debates with his critics.

– WAY OF LIFE = Timothy had seen Paul in public and private moments; he had experienced the consistency between what Paul said & how he lived.

– PURPOSE = Paul’s purpose was to point people to Jesus. He used different methods, but the message was always the same: Jesus Saves Sinners.  (Interestingly, Paul’s other uses of this word is in reference to God’s purpose.  He clearly sees himself as fulfilling God’s purpose for human life on earth.)

– FAITH = Not saving faith, but faithfulness; remaining true to what we profess to believe.  Use the words “loyalty” and “integrity” here if you wish.

– PATIENCE = Forbearance and fortitude; the ability to go on without compromising or quitting. This can also be translated as “longsuffering.”

– LOVE = Ministry to all persons, regardless of their status in society or response to God.

– ENDURANCE = Keeping one’s focus on God in spite of how difficult circumstances make it. I like the interpretation of “brave patience.”  This is not passive tolerance, but active overcoming adversity.

— PERSECUTIONS = Adversity inflicted by others with the intention of discouraging faith.

— SUFFERINGS = In Antioch, Iconium, & Lystra, Paul was attacked & opposed by mobs; we can read about these events in the book of Acts.

Timothy had also personally experienced Paul’s deliverance.  As Paul testified, THE LORD RESCUED ME FROM ALL OF THEM.  Being “rescued” does not mean escaping all harm or avoiding stress.  It does mean being kept from real harm and death.  No one was able to make Paul stop following Jesus, to discourage him into silence.

Paul pointed out this is not just his experience, but is common to all followers of Jesus: EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS WILL BE PERSECUTED.  Does this sound depressing to you?  It shouldn’t: telling others about our faith and facing people who hate us for our faith are two of the most exciting and uplifting experience of faith we can have.  More importantly, God has not left us alone in this struggle; He has given us His Spirit and each other for encouragement and support.

Those who oppose EVIL MEN AND IMPOSTORS (“swindler”or “cheat”) will not be able to hide.  God’s judgment will find them out; they WILL GO FROM BAD TO WORSE.  This pattern of degeneration identifies them as EVIL and false, despite what they may say or the reputation they may have created.  We don’t have to follow them.  Obviously, they set a negative example; one to be avoided.

The persecutors of the Church are DECEIVING AND BEING DECEIVED: they are not at all in the truth.  Falsehoods propagate like viruses; they spread from person to person.  We need to be “germophobes” in regard to false teaching. Sincerity is not the issue; people can be sincerely wrong.  It happens all the time.

  1. Timothy was to continue in that example (3:14-15)

Paul charged Timothy to keep the faith he’d received: CONTINUE IN WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED.  Like Timothy, we are to continue in the truth, resistant to falsehood, vigilant.  One sure way to avoid being deceived is to stick with the faith you’ve inherited.  As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:12 = DON’T LET ANYONE LOOK DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE YOUNG, BUT SET AN EXAMPLE FOR THE BELIEVERS IN SPEECH, IN LIFE, IN LOVE, IN FAITH AND IN PURITY.

Staying with the truth means that we aren’t swayed by the latest or most popular teaching.  This means that we have come to understand what we believe and why.  It means that we have evaluated what we have been taught by the standards of Scripture and are assured that what we believe is as truthful as possible.

The received faith to which Paul refers is what Timothy owned personally.  He had BECOME CONVINCED OF it.  Persecution and any kind of challenge can cause us to compromise our faith.  Remember, our faith is to shape our view of life, not vice-versa.  Paul suggests two ways we make sure our theology is as truthful as possible.

– It is drawn, as literally as possible, from the Bible.

– It assumes that the faith we’ve received is the most valid until proven unbiblical.

Paul had two reasons for giving Timothy this charge.  One, YOU KNOW THOSE FROM WHOM YOU LEARNED IT.  This faith had been personally received.  Likewise, we need trustworthy people to develop and demonstrate the truth for us.  We need to have a personal history of having been nurtured in faith; not just taught lessons, but an example has been set.

Two, YOU HAVE KNOWN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES on which it is based.  Jewish children memorized the Scriptures; from the least capable to the most, all Jewish boys memorized the first five books of the Bible.  This mental and spiritual preparation made Timothy WISE FOR SALVATION; prepared him to receive the true faith by teaching him the wisdom of obeying the will of God.  Salvation is  THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, the one who provided salvation for us by means of His sacrifice.

  1. We rely on the Bible to guide us (3:16-17).

The origin of Scripture is the Holy Spirit; it is GOD-BREATHED.  (See also 2PR 1:21.)   Because it comes from God, it needs to be used as literally as possible.  That’s the discipline of following God, not self.  Because it comes from God, we need to resist compromise and watering down the Bible in order to make it more appealing to our culture.

In John 10:35, Jesus said the Word of God cannot be broken.  By that He meant that the truth will always win out.  However, it can be twisted to say things God did not intend and we have to be careful to avoid that.

