Saturday, May 16, 2009

Christ & Culture Revisited: Redefining Postmodernism

This is still the third chapter of Carson’s book. After defining culture – he actually says “Refining Culture” – he goes on to discuss postmodernism and how it should not keep us from talking about Christ and culture. He reasons this discussion is necessary because Americans have become suspicious of metanarratives and “grand syntheses are impossible” (p. 87). This has a devastating effect on the authority of the Scriptures, obviously, because they communicate God’s story in human history and communicate how we are to engage culture. A postmodern culture, at best, believes truth is perspectival and nobody has authority.

Carson is not a postmodernist, but he argues that a “soft postmodern” and a chastened modernist are not far apart. His epistemology is essentially that we can know truth exists – through revelation or otherwise – but we do have perspectives that emerge from our cultural background, etc… that color how we view truth. That doesn’t mean truth is irrelevant or non-existent. Instead, it means that we may have an obscured vision of it. Truth remains and it is our responsibility to seek it and conform to it as it is revealed. (This doesn’t seem far from NT Wright’s epistemology in his New Testament and the People of God. It makes sense to me, but some of the philosophy students in my class came unglued.)

In short, a worldview is a view of the world that accounts for reality – answering the key questions of existence. It doesn’t account for everything completely, but they make sense of the world. This whole chapter (last two posts) sets out to defend Carson’s project of discussing Christ and culture. Truth exists, even if it is challenging to discover and culture is definable, even if the edges are fuzzy.

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