18 August 2005

Magical mystery tour

PyroManiac

Darlene and I are on a three-day trip to somewhere-and-back with a busload of people we love. It was more or less a last-minute decision to go on this trip, and I apologize for the interruption in what was supposed to be a series on "New-Model Evangelicalism." I'll get back to that ASAP after my return.

I'd say where we are and whom we're with, but in these days of heightened security alerts, discretion is the better part of valour. Besides, I noticed that the hydra known as C.T. is back to harassing people, and I don't want to risk having him/her/they/it hunt me down and slash the bus tyres.

Anyway, I plan to give a full report on the trip with some pictures sometime after I get home. Stay tuned.

For now, here's a brief reading report:

As I have mentioned before, it is my practice when I travel to take as much reading material as I can carry. Since this trip is by bus rather than by plane, I could carry more. So I have brought one briefcase full of stuff that I've printed out from various blogs and websites, and a second briefcase full of books.

I began, yesterday, with the printouts, because when I'm done reading, I can throw most of them away, thus lightening my load as I go. Of all the good and thought-provoking things in the stack, my favorite was about forty pages worth of blogposts on postmodernism from Doug Wilson at Blog and Mablog. Here's a sample of one I really liked:

Postmodernism Is, As Derrida Might Say, Le Dead
I am continuing to slog my way through McLaren and Raschke, left hand raised high so I won't get any on my watch. And I have come to the settled conclusion that postmodernism is dead. Why do I think this? What is the evidence? The proof is conclusive—we can tell that postmodernism is dead because contemporary evangelicals have started to embrace it. The party ceases to be cool when the nerd shows up.


That's typical of Doug's wry, ruthless analysis of pomo trends. There are some brilliant posts in Doug's "postmodernism" thread. (I would imagine that some of Doug's Auburn Avenue pals aren't entirely pleased that Doug is writing stuff like this.)

No time to write more at the moment. I'll try to post again either late tonight or early tomorrow.

Phil's signature

38 comments:

Ryan DeBarr said...

The proof is conclusive—we can tell that postmodernism is dead because contemporary evangelicals have started to embrace it. The party ceases to be cool when the nerd shows up.

That's perhaps my single biggest objection to the Emerging Church. Most Christians I know haven't the slightest idea of what's cool. And when they try to be cool to reach the world, the world thinks they're posers.

There do appear to be some genuinely cool people in the Emerging Church, so I'm not sure the insult sticks entirely.

However, in my experience, speaking as some one who didn't grow up in a "good Christian home", went to public school and state university- real life people don't think it's cool when you change yourself to fit in. The way to reach the culture is just to be a real personal and a real Christian- "incarnational" they would say. All this other stuff is largely gimmickry.

But I do have to admit, that my personality is such that I despise all fads and cliquish groups, and especially those who follow fads and then lecture me about being genuine.

I do want to emphasize again that even though you won't see me wearing the Emergent label, I don't think they're all fakes and fad followers. But as the man said, Christians are way behind the cultural curve and you can just mimick folk to catch up.

Ryan DeBarr said...

I meant to say you CAN'T just mimick folks to catch up.

YnottonY said...

The party ceases to be cool when the nerd shows up.

Funny line, but I don't think the conclusion follows. Postmodernists like to point to the marginalized, and nerds are definitely marginalized. Dweebs, geeks, dorks, nerds, spazzoids and all classes of misfits may be welcome in a postmodern context. After all, they are odd and interesting at times. If universal and objective meaning doesn't matter but only entertainment, then a Napolian Dynomite or Kramer seems cool to watch.

centuri0n said...

Phil --

Doug Wilson is among my most guilty pleasures. When he's laying it on the pomos, the political leftist brownshirts, the faux-temperance types, and even NT Wright, he is so funny and spot-on that I can't help myself.

However, he's like a loose grenade. He always seems to show up as something nobody expected, and someone had better think quick and cover it sacrificially for the sake of the platoon.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phillip, I by no means think of myself as Postmodern or Emergent, however I do find elements in the movement that are good for evangelicalism. I am curious to know if you are willing to admit this?

Benefit of Postmodernism #1- it is post modern. Modernism’s slavish penchant toward a rational faith (oxymoron?) smacks more of Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone than Romans 10:17. Nowhere is this more explicit than in our beloved Princetonian forebearers.

