Posted by: jadanzzy | January 23, 2008

Modern Mohler

Albert Mohler (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) wrote an entry in his blog about postmodernism and its effects on the divinity of Jesus Christ.

He writes:

While postmodern literary theorists debate the meaning of “totalizing metanarratives,” at the level of popular piety we see the widespread substitution of “spirituality” for biblical Christianity. In this sense, spirituality is a project centered in the self and constantly negotiable — more about “meaning” than truth.

Is there anything about this statement and the article that bothers anyone?

It seems he’s sidestepping his criticism of postmodern Christians in particular (which he has done before) and talking about the general postmodern influence on the issue of faith and truth. However, I’ve found that those in our “morally declining” culture who find Jesus to be a wonderful teacher and an example for appropriate living seem to have it more right than the ones to place standards on “Biblical” truth.

By the way, I know, personally and dearly, self-described postmodern Christians who in no way deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truth of Trinity.

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Responses

  1. Agh, I wrote a long comment and lost it via crappy browser technology.

    In short, then. I would emphasize the “by the way” part. The argument seems like it could be put to rest by simply noting that it certainly is possible for postmodern Christians to adhere to faith in Christ and His Lordship. So what now? Is that ok? Does that make them any less postmodern? I don’t think so.

  2. i don’t think so either anakai.

    although, I wonder about Mohler’s mention of postmodernism appeal to the “self” in relation to his subsequent criticism of the emerging movement.

    Maybe the leaders of the emerging movement have their theology down, and understand the truth of the gospel, but I wonder if a lot of the un-thinking, uneducated followers of the emerging movement might latch on to the appeal of the postmodern “notions” rumored to be a part of th emerging movement’s core values.

    I’ve read Scot McKnight’s stuff and would definitely say that those who are at the core of the emerging movement have their shit together, they know the truth, they speak the truth. But I wonder how many people who claim to be part of the movement are really knowledgeable about its major tennets. Christians in general have for a long time been harpooned as un-thinking, uneducated people (see: Mark Noll’s THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND). I could easily see a lot of young self-centered people, loving what they *think* is the emerging movement because they *think* it’s all about experiential, relational, spirituality that has nothing to do with sin, self-denial, faith with works, denying yourself, laying down the lordship of your life, atonement, payment, price.

    personally, i love anything that appeals to my “self”, but I’m just sinful like that.

    good query jadanzzy.

  3. what’s the difference between spirituality and biblical christianity? does that mean biblical christianity has no spiritual component, or devoid of spirit?

    I think there needs to be some sort of clarification on the terminology.

    (sorry, no time to read the whole article).

  4. i just re-realized that i’m the least theologically well-read out of the 5 of us.

    all i can do is react from my own little hole in the ground, but i do not think that mohler’s comments are automatically without merit as implied (i think?) by nieophyte (“i before e”, “i before e”, “i before e”).

    but jadanzzy’s observation about the blatant inaction of those who belong to the camp of “biblical christianity” as tradition/accepted institution is meritorious as well.

    thus echoing anakainosis (“a before i before n before o before s before i before s” what the freak man?) it does indeed (sorry nieophyte. it appears that i am as pretentious as i was afraid i was) lead us to a “so what?”

    more and more i cant help but believe and be astounded by the fact that bad theology does not preclude good christianity.

  5. I unfortunately know a lot less about post-modern Christians than I do about the philosophy of ‘post-modernism’, but it seems to me that the more you embrace post-modernism, the harder it is to affirm absolute truths like that of the Trinity, etc.

    Also, I agree with worinld-Biblical truth would seem to encompass Jesus being a wonderful teacher and an example for appropriate living and also the Son of God, and all that other good stuff.

  6. Ah Jamie. The word ‘absolute’. I first heard the aversion to the word when one of our own writers, nieophyte, revealed a level of absurdity regarding the word.

    I, too, have come to embrace (YES!!) a postmodern aversion to the word ‘absolute’. For me to believe that the Trinity is truth, is NEVER to believe that it is an absolute truth. Why? Because I, in my human existence, could never know whether it was an absolute truth or not. I can merely state that it’s a truth in my life, and a central and authoritative truth in my life. For me to assert that it’s a truth extending beyond all human comprehension and subjectivity renders me a heretic.

    Knowing something is absolute is only left up to God.

