In the most recent hard copy edition of Christianity Today, Charles Colson tackles the postmodern challenge. The article is called “The Postmodern Crackup: From soccer moms to college campuses, signs of the end” (December 2003, p. 72). It is published by Christianity Today. The web version is now up.
Brian McLaren’s response is posted here at Emergent Village.
Here is a snippet:
“In your article, you pronounced “postmodernism” dead, or on life support, or at least losing strength. You’re kind of right, because the kind of postmodernism you describe – “the philosophy that claims there is no transcendent truth” – was never really alive. It’s a straw man, Chuck, a bugaboo not unlike Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” used to create fear, galvanize sympathy and support, and perhaps raise money. (Everyone knows how a good enemy is a fundraiser’s best friend.)
What you describe as postmodernism – a claim that “there is no such thing as truth,” a rejection of all moral values, or their reduction to mere preferences – may have been purported by a few crazed graduate students for a few minutes at a late-night drinking party. But to paint the whole movement with that brush is just plain irresponsible. . .”
The Skinny Response:
My wife and I wish to announce . . . wait . . .thats the wrong one . . . ahhh, here it is . .
As a Senior Fellow of Emergent, and one who has been discussing this with Brian and the Emergent team for a week, I say:
1. We love Christianity Today. They have published my articles once or twice, not because they were good (they were just ok) but because [in my opinion] they want to speak for the wider Body of Christ.
2. We love Charles Colson. In EmergentYS’s latest book, Stories of Emergence, Spencer Burke (of The Ooze) credits Charles Colson’s pipe as a significant turning point in his own journey towards being a holistic and less legalistic Christian. Way to go Chuck!
3. If the word means what Chuck says it does, we need to trash it. But maybe what Chuck and many church leaders have been fighting is an incorrect understanding of the construct known as “postmodernism” and they are missing something important.
4. If the word “postmodern” has more value than Chuck admits, trashing it would be a hasty move and we may miss out on an extended opportunity to see ourselves, see the world, from a perspective that might be helpful in gaining understanding our opportune time in human history. An understanding that has already been helpful for other disciplines as varied as fashion, cuisine, banking and physics, as well as for more religious enterprises such as missions in a post-colonial world, and church leadership in a decentralized environment.
5. I feel that the word postmodern applies more to the 1980’s than to the today of my world. It therefore does not adequately identify my present paradigm, but rather a stepping stone in my journey so far. I might be happy to ditch the term, but believe that others who have not yet walked down my road, but desire to, would miss out greatly on seeing what I have seen with the set of glasses that the word “postmodern” has offered.