Warfield: we conceive of no act of faith of any kind which is not grounded in evidence . . . faith, in all its forms, is a conviction of truth, founded as such, of course, on evidence . . . Christianity . . . has been placed in the world to reason its way to the domination of the world. And it is by reasoning its way that it has come to its kingship. By reasoning it will gather to itself all its own. And by reasoning it will put all its enemies under its feet

This type of Enlightenment Apologetic (as I like to call it) must be disavowed. Postmodernism’s approach to chastened reason has a refreshing air of premodern times.

centuri0n said...

Jonathan --

While Phil is away, don't you think van Til/Bahnsen's presuppostional apologetic does the heavy lifting that needs to be done to reject the false world view of postmodernism?

Habitans in Sicco said...

Moorhead: You may not consider yourself pomo or emergent, but you have certainly swallowed their primary argument hook, line, and sinker. Sounds to me like it's time for you to get your head out of whatever is the latest release from Zondervan, and read, in context, what Reformed evangelicals in the mainstream have actually said--and what they were writing about these very issues BEFORE Warfield. (Frankly, even Warfield wasn't quite the dull-witted rationalist your quote of him in your context attempts to portray. But the point is that Warfield's evidentialism is by no means the only remaining alternative if you reject the can't-known-anything-with-certainty epistemology of the pomos.)

They'd love you to believe that if you don't see things their way, you must be a Kantian and a Modernist. Don't buy it.

By the way, I thought those guys were supposed to be hostile to rigid either/or reasoning. Why is it that this most fundamental of all their appeals to the rest of us relies so heavily on an either/or assumption, and a faulty one at that?

Adam Cummings said...

Jonathan,
Please don't take this wrong, but you sort of make me think of a friend of mine at college. He was reading McLaren's book one time there at the campus, and he seemed rather proud of that fact. He told me that too many people wave off the message of the Emerging Church, calling it "postmodern crap" rather than listening to what they have to say. He thought that their stressing application was a much needed message today. However, it seems to me that the reason they would stress application is that they seek to take the focus off of exposition and absolute truth, which clearly has to come before application. Thus, it's not any sort of good application that they promote. Jonathan, is "rational faith" really an oxymoron? If your point is that salvation does not always need to be based on some sort of external evidence (in other words, the power is in the Word of God), then I can certainly see some veracity in that premise. If, however, you mean to imply what the postmodern church stresses (no Christian can learn absolute truth from the Bible), then you are very wrong.

The Bereans listened to Paul in Acts 17, but they also studied the Scriptures fervently to make sure that all the things he taught "were so". Even Paul was "reasoning and persuading" people "about the Kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8). There is also Apollos.

The interesting thing was that this friend of mine admitted to me that there are "essential" absolutes (frankly, I'm getting tired of that word, though I know what most people mean by it). This made no sense. We can't absolutely know any truth in Scripture except for the essentials because we are imperfect in knowledge (my friend's reasoning)? How then can we know the essentials?

Anyway, I don't think there is anything to "admit", Jonathan. That's almost like asking "Wouldn't you admit that the communists at least had some good ideals?" in support of communism. "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" is usually how people say it. However, I can learn "application" and "practical" faith from someone committed to teaching and knowing God in His Word. Why think that we must accept a movement because it has good elements mixed with bad. Should we acknowledge Islam, Kingdom Hall, or Roman Catholicism in the least bit just because they all agree that the Scriptures are inspired writings? No! Therefore, I see no necessary basis in commending the Emerging Church for anything.

No offense, Jonathan, and I hope the point is taken.

fickett said...

Disaster continues. I just received a phone call from someone who is on the trip with Phil. They report that their current mode of transport is without power, and will be delayed for an indeterminate time. He did add that they are all enjoying the time with Phil.

Ian said...

Hey, I just added you to my blog list.
Good stuff bro!

Steve said...

That disaster continues is a fairly sure confirmation we're in for more great stories from Phil. :)

No chance Phil had an ancestor named Murphy, a la Murphy's Law?

Ryan DeBarr said...

I am curious to know if you are willing to admit this?

I'm not Phil, but I'll admit it. If modernism is so good for Christianity, why has Darwinism, Marxism, and Atheism flourish between 1780 & 1980? Why has the reach of the church retreated so very far in such a short time, if modernistic thinking is so great.


I'll also agree with the man who said Van Til did most of the heavy lifting to remedy the problem.

There are plenty, of established, conservative answers to the things that Emergent types discuss. They act like they're the first ones who ever thought of these questions, and that also is another source of annoyance for me. I'd be more friendly to them if they weren't so annoying, and weren't so tolerent of heresy.