  7. But if you can’t say the Trinity is true across all time, humanity, comprehension, etc. then what good is it? Aren’t we to be pitied above all men if it’s only true to us(that would seem to imply that it doesn’t really exist, if it can’t be equally true to any person)? If the Gospel is not an absolute truth, then it seems to rob it of all of its divine power beyond the Thomas Jefferson-manual-of-living-a-good-life stuff.

    There are some contingent truths (I think that I will continue to enjoy Burger King, but it is possible that there will come a day when the Whopper no longer brings me happiness). I am not so arrogant about human capability to think that we have ascertained the one eternally correct interpretation of all aspects of the Bible. Our interpretations are probably all flawed in some manner, if only because we are human, as you point out.

    However, I do think that the Scripture contains truth extending beyond all human comprehension and subjectivity. And I’m pretty sure the basics of Christianity-redemption, sanctification, etc. fall under that eternal truth, that’s true for all nations, in all times. And I think I can say that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is an absolute truth without rendering myself a heretic.

    But, I could be wrong.

  8. I believe in absolute truth, but as jadanzzy noted, that absolute truth is left to God. I don’t believe that truth is knowable absolutely, simply due to the finitude of our being. God Himself encapsulates a truth that is far beyond ourselves. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that when that grand, amazing truth of God Himself is translated into different contexts, that manifestation may look different.

    There are some commonalities, an “orthodoxy” of tradition that we can approach with some trustworthiness and reliability. God is Triune. Salvation is by grace through faith. Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord. These are tenets that, if not adhered to, one might simply not be Christian altogether. These are dogmas central to the nature of the God we worship, and though they birth a diversity of doctrines, they can be universally observed across history and traditions as an outworking of the Holy Spirit.

    I think Mohler’s just plain wrong, at least from my postmodern Christian perspective, when he talks about an emphasis on “meaning” above truth as being postmodern. Subjective truth is STILL truth; the Holy Spirit can enter into our lives, connect us with the redemptive history that was chronicled in the Bible, and use TODAY’S context and reference points to convey to us a glimpse of that “absolute” truth that our finitude can’t handle. But it’s still TRUTH. It’s still something we can recognize in one another, in a community, something that is of God and not of ourselves.

    So from where I stand, I can be postmodern and still be obsessed with truth. It’s just that truth is subjective, and conversations about that truth become a wonderful endeavor of putting myself in the shoes of others, as many shoes as I can, bearing witness to an infinite God and being dazzled as His personality refracts and gleams like the facets of a turning diamond.

  9. I thought I had a lot to say while reading the first few comments, but by the time I read all 9 I realized you all had said most of what I wanted to say.

    So I decided to, instead, put a fictional, parable-like spin on my response. It got too long though, so I just posted it at Kid Wonder. (And no, I’m not just trying to plug my blog, seriously!)

    Keep up the thoughtful writing, folks.

  10. I think Mohler’s onto something as he explicitly points to postmodern effects “at the level of popular piety” rather than among those who are willing and able to deal in nuance and subtlety without abandoning the faith. Truth is, of course, subjective, but it is also objective, competing meta-narratives and discourse notwithstanding. Although our words and finitude necessarily restrict our ability to describe “absolute truth” in comprehensive terms we still are dealing with truth that is absolute, universal and transcendent.

    While it is true that bad theology does not always preclude good Christianity, it inevitably leads there, whether rapidly or slowly, but always inexorably.

  11. :chuckles:

    I read this and actually felt the need to comment.

    So first, I looked up postmodern.

    A philosophical stance which claims that it is impossible to make grand statements—meta-narratives—about the structures of society or about historic causation, because everything we perceive, express, and interpret is influenced by our gender, class, and culture; knowledge is partial and situated, and no one interpretation is superior to another.

    And you know what? I don’t believe that anyone can truly be a “postmodernist”… The postmodern stance itself seems to be a meta-narrative. From a logical standpoint, it seems that a postmodern stance knocks it’s own legs out from under itself. You cannot claim there are no meta-narratives w/o claiming a position to see that there is no meta-narratives. (Same logical movements that make it so difficult to be a hardnosed atheist…)

  12. […] friends over at Merging Lanes posted a link to Albert Mohler’s blog, where he talks about the dangers of postmodernism for […]


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