Saints Among Scoffers

Please read 2 Peter 3:1-7 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

(This is the first in a series of five messages on 2 Peter 3.)

The upcoming Second Coming demands godly living now.

Starting with Jesus Himself, people of faith have endured the scorn of people who, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, think themselves so much smarter.  Let me offer as an example a few quotes from notorious scoffers and Bible quotes that answer their objections to the Christian faith.

            Author Gore Vidal stated, “Christianity is such a silly religion.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 = For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Gore Vidal died in 2012, after a decade of decline in which he fell into alcoholism and dementia and had painful feuds with family members and friends.  Maybe his words aren’t so trustworthy after all.

            “Christians are losers.” — said Ted Turner, media magnate (Between this quote and CNN, Turner has a lot to answer for!)

In Matthew 16:25 we read Jesus’ words; “For whoever want to save their life will lose

it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (So we are “losers,” but what we gain in trade is so infinitely more valuable!)

            The French philosopher Voltaire stated plainly the task of opponents of Christianity: “If we would destroy the Christian religion, we must first of all destroy man’s belief i/t Bible.”

In response, the Bible teaches such a plan is doomed to failure.  In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Voltaire never married but lived as a husband to his niece until his death in 1778.  You could say the Church got the last laugh on Voltaire; he refused to recant and was refused a Christian burial.  However, some friends had him secretly buried in a rural church outside of Paris.

<Retrieved from http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/SS/scoffer.htm on 7/7/17.>

In all these examples, men who achieved worldly success thought they could do better than Christianity.  They were scoffers, more impressed with their big brains than anything else, vain rebels against God, whose truth goes marching on.

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).

Peter’s aim in writing two letters to them: STIMULATE WHOLESOME THINKING (1).  The Greek word for WHOLESOME meant “pure when examined by sunlight” or “sincere.”  In this case, the purity in question is theological; it is to have a correct under-standing of the truth.  It means to have a faith that is not compromised by worldly views or falsehood of any kind. This is the opposite of the SCOFFERS, who’re thoroughly compromised.

WHOLESOME THINKING meant to have a “pure disposition.”  It is a worldview informed by, and is in accord with, God’s revelation.

Peter attempted to achieve his objective by reminding them of God’s word (2).  Peter is not just sharing his opinion with them.  These WORDS have come from HOLY PROPHETS and from OUR LORD & SAVIOR THROUGH YOUR APOSTLES.

THE HOLY PROPHETS refers to the Old Testament prophets specifically and generally to all the books of the Old Testament that aren’t histories.

THE COMMAND GIVEN BY OUR LORD AND SAVIOR THROUGH YOUR APOSTLES refers specifically to His two commands to love and generally to all the actions and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  I love how Peter refers to himself and the others as YOUR Apostles.   They were put in authority to pass along the faith as they received it directly from Jesus.  Their testimony is verified by the fact that though 100s of years of history separated them, they spoke with one voice: the APOSTLES preserved what Jesus said and His teaching fulfilled what the PROPHETS predicted.

Further, this is the WORD that had been SPOKEN IN THE PAST.  It is not the latest trend, the popular notion, it is the faith as they had received it from the beginning.  In practice, this means that our faith is based on the word of God, the Bible.  At the beginning of our life of faith, it is especially important that our own beliefs be in accord with the traditions of the Church.  Finally, as we mature in faith, we apply experience and reason to Scripture and tradition to affirm a faith that is our own.

This is NOT to say that we are free to make it up.  That approach is too individualized and subjective to be trust-worthy.  A made-up faith is not true; it is not powerful to save us, nor is it powerful to help us overcome life’s challenges.  A made-up faith is easy prey for the world and our Enemy to corrupt.  It easily becomes a way to make excuses.  Instead of confronting our culture it capitulates to trendiness: “pop faith.”

“Saints” is a New Testament word that refers to all who truly believe and are thereby part of God’s family.  We are to be characterized by purity in thought and action.

Even more important (ABOVE ALL) than WHOLESOME THINKING, he needed to warn them that SCOFFERS would come, trying to confound their WHOLESOME THINKING (3-7).  This creates a couple questions.

One: when are the LAST DAYS (3)?  The LAST DAYS is the span of time between Jesus’ Ascension (when He went back to heaven) and His Second Coming.  All saints, including the New Testament writers, thought that Jesus would come again during their lifetime. The SCOFFERS have been quick to ridicule saints on this basis, as we see in v. 4.

Two: who are the SCOFFERS?  They are identified by their choices: FOLLOWING THEIR OWN EVIL DESIRES (3).  This is often what motivates people to make up their own faith or reject faith entirely; to justify doing what they please.  Remember, these are the SCOFFERS.  The word EVIL is more appropriate in their case because they actively promote falsehood.