Ryan DeBarr said...

I really need to proofread before posting.

ThirstyDavid said...

Adam has an excellent point. There is no reason to compliment a heretic on his wardrobe when there are plenty of well-dressed orthodox teachers.

I am weary of hearing Christians go out of their way to list the good points of heretical movements to balance their criticism (she doesn't sweat much, for a fat girl).

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Centuri0n is right (of course he is right!) that the presuppositional approach is the way to go. This is why I clarified in my last sentence, “Postmodernism’s approach to chastened reason has a refreshing air of premodern times.”

Sicco, I never said Warfield was a “dull-witted rationalist.” He was a man of his times, just like you are (even though you may deny it).

Adam,
(1) even though I think it is disingenuous of you to say “no offense” at comparing me to you “proud” friend in college, so be it. I agree with him, however, that it is wise to read someone’s book before criticizing him/her.
(2) I not only think that there is “some veracity” in Sola Fide, but total veracity.
(3) You write, “I can learn ‘application’ and ‘practical’ faith from someone committed to teaching and knowing God in His Word.” Unless you deny common grace and natural revelation (which happens also to be quite “special”), then God can (and should) be glorified through His work in the world. It is important to realize that the Reformers never meant the Bible is the only source for truth when they spoke of Sola Scriptura. Could it possibly be true that pomos have some valid criticism of the evangelical movement?

Final Point: postmodernism is not a monolithic movement. It appears that no one has bothered to define the movement before denouncing it wholesale.

P.S.- I don’t recall seeing anyone agree with the Warfield quote.

Jeremy said...

Dr. James MacDonald has a GREAT statement about Walk In the Word and Harvest Bible Chapel's view on the Emergent Church here

centuri0n said...

Jonathan --

Denouncing is cheaper wholesale, and you cover more ground -- there's more bang for the buck.

It's retail denouncing that I am suspicious of. Why pay extra for a lot less?

YnottonY said...

Could it possibly be true that pomos have some valid criticism of the evangelical movement?

Yes, they do. They have pointed out that naive realism is indicative of "fundamentalism." Because the criticism is largely coming from the enemies of God's word, some people don't like it. Also, since the postmodernists have gone overboard in their own degree of perspectivism, they tend to be dismissed by some. Contrary to the either/or dilemmas presented by some, we are not left with either naive realism or anti-realism. There is a critical realist position. For more on this, see David Naugle's book Worldview: The History of a Concept.

Some of the people reading this blog may be naive realists and fundamentalists. Some of them may be so blind to their own biases and conceptual grids, that they can't see that reading "world" as elect in John 3:16 is complete nonsense. The same goes for the interpretation that "world" means impersonal, created universe in verse 16 (it can mean that elsewhere). This is just an example of how one can assume they have a plain view of the context, when it's the case that they are imposing a view on the "facts". The same thing occurs with many other passages.

Postmodernism is not a monolithic movement. It appears that no one has bothered to define the movement before denouncing it wholesale.

Postmodernism defies a definition. To define something presupposes a universally objective interpretation or conceptual system. Postmodernism may be best described as an antipathy towards metanarratives.

Christway Media has some good audio lectures by D. A. Carson on the Emergent church and postmodernism. I would encourage you to listen to his critique.

Will said...

Douglas Wilson is hilarious. Funny theologians are rare and he is consistantly spot on.

Adam Cummings said...

Jonathan, I was in no way comparing my friend's prideful attitude to you, and forgive me if that is how it came across in the context of my previous post.

However, I see that you don't take points very well, and your responses to my post are completely uncalled for. I don't mean to turn the blog comment page into a debate, but I figure I better defend myself a little here. You basically took everything I said and raised up straw men against me... on all three of your points.

1) I haven't read McLaren's book, and I don't plan on it unless I get extremely bored. I've read an open letter he wrote to Colson (you can see my response to it on my blog), and that was more than enough. I know what major premises McLaren bases his movement on, and I know that they are not good in the least bit. I agree that perhaps it helps to read the book, but I don't think it's always necessary. If we seek to study Scripture, we'll be able to defend against false views, even WITHOUT immersing ourselves completely in their literature (again, I think it can be helpful to read some of their literature).

2) You quote me as saying "some veracity", and you tag that to sola fide. Never did I say that there is some veracity in sola fide, and to use that against me is not exactly called for. I was referring to the fact that, despite all the apologetics information we have, the Word of God in and of itself is powerful enough to move a person's heart to true repentance. I said that if that is what you were referring to, then there was "some veracity" in your statement that "rational faith" is an oxymoron. There is one strawman.

