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Millinerd: Post-Postmodern

January 31, 2006

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of stumbling onto I can’t remember how I got there, but I realized that the author, Matt Milliner, was both a First Things reader and a Bill Mallonee fan. I had fancied myself the only one. God Bless the Internet.

Not surprisingly, he is also (like myself) both a critic of both "emergent" churches as well as dead Traditionalist ones; not quite feeling at home in a modern or post-modern world, he is trying to articulate a new destination.

Toward that end, I highly recommend you spend some time with his "Pomopowerpost" dealing with post-modern narrative and  N.T. Wright’s  "Epistemology of Love".

I especially liked Matt’s explanation of post-modernism in the comments:

To find out what post-modernity is, just take Hart’s definition of modernity and deconstruct it. 

Modernity is "the
search for comprehensive metanarratives and epistemological foundations
by way of a neutral and unaided rationality, available to all
reflective intellects, and independent of cultural and linguistic

In postmodernity,

1.  "The search for comprehensive metanarratives" becomes "incredulity of metanarratives," which is pomo philosopher Lyotard’s famous definition of postmodernity.   

(But this is of course itself a metanarrative.)

2.  "epistemological foundations,"
that is, established baselines for all human knowing are replaced by
"post-foundationalism" where there are no such baselines.

(But this is of course itself just such a baseline.)

3. "neutral and unaided rationality,"
becomes the denial of such a Jeffersonian (‘we declare these truths to
be self-evident’) possibility of reason operating on some unbiased

(But this is itself an attempt at creating an unbiased plane of observation.)

4. That something could be "available to all reflective intellects,"
is replaced by the denial that truth could ever come from all the smart
people of the world just sitting down and calmly thinking things

(When that is exactly what the postmodern literati of the world claimed to have done.)

5. And "independen[ce] of cultural and linguistic conditions"
becomes the (over)dependence on specific cultural and linguistic
contexts to (over)correct modernity’s "Eurocentric" vision… thus the
incessant plea in postmodernity for "multiculturalism."

(But where did postmodernity originate but in European cafes and lecture halls?  And in a tour de force of intellectual imperialism, they mistook those peculiarly European problems for the problems of all places and times.)

More than just deconstructing deconstructionism, Milliner is excited about someone trying to point the way out of the current mess. Me too.

I have much to say about my ambivalence about emergent churches… but I have no time. So read "Adjective-Orthodoxy" until then. Key critique of Brian McLaren:

The relocation of Christian faith and orthodoxy from the external
creeds and practices of the church to the inner heart is one of the
characteristic moves of modernized Christianity… To the extent that
McLaren internalizes faith, to that extent he’s still laboring under
the constraints of modernity.

I prefer to call this the struggle between the Sacramental and the Sentimental. Perhaps Tod Bolsinger will take it upon himself to consider these issues with me sometime.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2006 2:09 pm

    Oh, how the ironies multiply!

  2. FecesFlinger (Timmy C) permalink
    January 31, 2006 5:01 pm


    So far, I really like most of what I’ve read at Millnerd’s site.

    I would suggest one point of clarification: that his definition that “The search for comprehensive metanarratives” becomes “incredulity of metanarratives,” is too simplistic.

    As Scott Mckight wrote:

    …postmodernity is more complex than that because its real denial is this: it denies the ability to prove meta-narratives on rational, independent, objective grounds. In other words, it contends that the only way meta-narratives can be finally persuasive is if one believes the meta-narrative itself. Faith is required for the meta-narrative to be truthful. For a scientific meta-narrative of life to be “true” requires that a person believe in the “scientific way of things.” For Jamie Smith, see his chapter in Christianity and the Postmodern Turn.

    There is nothing that should be more welcome to orthodox Christian theology than the contention that meta-narratives cannot be established on the basis of some kind of universal reason independent of faith. This is somewhat Augustinian: I believe in order to understand. It is crucial to the way of Jesus that we must first trust him in order to know him and to know ourselves and to know our vocation in this world.

    In fact Mclaren and other leaders of that discussion cirtique postmodernism and modernism in ways that sound very similiar to Millnerd.