They are also identified by their words.  (It’s a little amusing to read, SCOFFERS WILL COME SCOFFING.  What else would they do?)  They scoff at the notion that Jesus will come again.  They deny or sow seeds of doubt about Jesus’ Second Coming (4).  They ignore the facts of creation and history to replace the truth with their own narrative.  Instead of trusting God to reveal Himself accurately, they trust their own intellect, imagination, and/or experiences.

It’s essential to know the truth about the world as a guard against counterfeits.  First, we affirm that God is our Creator (5). It amazes me, for example, that people want to find “laws” of nature without acknowledging the Law-maker, God.

Second, we affirm that, as Creator, God has the right to do anything He wills with creation, including destroying His it.  The history the SCOFFERS are eager to ignore affirms that has already done so – on a limited scale – by means of flood waters (6).  Peter mentioned the world-wide flood to note the historical process:

Warning    =>     Scoffers    =>     World

Delivered            Appeared           Destroyed

This process is being repeated here in the LAST DAYS.

The prophecy the SCOFFERS are eager to ignore warns us He will destroy this creation – on an unlimited scale – by means of fire (7).  There are numerous Old Testament prophecies that connect FIRE and the DAY OF THE LORD (PSS 97:3; ISH 34:4; 66:15-16; DNL 7:9-10; MCH 1:4; JOL 2:30; ZPH 3:8; MCI 4:1).  So this is an example of connection between the PROPHETS and APOSTLES as mentioned earlier.

Peter warned THE PRESENT HEAVENS AND EARTH ARE RESERVED FOR JUDGMENT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE UNGODLY.  In other words, it’s going to happen, but God the Father alone knows when it will happen.  No matter how familiar or how enduring things of this world seem, the truth is that everything is just temporary and will one day be destroyed by fire.  So our job is to focus on the certainty of the end and get ready for it.

Both history and prophecy support the truth that God is in charge and He will decide when reality as we’ve come to know it will cease.

The upcoming Second Coming demands godly living NOW.

“On August 30, 2005 Coast Guard Lt. Iain McConnell was ordered to fly his H46 helicopter to New Orleans and to keep that machine flying around the clock for what would turn out to be a heroic rescue effort.

“None of his crew were prepared for what they were about to see. They were ahead of every news crew in the nation. The entire city of New Orleans was under water. On their first three missions that day they saved 89 people, three dogs and two cats.
“On the fourth mission, despite twelve different flights to New Orleans, he and his crew were able to save no one. None! They all refused to board the helicopter. Instead they told the Coast Guard to bring them food and water.

“They were warned that this refusal to leave was extremely dangerous. The waters were not going to go away soon. Sadly, many of those people perished because of their refusal to be rescued.”
<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermon-central-staff-stories-rejection-79801?ref=TextIllustrationSerps on 7/7/17.>
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has mounted the greatest rescue effort of all time.  But He will not save anyone without their consent.  Giving our consent means giving ourselves to Him, accepting what God has revealed to us by means of WHOLESOME THINKING.

As Peter warns us scoffers will scoff.  We don’t need to be intimidated by them.  We don’t have to argue with or answer them. The proof of our faith is found in godly living.  It is up to us to speak the truth and live the truth and all the more so in these LAST DAYS.

Right from the Beginning #1 – Rightly Created

(Please read Genesis 1:1-5 in your Bible.  I have used the NIV for my remarks.)

Here’s a headline that caught my eye: “Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details.” Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine and he wrote the article that related the results of a new survey by the Southern Baptists’ Lifeway Research division. He wrote: “Americans don’t know much about theology. Most say God wrote the Bible. But they’re not sure everything in it is true.

Six in 10 say everyone eventually goes to heaven, but half say only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. And while 7 in 10 say there’s only one true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—two-thirds say God accepts worship of all faiths.”

While most Americans still self-identify as Christians they are confused about the details of their faith.  In this post-modern age, most people accept this kind of ambiguity without questioning it.  I’ll spare you all the gruesome numbers and share only the highlights:

– Americans think God likes all religions.

– Evangelical believers say hell is for real. Other Americans aren’t so sure.

– Many evangelical believers say everybody goes to heaven. They also believe that only those who trust Jesus as their Savior are saved.

– Everybody sins but it’s no big deal.

– The resurrection really happened. But not everything else in the Bible did.

– Americans believe in the Trinity. But they’re fuzzy on the details.

– Americans disagree about sex, abortion, homosexuality and gender. – Personal salvation takes work. – Withholding communion is frowned upon. – Most Americans don’t buy the prosperity gospel—especially if they have money.

The article concludes: “Basic Christian theology is easy to find on a church’s beliefs webpage, yet most Americans don’t understand how the pieces are related.”