3) Did I ever claim that the reformers said the Bible is "the only source for truth"? Nope. However, they would say that it contains everything we need to know for salvation; it is our regula fidei (rule of faith). Strawman number 2!

Jonathan, re-read the post and please consider the things I said. I would hope you would take some of my points that I commented on (due to my biblical convictions) without flaring up and creating strawmen! Anyways, enough said! Sorry Phil, not trying to turn the blog comments section into anything... I just thought it seemed necessary to defend my reputation there. Everything I said was taken completely out of context. God bless, all!

Adam Cummings said...

Ynottony said:

"Some of the people reading this blog may be naive realists and fundamentalists. Some of them may be so blind to their own biases and conceptual grids, that they can't see that reading "world" as elect in John 3:16 is complete nonsense. The same goes for the interpretation that "world" means impersonal, created universe in verse 16 (it can mean that elsewhere). This is just an example of how one can assume they have a plain view of the context, when it's the case that they are imposing a view on the "facts". The same thing occurs with many other passages."

Not trying to keep disagreeing here, but this apparently categorizes me as a naive realist or fundamentalist. Oh well! I can live with it. ; ) I figure, one must either believe that the verse is referring to the elect, or they must succumb to thinking that God failed in His plan... since verse 17 says that He came to save that same world. I think "world" there in verse 16 of John 3 refers to "humanity", as MacArthur would say, but not every single person without exception. Arthur Pink put it this way: "world" there means every person without distinction, not every person without exception. I think Scripture teaches that message of salvation consistently (see John 10 primarily), and, considering all of the uses of kosmos (world), I don't think that this is reading into the text or stretching any limits whatsoever. With that said, I'll try and shut up for a while! : D God bless!

YnottonY said...

I told ya Jonathan ;-)

Adam, if you would like to discuss that issue further so as to become more epistemologically self-aware, I would like to invite you to join the the Calvin and Calvinism group. Grace to you...

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

"Magical mystery tour"

So...who is the walrus?

Adam Cummings said...

Why then, C.T., did you find it so absolutely necessary to post again on Phil's comments page. Were you afraid of what others thought?

I've seen enough of your blog. Claiming election doesn't make you elect, C.T., following Christ proves your election. You need much prayer... blessings!

Note to others: continuous dialogue with C.T. will only prove detrimental to the good of this blog... just a warning.

Jonathan Moorhead said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adam Cummings said...

Thanks Jonathan! Also, I agree that we can learn from the materials of those we seek to refute. There is a sense in which (there's that infamous philosophical quote) we have to in order to understand what they say, so don't think I'm saying we shouldn't at all.

As for the comment on edification, no offense taken... and point taken. However, you apparently are not familiar with C.T. There comes a time when you stop casting your pearls, and that is perfectly edifying if the other person is just that stubborn. I wasn't trying to be rude to him/her/it/whoever, but there is not much more you can say to C.T. without wasting your time. C.T.'s blog is www.electofgod.blogspot.com ... one visit and you will understand (esp after visiting some of the comments links).

No worries about the strawmen, either... I'm sure I've done worse. I just thought I should clarify what you accidentally took out of context. God bless, Jonathan!

Larson Hicks said...

Phil, I'm sorry, but I don't understand your comments about Doug Wilson at all. The "Auburn Ave. Guys" are some of the best and most vocal opponents of pomos that I've ever heard. The uniting feature about these guys (Lusk, Wilson, Wilkins, Schlissel, Barach, etc.) would have to be thier belief that there is nothing subjective or up to interpretation about the Covenant, making them some of the least Postmodern out there in terms of the sacraments, etc. While most of Christendom wants to internalize and subjectify the Christian "experience" making things like worship, obedience, childrearing, (just about everything) something that "I just have to figure out for myself". Our postmodern feathers get ruffled when someone says "You're not supposed to worship God that way" or "You shouldn't be raising your kids like that." But these are the kinds of things that all of these men are teaching all of the time, appealing to the objective standard of the Bible. At any rate, I don't want to blather, I'll just repeat the fact that I don't understand what is Postmodern about "Auburn Avenue Theology".


I'd also be interested to hear what ways Centuri0n believes that Pastor Wilson is a "live grenade". Perhaps it'd be more appropriate to discuss it privately. I'd love to talk about it though (email me!). Cheers!

Jeff said...

