RAPID RESPONSE REPORT
DEFENDING HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY IN A POSTMODERN WORLD
Your comments, all positive, were encouraging. Some expressed being overwhelmed with too much to read. We are giving this some thought and may switch to bi-monthly. On the other hand, we were assuming that not everyone would download all the articles and read them anyway. If I myself received this letter, I would read it over and download only those of special interest. The rest I would file in my memory (what's left of it!). We will also labor to do the best possible job of analysis of the articles we list so you the reader will have some basis for action. RRR is about saving you time. We know most of you do not have the opportunity as we do. We spend quite a few hours each day checking sources of information. It's our job description. We are in the information business! We are more than happy to share some of the gems we mine each day. Right now RRR is being sent to 70 leaders and shakers in the Christian community. Remember, until the end of the year, this is an experiment. You can help make this a valuable ministry tool. Be free with your comments.
POSTMODERNISM: SOME BACKGROUND
According to theologian, Thomas Oden, there existed three major paradigms of thought in the West since Christ: The Age of Faith, which ended with the fall of the Bastille; The Modern Period, or The Enlightenment, which ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the current Post Modern Period. This certainly makes it easy to remember, but in my mind is a little forced. For me, the PM movement began with Nietzsche's declaration that God was dead. Now as far as I know, Nietzsche never believed God existed in the first place. What he was saying was, that the Judeo-christian idea of a transcendent deity was an idea that had run its course. He may have been one of the most perceptive and intellectually honest philosophers ever. He clearly understood what the ramifications of the naturalism and materialism of the late 19th Century would be. If God is ruled out, then you have nihilism. True truth (Francis Schaeffer's words) and ethical absolutes are not possible. He died in 1900, but not before he predicted the bloodiest of centuries ahead. Boy, was he right!
Most of you know that philosophical changes sometimes take
as much as a hundred years to hit main street.
Usually, or actually most of the time, it is the artists who first depict these
changes in their art. Strangely enough PM appeared first in
architecture. You read it right. For an excellent overview of PM in
architecture I recommend: "Boxing up the Art of
Architecture." It's chapter 13 in The Age of Consent,
by Robert H. Knight. As you are driving about a metropolitan area, look
at new libraries, civic centers and churches. Look for the mingling of
styles. For example, you may see a building of classical style but the
entry way may remind you of a grass hut! Or you may find structures that
have no pragmatic basis, e.g., support beams descending from a ceiling but
ending a few feet from the ground! I am told that
POSTMODERNISM: AWAY WITH WORDS
When socializing with a PM be extra careful of the words you use. One politically incorrect word and you could be in a lot of hot water. On some college campuses the use of certain words could get a suspension. Early last spring, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves got in big trouble for the foolish use of certain words; he earned a suspension and nearly lost his job. In contrast, the other day a major league pitcher beat his wife to a pulp and will not even miss his regular start! It was not even in the front page of the newspapers. Why? A PM believes words (ethnic slurs, for example) are tools of oppression and a willful attempt to disparage a group. An act of rape on the other hand, is something that is hard-wired into the genes due to the Darwinian need to reproduce, and is therefore, not willful (or at least as willful). Watch the fall political campaigns. One false word can knock a candidate out of the running. John Stossel, of ABC did an excellent documentary awhile back: "You can't say that!--What's Happening to Free Speech With John Stossel." You can find a summary of it here: http://abcnews.go.com/onair/ABCNEWSSpecials/stossel_freespeech_000727.html
A complete transcript is available also at the ABC site. One more thing: Remember, what is behind this extreme sensitivity about words is the PM absolute that I have a right not to be offended. More on that later.
Hence a PM tends to be more visual and more affective (feelings
oriented). When Bill Clinton first ran for office he was speaking before
a large group of
MORE ON GLOBALIZATION
On Sept. 6th, the U.N. Millennium Summit will convene. It is being called the largest meeting of heads of state and government in history. The purpose of the meeting is to re-organize the U.N., make it more efficient, and to expand its power and influence. Our president will address the summit. One of the things the assembly will try to accomplish is to vote on The Earth Charter, a document that has been years in writing. Here's where you can read the draft yourself: http://www.earthcharter.org/draft/charter.htm
My impression of this document is that it paints a dire picture for the future of the planet unless drastic action is taken to avert global warming, pollution, social injustice, etc. The document will also call for the ratification of seven conventions or treaties among other things. Here are two articles from the conservative spectrum that briefly analyze The Earth Charter:
An influential Italian Cardinal who is frequently mentioned as a candidate to become the next Pope (unlikely, he's 73) comes out for "planetary government." Carlo Maria Martini states that "(I)t will be necessary to rethink the concept of the nation to ensure a more just and true cohabitation among peoples." He calls transcending national sovereignty "the roadmap to a more just and stable order." You can read his article at : http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/archives/081100/081100f.htm
Just preceding the huge summit at the U.N. another interesting gathering of world leaders will take place there today. This is a meeting of influential religious leaders. The meeting is being billed as a "World Summit of Spiritual Leaders and Religions for Peace." On their agenda that might be of interest to evangelicals, is what can be done about dogmatic religions that evangelize! This summit is authorized by the United Initiative of Religions (UIR), a spiritual arm of the U.N. I bet you didn't know the U.N. had a spiritual arm! I'll try to find more info on this summit later on in the week.
In 1976 Francis Schaeffer published How Should We Then Live? The title came from his concern that we were now living in a post Christian world (Not many were calling it PM at that time) and in light of this fact, how should Christians live? Charles Colson and his co-author, Nancy Pearcy, obviously playing off this title (It's dedicated to Schaeffer's memory) have now published what can conceivably be called an update in How Now Shall We Live? Colson's books get read. They are always provocative; they are never boring, and they are excellent books for study groups. This book, however, might be intimidating with its 600 pages! Nancy Pearcy's recent writings have proven that she ranks up there with other evangelical scholars (David Wells and Mark Noll come to mind). My guess is that this book is largely Pearcy's work; she was a student at L' Abri, and personally studied under Schaeffer. It is great to see his work continued here. If you are interested in knowing more about this book before you buy it, here is a good review from First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0002/reviews/budziszewski.html
The authors have a clear understanding of PM and how Christians in the 21st Century must respond.
In our last issue we noted how PM is affecting Biblical
Archaeology. A professor of archaeology from the
Correction: In the last issue we noted a review of
James Hoffmeier's fine book, Israel in Egypt,
and mentioned that he was a professor at