Those of you that listen to my podcast know that I have been talking a lot about politics, in particular, Ron Paul. My premise is that “theology is everything.” It affects everything we do. I made this proposal in a paper that I wrote as a theological reflection of Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise For Young Theologians.. I think that it affects how we even choose a President.
I listed to part of a sermon by Pastor David Denny, pastor of Whipple Avenue Baptist Church in Canton, Ohio, where my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law attend, as well as many other family members. I like Pastor Denny, and in this sermon, he talked at length about the difference between modernism and postmodernism. According to Wikipedia, modernism is “a series of reforming cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged roughly in the period of 1884-1914.” It goes on further: “The term covers many political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. It is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation.” If I may be so bold as to add to this, modernism fits very well in classical Protestant liberalism and in many of our current theologically conversative churches, particularly among fundamentalist churches. The difference is that the elements are changed in fundamentalism to include a very narrow set of “set of thought” that replaces human beings with a certain formula of traditions that will “create, improve, and reshape your enviroment.” Let’s not fool ourselves. The fundamentalist movement in the United States, complete with its legalism that is not part of the Bible, can be just as dangerous as Protestant Liberalism. Perhaps this is part of the reason there was such a strong reaction in the system of postmodernism.
I should pause here and explain that by fundamentalism I do not mean the typical fundamentalist theological system that holds to the “fundamentals of the faith.” That aspect of the original fundamentalist movement is to be commended from moving away from the more liberal aspects of modernity. According to Wikepedia: “The term ‘fundamentalism’ was originally coined to describe a narrowly defined set of beliefs that developed into a movement within the US Protestant community in the early part of the 20th century. These religious principles stood in opposition to the modernist movement and espoused the strict adherence to and faith in religious ‘fundamentals’.” The fundamentalism that I am referring to is the branch that Wikepedia describes thus: “Over time the term came to be associated with a particular segment of Evangelical Protestantism, who distinguished themselves by their separatist approach toward modernity, toward aspects of the culture which they feel typify the modern world, and toward other Christians who did not similarly separate themselves. Examples of things that fundamentalists might believe important to avoid are modern translations of the Bible, alcohol and recreational drugs, tobacco, popular music (often including Christian contemporary music), television, the use of instruments in worship, dancing, “mixed bathing” (men and women swimming together), gender-neutral or trans-gender clothing and hair-styles, and clothes that are immodest, i.e. show an excessive amount of flesh. Such things might seem innocuous to the outsider, but to some fundamentalists they represent the leading edge of a threat to the virtuous way of life and the purer form of belief that they seek to protect and to hold forth before the world as an example. Many fundamentalists accept only the King James Version translation of the Bible and study tools based on it, such as the Scofield Reference Bible.”
Postmodernism is defined by Wikipedia as “a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding, modernism…” It goes on to talk about this reaction: “Postmodernism (sometimes abbreviated Pomo) was originally a reaction to modernism (not necessarily “post” in the purely temporal sense of “after”). Largely influenced by the disillusionment induced by the Second World War, postmodernism tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or interreferentiality.” In other words, and as Pastor Denny put it, postmodernism is characterized by asserting that modernism (remember: the system that Protestant liberalism is rooted in and the system that I believe fundamentalism is also rooted in) did not have the answers that it said it did and by further asserting that not only did modernism not have the answers, but no one has those answers.
One of more troubling aspects of postmodernism, particularly when it is applied to modern textual criticism of the Scriptures, is that of deconstructionism. Deconstructionism asserts that not only can we not know the answers to modern problems, but there are also other things that we cannot know, such as the author’s intent when he/she is writing, thus we cannot truly know what, for example, the Apostle Paul was truly trying to get at in his epistles because we cannot know his underlying assumptions or issues. Taken to the extreme, we can never know truth about anything, thus truth become relative. Subsequently, if we are to try and truly understand what the author’s intent is, we must deconstruct the writing and then try and reconstruct them to discover what the true intentions are.
Now, back to my original thought: If theology applies to every aspect of life, including how and who we elect for the Presidency, then what effect has postmodernism had on this process? This is a big thought, and one I will have to write more on later…
By the way, as I was writing this, I heard on the radio that Fred Thompson has dropped his bid for the nomination of the President. Apparently, his mother is very ill. Or…as the postmodernist would say…”Is that the real reason?”
For the record, so you guys do not think I’m a jerk or anything…I wish Thompson and his family all the best and pray that his mother speedily recovers.