Hey Jonathan. Enough is enough! It's fine to engage others but belittling others as you have been Adam is enough. I read this blog because I enjoy intelligent commentary as is usually the case here. I cannot believe, however, that Phil lets you get away with what you have gotten away with on this blog with smart alecky comments to others. Try to be a little kinder and considerate towards others and quit viewing yourself as more intelligent and somehow "all knowing". I have enjoyed reading this blog up to this point because for the most part commenters are respectful toward each other. You have begun to change that. Maybe you should check out the Boar's Head Tavern group as you seem that you would fit in better there.

Phil Johnson said...

Larson Hicks:

Peter Leithart answers your question here.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

You are right “Jeff.” After re-reading my previous post I agree that I sound quite arrogant. I am sincerely convicted and grieved that I upset you and others. Please pray that God would humble me.

Adam Cummings said...

Jonathan,
No worries! I needed to explain myself a lot up there so that others wouldn't think I believe things I don't (concerning the reformers, sola fide, and the like). I don't think it's any big secret that we all struggle with arrogance and need humbling all the time (especially me, a 19 year old college student majoring in Bible Exposition). I'm not trying to sound like the good guy; quite the opposite. I'll pray for you if you pray for me. Going back for another semester at TMC, I long to grow more in the Lord this year than ever before in my life. There have been recent strongholds in my life that, for years, have hindered me from being who I long to be for Christ and His name. I hope you'll drop by my blog, Jonathan. Not a lot of traffic goes through there, but I hope to keep posting more once at college. God bless!

Larson Hicks said...

Phil,
I think that you might be selectively reading a bit. To say that the Auburn Guys are pomos, based on that post is a stretch, to say the least. Particuclarly when the article says, "This is not to say that Auburn Avenue is simply reflecting cultural trends. I don't believe that is the case. But it means that the Auburn Avenue type of theology looks more like the theology of the present and the future than the theology of Auburn Avenue's opponents, which looks a lot like a fossilized theology locked in the past." Forward moving/thinking theology isn't automatically postmodernity!

Check out Joel Garver's commentary on post modernism, as well as Doug Jones'. Cheers!

Phil Johnson said...

Lars:

"Selectively reading"?

Show me where I ever said "that the Auburn Guys are pomos" and I'll take your criticism seriously.

James Spurgeon said...

Did anyone else notice this:

Phil: Besides, I noticed that the hydra known as C.T. is back to harassing people, and I don't want to risk having him/her/they/it hunt me down and slash the bus tyres.

Tyres?

Phil, when you go to the UK, it is to teach them something useful, influence them, not adapt their worldly and atrocious spelling habits.

James Spurgeon said...

Did I say 'adapt'? I meant 'adopt.' That's just so no one misconstrues that as my adopting of a British spelling or something.

:)

Weston Hicks said...

Phil-

To suggest any substantive postmodernism in FV theology evidenced in Leithart's post is pretty wrongheaded. He says the spiritism of postmodernism (the epistemology of today) gives FV theology more traction than the cold scientific rationalism of modernism (yesterday's epistemology) would have.

It is like saying that insulated interior-of-South America Indians who believe in a god (albeit a pagan one)are more fertile ground for the gospel than Western scientists with phDs are. One group believes there is a god but is confused about who he is and the other has expended great effort to refute all possibility of a god.

The truth or falsehood of the claim made in my illustrstion aside, Leithart was just making the observation that the misguided epistemology of today happens to be a more fertile ground for FV theology than the misguided epistemology of yesterday was.

How you then conclude that Leithart is conceding substantive postmodernism *within* FV theology is beyond me. I think you missed the point.

Weston Hicks said...

Phil writes a post about how hilarious Wilson's bashing of postmodernism is, the adds onto the end of it:

(I would imagine that some of Doug's Auburn Avenue pals aren't entirely pleased that Doug is writing stuff like this.)

Then, after my brother responds in defense of many of his favorite leaders in Christendom (the 'pals' Phil spoke of) after the implication so clear that you could see it from the back row, Phil decides to throw his hands up and say "what'd I do", but does it with the condescending wit that built him a cult following among the dispensationalists.

He said : "Show me where I ever said "that the Auburn Guys are pomos" and I'll take your criticism seriously."

I'm sure your fan club thinks you are perfectly innocent of the charges and that my brother was out of line, but for those who think for themselves, you are employing smoke and mirrors.

Show me an ability to defend yourself honestly and I'll take you seriously.

Adam Cummings said...

*[Adam] does his impression of a mean, hissing cat*