<Retrieved from http://lifewayresearch.com/2016/09/27/americans-love-god-and-the-bible-are-fuzzy-on-the-details/ on 09/30/16.>

  1. Before creation: Only God existed (1:1-2)

IN THE BEGINNING, or, “on the first occasion.”  This refers to a period of time more than a point in time.  This  opening statement affirms three truths that we get right from the beginning:

– God is our Creator; we owe ALL to Him.

– All that is came to be by His power.

– All time is in His hand; past, present & future.

GOD CREATED = The Hebrew word for “created” is used 48 times and in every case, it emphasizes organization, not manufacture.  This means that the writer was concerned about God using His power to bring order out of chaos.  “Chaos” is the appropriate descriptor: it fits with the words that describe THE EARTH prior to God’s commands to put it in order.

– FORMLESS. Think of a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel.  It has potential to be all kinds of things, but at the moment it has no useful form.  It is unorganized and essentially “formless,” awaiting the hand of the potter.

– EMPTY means that it was without life. Notice that on days three, five and six, God ADDED life to the earth.  It had not been there previously because the chaos had not yet been organized to make it hospitable to life.

– DARKNESS is often a biblical symbol of uninhabitable places. Jesus warned that people who refused to honor God would be CAST INTO THE OUTER DARKNESS, WHERE THERE IS WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH (see Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).

– THE DEEP refers to the sea. For the Hebrews, the sea was the epitome of chaos.  They were not sailors and did not observe the regularity of the tides; they saw the waves rise and fall in random fashion and saw in that a symbol of chaos.

The Greek-influenced writers of the NT had a different purpose in their descriptions of creation: they added the answer to the question of the manufacture of the universe because it is a question important to Western-style thinking. They identified God as the origin of matter and said that he created all that is OUT OF NOTHING (see Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 11:3). They expressed God’s power in terms of the miraculous; none of us has the power to create something out of nothing.  God created EVERYTHING out of nothing!

The emphases of the Old Testament and New Testament authors are slightly different: How do we put the Hebrew and Greek points of view together?  By reading the text carefully, seeing the words on the page!  To review; the first line reads, IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.  We normally take that in logical order, as a summary statement.  The author is introducing us to what will follow.  Why can’t it be taken in chronological order?  In this case, the author is telling us that God created everything first, then He organized it and gave it purpose.  This is where the four words that indicate chaos are appropriate.  Creation was a work in progress in verses one and two.  So the first statement answers the Greek question, “What is the origin of matter?”  The remainder of the chapter answers the Hebrew question, “What is God’s purpose in creation?”

THE SPIRIT OF GOD WAS HOVERING OVER THE WATERS.  In Hebrew and Greek, the word for SPIRIT also means “wind.”  This is aptly translated as Spirit, and the point is that the Spirit was ABOVE the chaos.  This statement comes at the end of verse two, at a time when the reader needed to be reassured that the four chaos words do not teach that God was not in control.  Just the opposite; God’s SPIRIT rose above the DEEP, hanging over the FORMLESS and EMPTY DARKNESS, poised to start organizing creation.  John H. Walton translated vs. 1+2: “The earth was nonfunctional; primordial, watery darkness prevailed, and a supernatural wind that was permeated with the power of God circulated over the surface of the waters.” (The New International Version Application Commentary, Genesis, p. 78)

Why is this at important? Three reasons:

First, this is the Bible answering two of the three important questions on which every worldview is based.  If we don’t get it right from the beginning, then all of what we do with the remainder is on a poor foundation.  The three questions are below.

– Where did we/I come from? The question of origin.

– Why are we/I here? The question of purpose.

– Where are we/I headed? The question of outcome.

The secular worldview of our time removes God and replaces Him with chance.  They say all that is comes from random combinations; that all this highly organized complexity came from plain doo-dah luck.  And they accuse us of blind faith!  If there is no Creator then creation has no purpose, and neither do you and I, except for the very temporary things we can achieve in our lives and our descendents.  That is a philosophy of loneliness and despair.

  1. Creation, Day One: Separating day and night (1:3-5)

Following a two-step process again, God first created LIGHT where none had previously existed; all creation was in DARKNESS, remember?  Then He organized the LIGHT by separating it into the two halves of every day: DAY and NIGHT.

Skeptics point out that the heavenly bodies, including the sun and moon, were not created until day four.  They argue that a “day” is measured by the sun, so this makes no sense to them.  Our answer to this objection is simple: God used another light source on day one, probably the radiance of His presence.  Think about it: why would our Creator have to depend on the sun to create LIGHT?  Obviously, He did not.

Their objection arises from looking at the account through the lens of their own reason and experience instead of through a theological lens, as the writer surely intended.  Their objection has no power to disprove because it simply does not apply.

