Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dig It. It's, PoMo!

Right now, many aspects of my life revolve around the idea of disciple-making and evangelism. At the church, we are in the midst of a five week study of Bill Hybels' new book/dvd/study thingy called "Just Walk Across the Room." There's this Gen-X Posterboy who's teaching our adult Sunday school class using Campus Crusade for Christ's "CoJourners" materials. All this, plus the fact that I am taking an online class at North Park entitled "Evangelism and Discipleship." It makes sense, eh?

It's very interesting. I was born in 1982, which places me among the first of the Gen-Y/Millenials, and therefore I have tended toward what is often labeled "postmodern thought." I was really confused in my early years of college when my 40-70 year old professors were trying to teach me what this postmodern thougth was and what was wrong with it and what the positives of it were. I didn't get the academic descriptions. It always ended in a battle between absolute and relative truth, which confused me. Based on the academic descriptions, I assumed that these "postmoderns" were the bad guys and that I must restore them to some good 'ol modernist foundationalism. That's where it was at, my friends. Building an inpenetrable wall of truth that nobody could bust through. I did it. I went through the motions. But I certainly didn't understand why.

(Before I go on, I want to say that I'm not convinced that modern/postmodern is a healthy way to label this rift of ideology, but I'm using it anyway for the sake of utility.)

I know now that it's because I was postmodern all along. I was not an academic description of a postmodern, but a living, breathing person who was simply discontent with modern categories of thought, argument and academia. I didn't think I was a postmodern because all the definitions of pomo (as Moe calls it) were put in such modern terms. It was foundationalist language applied to a conflicting ideology. It's like using the language of mathematics to describe a Monet painting.

So is it good that I asked those questions in college? Is it good that I made postmodernism the enemy for a year or so of my life when I was that enemy? I don't know. It happened, though. And I'm quite content being pretty pomo. And I feel like I can talk to strict modernists about this stuff now because I was sort of there myself, but it doesn't make it any either. It is the collision of two worlds, one wrought with inaccurate assumptions on both sides.

For example, there is a bit of an assumption that pomos don't believe in absolute truth. I believe in absolute truth, and that absolute truth can take on many forms and faces. When I talk about the different faces of truth, however, many think I'm slipping into relativism, when all I'm really talking about is contextualizing. Another assumption is that pomos don't believe in logic. That's silly. Logic is alive and well, but it simply isn't enough. Give me mystery, let me love something or someone without fully understanding, but I'm not going to abandon logic along the way.

Then there's the assumption that all pomos wear thick black rimmed glasses and Chuck Taylors. Well...that one is true. You got us there.

There's a lot more to say here, but I'll stop at that for now, leaving you with this thought: This conflict happens everywhere that cultures collide, not just modern/postmodern or foundationalist/pomo collisions, and we must keep in mind that reconciliation is hard work and must be intentional.

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them." 2 Corinthians 5:18-19


At 8:45 PM EST , Anonymous postmodern mathematics said...

So reading this, I still don't get what Modernism and Postmodernism mean to you. I was born in the same year and I don't totally get the connection there, either.

And -- what's wrong with describing a painting using mathematics! There was an article in the NY Times a couple years ago about some mathematicians who did a bunch of transformations to a messed-up tapestry to restore it to its former glory. And there are psychologists who use mathematical models to talk about the perception of colour ... someday they may get on to beauty and sentiment.

At 8:48 PM EST , Anonymous postmodern mathematics said...

PS I'm trying to do my reading on Pomo while building up to a series of blog posts about postmodern / cultural-critique applications of higher mathematics (topology, differential geometry, cohomology, cobordisms, category theory).


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