1.10.2007

Conclusions

Since today is Wednesday and I have scheduled to blog about religion on Wednesdays, let me list a few conclusions I've reached that have to do with current Christian conversations.

  1. Postmodernism, postmodernity, pomo, and whatever it is called by the kids these days are not bad words. OK, maybe pomo is a bad word, but only on an aesthetic level. [1/11/07 Clarifications: 1) I mean to say the word "pomo" sounds funny to my ears. It is aesthetically displeasing; 2) These words mean different things in different fields (theology, architecture, art, etc.); I am speaking only of the way they are used in theological conversations.]
  2. There is something uncomfortable about a church that houses a coffee shop, bookstore, etc. which do the most business on Sunday morning. I half expect Jesus to return to earth tomorrow and start turning over tables. Somebody would have to refold all of the scattered fish t-shirts and mop up the half-caf lattes with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
  3. The most useful model for the church is family. My family, by the way, is weird and wacky, but also loving and supportive. I love them! Models of the church as business or cells or whatever just don't do it for me. I think I am treading pretty close to a biblical imagination here, but I am not claiming that. Which leads me to my next conclusion...
  4. Just because you offer a handful of verses to support your argument does not make it the right argument. Read the whole freaking book would you! Read the whole Bible in fact. Also, don't ever ask me what verse I have to offer to support what I am saying. I don't know what precise verse! I do hope though that I am engaging the Sciptures often and deeply enough to say that my arguments are shaped by a biblical imagination. But, more than that, I hope that I am engaging scripture in and with my family, the church, so that my ideas and arguments are being shaped by an imagination that echoes the words of God (scripture) and reflects the body of Christ (the church).
  5. Finally, I conclude that I am wrong more times than I am right; God is graceful, and faithful. Boy, is God faithful!
  6. OK, maybe one more conclusion...and that is "there is always more to be said."

9 comments:

Igford said...

Depending on what you mean, I tend to disagree with you on #1. I understand "postmodern" as a term from the 1960s used to describe architecture and art that doesn't make any sense (aka "weird for the sake of weird"). It is, in my opinion, a terrible word to use to describe a theology. I refuse to use it. But that's just me.

On #2. Totally agree. It is uncomfortable. I was alright with a small bookstore that has recommended literature. I'm generally ok with a coffee shop for fellowship. But I am not, by any means, comfortable with a church that sells baby clothes and other items with religious phrases on them.

I like what you said about #3. That's a terrific model.

But I'm going to need you to provide a verse that proves it. Just kidding.

ke said...

i like the bit about a "biblical imagination". it just seems right.

Igford said...

Chris, you didn't need to make the clarification. I knew what you meant. I'm just saying that I don't like that the word is used in the theoligical sense at all. I have many reasons for this. But the main one is that the word has no true meaning. It was invented as a word for people (mainly artists) who can't explain themselves. Instead they wanted to simply say "you just don't understand it because its not for this time period. It isn't modern." That's fine for artists, but I object to using this phrase to describe ways of thinking, specifically in the realm of theology. It leaves no historical mark. 100 years from now no one will look back and be able to say "oh yes. I remember that way of thinking. That was back in the time of postmodernism." Postmodern thinking could be used to describe any type of thinking from any type of time period as long as the person doing the thinking was going against the modern understandings from that time period. It has no definition outside of that. It is a terrible description.

Thats all I'm really saying. It is just a bad descriptive word. I'm not sure what word to use as a replacement, but there needs to be something, in my opinion.

But there is always more to be said. :)

Chris Spinks said...

Igford, postmodernism is indeed something different in architecture and art, though I would contend it was not weird just for weridness sake, and I would contend that there are some underlying philosophical convictions that postmodernism in art shares with postmodern theologians. But still, PM has a different set of baggage depending on what discipline one is in. I wonder why you think it is so terrible to describe theology with it. If, in general, it is used to describe something that moves beyond the defining characteristics of modernism (itself a loaded term, but idenitfiable nonetheless), then I am happy to use it to describe theology (really describing the theological conversation; but what is theology if not a conversation?). I am heavily influenced by Fuller philosopher Nancey Murphy on the topic of PM. See especially her book Anglo-American Postmodernity.

