Postmodern Apologetics – Part One

postmodern001Mike over at Zoecarnate has written a piece on postmodern apologetics.  In his post he asked, he asked two basic questions:

1) What is postmodern apologetics?

2) What has displaced postmodernity (if anything)?

I don’t know if this is going to turn into a series, but I’m going to tackle the first question in my first post and hopefully deal with the second question in a forthcoming post.

If Micah Redding in the comment section of Mike’s blog is correct, then there may be two general types of apologetics that came along before postmodern apologetics (this will obviously be an oversimplification, but I liked it, so I am using it):

Pre-Modern Apologetics: my god just beat your god in a grudge-match between our two city-states, so now you will be subject to worshipping our god, while we place dead pigs on the effigy of your god.”

Modern Apologetics: God is defined as the greatest being which can be imagined. Since imagination, like everything else, is subject to the laws of rationality, this God you’ve imagined is completely logically consistent, and thus can be transferred from the collection of imaginary objects to the collection of real objects by simple intellectual slight-of-hand.” But I think they were really going for A = B, B = C, and C = God. QED.

The first track (pre-modern) seems to indicate victory through war.  If my God can beat your God, then I have won the battle of religion.

The second track (modern) seems to indicate victory through reason.  If my God can out think your God, then I have won the battle of religion.

Although I may sound crass in my understanding of postmodernism, the postmodern thinker seems to ask (or perhaps it might be better stated that I myself ask), “What are we fighting for?”  Why are all of these different religions fighting?  Why don’t we all just sit down and talk about it (whatever the “it” is)?  We can talk about God without resorting to endless circular arguments that were known to plague modernity.  We can talk about God without resorting to name-calling and straw men.

The question for the church is this: How does the Catholic (as in universal community of God) Church faithfully stand within the conversation of this so-called postmodern apologetics as a witness towards the bodily and quite real death of Jesus Christ, a burial where Jesus – a dead Messiah – rotted in a grave, and then, through the all powerful and wonderful (mystical?) power of almighty God, resurrected and shook a world so used to silent martyrs?

We seem to have established that the battle iconography does not necessarily fit, as a whole, the “postmodern” mind, but we have not yet established a viable way to display the glorious message of a resurrected savior to this world.  This will undoubtedly need to be discussed further after more discussion has taken place in regards the second question (i.e. what has replaced postmodernism?), but I think we might start by suggesting an end to specific methodology.  The rejection of some kind of “plan” or general framework might seem counterintiuitive to those who are used to a Ray Comfort style evangelism, but I would argue that it exactly what the church needs.

A postmodern apologetic rejects all methodologies or what I call “planned evangelisms” for a paradoxically communal individualistic approach (now I know you’re confused).

A postmodern apologetic must first be communal in the sense that becoming a Christian means becoming part of the Christian tradition (or Christian community if it fits you better).  The Eucharist would be taught in such an apologetic as a meeting of all saints where all people, male and female, rich and poor, straight and homosexual die before the cross.  We die as Christ died and are no longer controlled by the prevailing powers (He disarmed* the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. Col. 2:15), but by the power of Christ.

The paradox comes in that while we are communally the boyd of Christ, we (the Church universal) meet people wherever they are individually.  It is hard to come up with specific examples here, but I’ll use a homeless person as an example.  Our job is not to “fix them” and “bring them to church,” but rather, to be with them in their life and in their space and in that moment.  We are to be Christ to them no longer controlled by the prevailing powers to the homeless so that they too can be the church right where they are (the reverse, however, is more often the case in America, so my example may be inherently flawed).  Bein Christ, however, takes extensive knowledge of a person’s individual situation.  For everyone will “be Christ” in their particular context, and Christ changes as the context changes.

Perhaps the goal is the individual becoming engrossed in the community of God.  We become dependent on the church as the church is itself dependent on God himself.

More thoughts to come, but I would welcome your thoughts as well… please comment if have more to add or if you just disagree completely.


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