The usefulness (“profitability”) of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works.  Specifically, we are to use it for:

– TEACHING refers to the content, not the method. In our age, it is not the media that matters, it is the message.  Our message must, in both word and spirit, consist of the words on the page.

– REBUKING refers to the spiritual power of the word to bring conviction of sin. It is generally not our job to convince people they are sinners.  Generally speaking, we let the word speak for itself.

– CORRECTING literally means “to straighten up” or “set in an upright position.” This is a life-long process and if we don’t let our pride complicate it, it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant thing to give or receive.  We all need course corrections occasionally and those are easier to achieve if we do them BEFORE we drift too far off.

– TRAINING (used to refer to child-rearing) IN RIGHTEOUSNESS refers to putting God’s word in our hearts so that in any situation we can be guided by the truth, arriving at a decision that honors God.

This preparation is complete; Scripture enables us to personalize and enact the faith of our fathers.  That’s how Paul could write that we are THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED = not lacking anything.  No excuses for not doing right.  We must be biblically literate, but that’s not the goal.  The goal is to know enough of the Bible to obey God.  To do right is the goal.  It can be translated as “complete, capable, proficient, or able to meet all demands.”  God has EQUIPPED us with salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Word, the Church, and a head to understand and a heart to love.

Continuing on this universal preparation them, Paul added FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.  We do not study, listen, watch and learn about the Bible just to increase our knowledge.  Instead, we put God’s word in our hearts and minds so we can DO RIGHT.  There are few things as miserable as a Bible snob.  Don’t think you know better if you don’t DO better!  Don’t argue or put on airs only to have your ungodly secrets let the air out of you!  What really matters is loving the Author of the Bible and making that love real in everyday life!

According to the latest poll, the percentage of people who strongly agree that the Bible is a sufficient guide for meaningful life has dropped from 53% in 2011 to 45% in 2016.  The percentages of those who disagree strongly or somewhat have increased over the same time frame, from 23% to 33%.  In total, that’s an 18% loss of confidence in the Bible over the last five years.  Treat surveys and polls and that kind of data as you wish, but I think these numbers betray what we all suspect: there is a growing lack of confidence in the Bible as an authoritative document.  So – as we conclude, let’s have a quick history lesson on how we got here.

The “Premodern” Era

In the first 1500 years of history after the birth of Jesus (the “Common Era” in modern secularized parlance) this passage would have been easily applied and applauded.  The prevailing thought then was that everything true had already been revealed.  The past was their main time period.

Faith was something you received through your ancestors and through the authoritative teaching of the church.  Their emphasis would be on Paul passing on the truth he had personally received from Christ.

The “Modern” Era

Over the next five centuries, the emphasis would shift to the individual.  Most people believed that reasonable people, given enough time and reliable information, could understand the truth of any situation including the Bible.   Their emphasis was on the future, expectantly believing that reason would create a better world tomorrow.

The formation of their faith examined sacred texts like this one from an impersonal, scientific point of view to wring droplets of truth from the damp cloth of the interpretations of previous generations.  Their emphasis would be on Timothy, who had to apply his faith as he pastored his church.

The “Postmodern” Era

In the last two generations of the Western world, the culture is at a place entirely the opposite of the Bible writers.  If a Paul wrote these words to a Millennial Timothy, Tim would likely respond, “What?  Just because you say so?  What about me and my experiences?”  The prevailing thought is to be skeptical of traditions and all information commonly accepted as true.  The present moment (as an extension of self) is t time period most important to this culture.

Faith is something you have to create for yourself or it is not real.  People are encouraged to borrow words, symbols, and ideas from all kinds of religious traditions without having the bother of understanding them in context or using them in ways that are faithful to the religion of origin.  Making faith personal means redefining things in ways relevant to self.

Even on Father’s Day, the message that we celebrate and affirm and the “Faith of Our Fathers” is a hard sell.  It’s part of what makes Christianity irrelevant in our culture.

My suggestion is that we keep the message but tweak the method.  We call on each person to examine the Faith of Our Fathers; to own it by means of personal experience, reason, and spirituality.  BUT, we assert that the Bible is final authority and that our search for meaning be open-ended, not driven to affirm what our secular culture has ordained as its new orthodoxy, “political correctness.”  We should stress the benefit of studying what previous generations have said and not reject traditions out of hand.  It is to our benefit to use the context in which these words were given and how they have been received historically.

Here’s what I want you to do.  Take a look at the quiz in this morning’s bulletin and pick one question that you think is more important to you.  Then, if you can, have a conversation with someone at least one generation younger than you.  You will tell them which question you selected and why you think it is important.  Ask them what they think.  Do they agree with the faith you’ve just declared?  Is it important to them?  Explore differences of opinion.  Talk about ways you’ve personally experienced and demonstrated this truth.  (Personal experience trumps authority & antiquity.)