    For instance, see Mclaren here:

    As a follower of Christ, I am less interested in articulating the ideal definition of this movement in words than I am in helping contribute to what the postmodern world becomes in reality. I am hoping that many people of faith and vision can play a formative role in what will happen beyond modernity and adolescent postmodernity: seeking to be salt and light, seeking to do good works, seeking to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God…

    When I look at the postmodern landscape, I see “fields ready for harvest,” as Jesus said. But so far, in spite of so much being at stake at this critical moment in history, those willing to get out into the fields and do the hard work of seizing the moment are too few. There are plenty of critics who stand at a safe distance on the modern road that runs beside the postmodern fields, shouting their criticisms and warnings. Instead of joining them, you will, I hope, pray to “the Lord of the harvest” – so that more workers will become willing to jump into the action and get their hands dirty in the postmodern fields, making visible the good news of Jesus.

    And here’s Millnerd on that same subject. And both seem to see Postmernity as a fact, and an opportunity for the Church to disengage from some modernist barnacles, and an opportunity for the Gospel.

    “Perhaps because, I’ll suggest, postmodernity is not a crisis in the Church. For the Church it’s merely an opportunity. Postmodernity is, as I’ve mentioned before, a crisis in the Western mind. The crisis is due to the Western mind having built a house on the sands of rationality. The storms have come, and that house has fallen. Only to the extent that the Church has been yoked to the Western mind is postmodernity a crisis in the Church as well. As Pascal warned, the Church should never have collaborated so closely with modernity in the first place, and so postmodernity should not have to be a crisis in the Church.”

  3. FecesFlinger (Timmy C) permalink
    January 31, 2006 6:01 pm

    Sorry, one more quickie:

    A comment on Millinerd’s broad statement that postmoderns on “post-foundationalism”…

    “…Epistemological foundations,” that is, established baselines for all human knowing are replaced by “post-foundationalism” where there are no such baselines.”

    That is also a bit of a broad brush statement (like one is apt makes in comments on a blog…like the one I’m about to make)

    Foundationalism is a non-Christian line of thinking based on empiricism and rationalism. It holds that knowlege is like a “foundation,” like a building or a series of lego blogs. You build one truth on another. The bottom legos in the foundation are said to be “self-justifying” based on “rationalism, and empirical logic.”

    Rationaism and empricism are fine as far as they go, but most Christians would add that they aren’t the whole story.

    When postmoderns question foundationalism it doesn’t lead one to a world with “no such baselines.”

    There is another line of thinking (actually there are many) called “Coherence Theory” which rather than seeing knowledge as a Building or as legos, sees knowledge like a Web.

    In this model, knowledge is jusitified by inference from other knowledge. The more ties, the stronger the justification.

    Neither model is “Christian” or “non-Christian” and right right now I’m not arguing FOR Coherence theory.

    I’m just pointing out that there is plenty more room in non-foundational thinking beyond the false choice between “Foundationalism versus no baselines for human knowlege.”

  4. February 1, 2006 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the feedback – I think Timmy C is onto something with the Coherence Theory.

    For nuance, I should point out that I wasn’t as much directly critiquing McLaren as I was (quite literally) quoting someone who was quoting someone who critiqued McLaren.

    Seeing he apparently is reading David Bentley Hart, one never knows.

  5. Feces Flinger (Timmy C) permalink
    February 1, 2006 5:48 pm

    Howdy Millinerd:

    Thanks for the response, and when you wrote
    “For nuance, I should point out that I wasn’t as much directly critiquing McLaren as I was (quite literally) quoting someone who was quoting someone who critiqued McLaren.”

    I totally get it.

    BTW, another post on your site that has stuck with me since I came accross it via the Count’s linking to you:

    As I’ve remarked previously, the more I think about postmodernity, the more I’m convinced that it is not a revolt against Christianity, but against all the abominable philosophies that attempted to replace it.

    Imagine someone trying to drive somewhere unfamiliar. Now imagine that person throwing the only map out the car window and insisting they can get there on their own. Now imagine that person, after getting hopelessly lost, blaming the map that they threw out the window 300 miles ago…

    In other words, the pomos effectively said, “Stop driving you idiots, we’re lost.”

    However, in an unfortunate twist, well meaning Christians overhear these polemics against the philosophies that have replaced Christianity, and instead of presenting the long abandoned map back to the lost drivers, surmise that the only way Christianity can “get with the times” is to pretend we’re lost as well….

    The solution is to speak truth (without the outdated Enlightenment scaffolding) authoritatively.

    Good stuff. It is the de-scaffolding process I find myself in these days.

    For a bit more of my story, and my own interacting with God, church, and thinking through modernism and what is afterwards you can find that at a posting over here.

    It’s a bit of an old posting, written just as I was leaving an extended period of church homelessness. Since then — since the last year — I’ve found a good place here.

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