Igford said...

Let me back up a bit and say that I shouldn't have used the word "descriptive." Postmodern is actually a fine descriptive word. What I should have said is that it is a terrible label. For the same reason that "modern" is a a perfectly fine descriptive word, but a terrible label for anything other than a period of time.

I really just take issue with the meaning of the word in relation to the origins of the word versus how the word is used.

The word modern means of or related to the present or recent times. A good synonym is contemporary, which means existing in the present (now). This is what the word means. It will always mean this. It isn't going to change as we move forward in time. Postmodern, then, *should* mean "after modern" or "not contemporary, but also not traditional" or simply "new." Unless we plan to change the meanings of words at some undetermined future time, we will never use "postmodern" to describe the present.

This is what makes it such a terrible label. Whether it be for philosphy, art, or literature. We should use postmodern as a term to describe someone as being "ahead of their time" or describe an ideal as "new and different" or even "cutting edge." But to take a group of ideals and label it "postmodern" is a mistake, because the meaning of the word allows for other groups of ideals that are in total opposition that could ALSO be described as postmodern.

It would be like using the word "Hip" to label people who wear white washed jeans and have huge hair. It may have been hip in the 80's, but it is not hip today. Hip is a great descriptive word but what it describes is always changing. It makes a terrible historical label and therefore a terrible way to reference any particular thing that used to be popular. "Popular" is another great example, but you get the point.

I guess another way of saying what I mean is that "postmodern" is a fine word to describe many different things. I don't feel it should be used as a term to *refer* to anything in particular.

I should mention, though, that I'm aware that what I think doesn't matter. "Postmodern" is so commonly used as a reference at this point that nothing I can say is going to change anything. I just think it was a mistake to start using it as a label for or a reference to a set of ideals or a style in the first place. That's just my opinion. Obviously there are a lot smarter people than me that use the word regularly, so I should probably just accept it. I'm probably wrong, but I just don't like the word and I'm going to try to hold off as long as I can. Unless, of course, you (or anyone else) can convince me that I'm being dumb. But I don't mean to hijack your blog. Your post was a great one that dealt with a lot more than this subject.

Did any of this make any sense at all or am I just being argumentative? Sometimes I can't tell.

Rustin Smith said...

Maybe thinking of postmodern as simply "beyond" modern would be helpful(?). How about postmodern being beyond the modern notions of 1)intellectual certainty, in favor of "proper confidence" 2) human potential, the idea that we can rise to god-like knowledge of the universe, and 3) cultural progress, the notion that we can build some kind of utopia.

Postmodernism balks at these types of hubris-laden assumptions of modernity and seeks to move beyond them in favor of finding a new way to be human.

Igford said...

You know, now that I think about. I did hijack this post. My argument really has nothing to do with your original point. I read it a different way and ran with it. I think what you were originally saying is that postmodernism isn't a word that should be seen as having negative connotations.

I realize now that my argument is totally in left field. I still think postmodern is a term used far too liberally and that it really never should have been coined to begin with, but I could argue about that all day and it wouldn't have anything to do with what you were talking about. Sorry about the hijack, Chris. Feel free to delete all my comments if you want.

Mike said...

pomo looks a lot like porno when typed. another reason not to use it.

Chris Spinks said...

Igford/Doug, hijack all you want. That's what comments are for. If I or anyone else doesn't want to engage, we'll just ignore you! Just kidding, please feel free to comment as much as you'd like to what ever degree you want, even if it seems off topic. This discussion has given me an idea to work on some post about postmodernism. I think you are right in a lot of ways. But you have to realize in theology and philosophy (especially!) terms have to be used to describe large, often indescribale movements and thoughts. Postmodernism is one of those terms. It has lost its value lately, but in too many people's minds it evokes negative connotations that I think are unfair and lack serious reflection.

Mike, I though the same thing. I just didn't want to be the one to say it.