Answers:

  1. 66
  2. 27
  3. 21
  4. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image and worship it. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord. Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet.
  5. Matthew and, more famously, Luke.
  6. Bethlehem
  7. Mary and Joseph
  8. Carpenter
  9. 12: Simon Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew or Nathanael, Thomas, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot
  10. In the temple
  11. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; it was recorded in John 11.
  12. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 (Late manuscripts add “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”)
  13. During the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. He washed their feet, gave them bread and wine by which to remember his body and blood, and told them he would soon be betrayed.
  14. The Jewish religious authorities, with the help of Judas Iscariot
  15. Garden of Gethsemane
  16. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian church.
  17. Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. (Thank the Council of Nicaea.)
  18. Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter.
  19. Lent is a season of 40 days that lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It represents Jesus’ 40 day stay in the desert, and those observing it pray, repent, and fast.

Forget the Movies: READ “Jurassic Park,” Don’t Watch It

Crichton’s Message in “Jurassic Park”

Forget all of the movies based on Crichton’s dinosaur books. (In fact, forget all movies made from Michael Crichton’s books. Film media has simply never done justice to the man’s brilliant authorship. Crichton said as much himself, and I agree.)

I have recently re-read Jurassic Park for the third or fourth time, and finally got the point. In all of Crichton’s books there are passages where one of the characters preaches. Where he or she delivers what must be Crichton’s message. I do not believe he wrote merely to entertain. Crichton’s prose and research were aimed at delivering a message to his readers. (As it took me multiple readings, I must be a slow study!)

About three-quarters of the way through Jurassic Park (p. 305+ of my version), the infamous raconteur-cum-mathematician, Dr. Ian Malcolm, has been injured by the T-rex and is under the influence of morphine, but it hasn’t slowed his brain a bit. He is arguing with John Hammond, the showman whose vision has driven Jurassic Park to completion. They’ve exhausted chaos theory as a topic of debate and Hammond has just muttered about how his vision had been so simple and now it was unraveling. Malcolm took exception to the word simple. He goes on to explain his umbrage.

“‘You know what’s wrong with scientific power?’ Malcolm said. “It’s a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails.’

“Hammond said, ‘What is he talking about?’

“Harding made a sign, indicating delirium. Malcolm cocked his eye.

“‘I will tell you what I am talking about,’ he said. ‘ Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can’t be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

“‘Now what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won’t use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won’t abuse it.

“‘But scientific power is like inherited wealth attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. there is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick [the Gennaro and Nedry characters], make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy [the Wu and Hammond characters]. Cheat, lie, falsify – it doesn’t matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast.'”

There’s more in the same vein. And, when you read Jurassic Park in this light, it’s all over the book. The whole park project is a paroxysm of greed with science in harness.

At one point later in the book, Hammond confesses his worry that the dinosaurs will get loose and destroy the world. Malcolm scoffs at this notion, noting that the world has been through a lot worse than humanity and will survive long after we don’t. For an even more deliberate stick in the eye of the “climate change” community, read Crichton’s State of Fear. That book is even more polemical than Jurassic Park.

The point here is that scientists are ill-suited to be the high priests of the religion of secularism. Modernism insisted that scientists would create a better day. That we could find out all we needed to know to control our world, our lives, each other, if we just studied hard enough. We placed this authority in the hands of “scientists.” (Regardless of how murky the qualifications for that title have become.) The truth is, they are not pure devotees to knowledge. With the power liberal society entrusts to them, with the money that follows, scientists are shown to have the same human nature as the rest of us. They can be just as shallow, conniving, greedy, and manipulative to suit their own ends.

Take, for example, the joker who announced he’d discovered the “gay gene.” (I haven’t bothered to remember his name and won’t be bothered to look it up.) When his science was proven false, he defended himself by saying something like this; “I want so strongly to believe that people are born gay that I won’t rest until I find evidence that it’s true.” A liar and a cheat with a degree and an agenda attempted to mislead the world.  And, given half a chance, he will try to do so again.

In case I haven’t made this clear, let me say it again. I enjoy Jurassic Park as a work of fiction. I read it at least twice before I discovered the message Crichton put in this well-written bottle. There is no reason for me to read something in the pages of the book that is not there. I challenge you to read the book with the knowledge of the theme and you will see that this message is not just on Ian Malcolm’s lips, it is inherent in the motivations of most of the main characters, and is, in fact, the engine that drives the plot.

It is a message that is finding more traction in our post-Modern culture. Science is not an alternative religion. Scientists are not alternative priests. Progressivist notions that place our social trust in these institutions are half-baked, inadequate, untrustworthy.

May I suggest we hear Crichton’s message? That might be a good place to start hearing some of the voices of antiquity? To read the findings of men and women who exercised due diligence, who exerted wisdom, and had patience to seek the truth for the truth’s sake? Though I guess Crichton might disagree on this specific point, let me suggest secularism and modernism receive a quick burial and we turn to the Bible as our source of authoritative truth, moral wisdom, and intellectual honesty. By going backward in time we can better go forward in our shared future.