Because LIGHT is the first step in organizing creation, the use of the word DAY at the end of each section makes perfect sense, even in the usual way we take that term; a “day” is a period of DARKNESS and a period of LIGHT.  Indeed, at the end of each section the writer is keen to consistently observe, THERE WAS EVENING, AND THERE WAS MORNING.  Why repeat this phrase except to emphasize the order God imposed on creation, bringing time itself into being!  Also, remember the Hebrew emphasis is on order, not on science.  His account of creation is more to form our theology than our science.  The first LIGHT was supernatural.

Why is EVENING listed first?  The Jews marked the beginning of a new day at sunset, not sunrise.  Their calendar was based on the moon, not the sun.  As the Jewish practice was likely based on this account, the two things make perfect sense.

Some well-meaning folks have tried to say that the Hebrew word for DAY can actually refer to an extended period of time.  They want to integrate the theory of evolution into the Bible by making the word DAY essentially meaningless.

– First, I would say that if the word DAY were meant to indicate any number of days, this would make the words EVENING AND MORNING absurd and puts the text at odds with itself.

– Second, a rule of Bible interpretation is that unless the Bible itself gives you good reason to do otherwise, always assume that you will take the words on the page literally.

– Third, interpreting the creation account from a scientific point of view will do violence to the text. God, not science, is the final authority.  These words were given to point to God, not to justify the current trends in science.

In fact, the words “GOD SAID” indicate the engine of creation; the word of God.  We have to observe from the beginning that He spoke and it came into being.  That is power, folks.

This emphasis on the WORD will be picked up again in the Gospel of John where Jesus is connected to this creation account: IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD.  HE WAS WITH GOD IN THE BEGINNING.  THROUGH HIM ALL THINGS WERE MADE; WITHOUT HIM NOTHING WAS MADE THAT HAS BEEN MADE.  IN HIM WAS LIFE, AND THAT LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF MEN.  THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS, BUT THE DARKNESS HAS NOT UNDERSTOOD IT. (JHN 1:1-5)

Here’s another headline that caught my eye last week: “The wrong kind of throne: Toilet discovered at 2,800-year-old shrine reveals Biblical tale of desecration of religious sites by King Hezekiah.”  The article was published by Richard Gray for MailOnline on September 28, 2016.

“The city gate at Tel Lachish in Israel has been found to have once contained a sacred shrine with two altars. Raised corners once decorated the altars have been cut and a toilet was installed in the corner of the shrine.  Archaeologists believe this was a desecration as part of a religious crackdown on cults and idol worship.  King Hezekiah is said in the Bible to have ‘removed the high places’ and ‘smashed the sacred stones’

“It was one of the most zealous religious crackdowns in the history of Judaism and saw the numerous cults in ancient Judah smashed to pieces. Now evidence of the reforms implemented by King Hezekiah, which are described in the Old Testament, around 2,800 years ago have surfaced in a surprising form.

“Archaeologists digging at the site of an ancient gate to the ruined city of Tel Lachish in Israel have uncovered the remains of a shrine that was desecrated during the purges in the 8th century BC.

“The Lachish city gate, as it is known, consists of six chambers which contain signs of city life at the time.  In one of the chambers, however, is a shrine that once had walls covered with white plaster and two altars decorated with raised corners – known as horns.

“These, however, appear to have had their tops deliberately cut off, a sign that there had been an attempt to end the spread of religious cults and centralize worship in Jerusalem.

“But perhaps the greatest sign that the shrine had been the site of one of King Hezekiah’s crackdowns was the installation of the toilet within the inner sanctum of the shrine. This stone with a hole cut through the centre would have been the ultimate desecration of the Holy site.

“Tests at the site showed that while the toilet stone appears to have been installed to desecrate the shrine, it was never actually used.  Archaeologists instead believe it had been placed there symbolically and the inner sanctum of the shrine was sealed shut.”

“WHY INSTALL A TOILET?” you ask?

“Putting a latrine at a holy site was considered to be sacrilege as it soiled a religious location that was to be respected.  Evidence of abolishing cultic locations by installing a toilet in them is known in the Bible.

“In the case of Jehu destroying the cult of Baʽal in Samaria, the Bible states: “And they demolished the pillar of Baʽal, and demolished the house of Baʽal, and made it a latrine to this day” (II Kings 10:27).

“The discovery at Tel Lachish, however, is the first time that an archaeological find confirms this practice.”

<Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3811712/The-wrong-kind-throne-Toilet-discovered-2-800-year-old-shrine-reveals-Biblical-tale-desecration-religious-sites-King-Hezekiah.html on 09/30/16.>

So – here is yet another place where science proves the Bible to be true.  If God can use a latrine to prove His word truthful and trustworthy, then maybe He can use you and me!

(This message can be viewed on YouTube at “EBCSF.”)

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.