But I felt a bit concerned at the frequent high scores in post modernism. Somehow I suspect a bias in the survey, or a least a loose definition of postmodernism. Here is the description,
- You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.
However, Marty Foord posts on The Killing of History by Keith Windshuttle, HT Michael Bird. Windshuttle opposes some of the premises of postmodernism in the discipline of history. Simon Schama, the author of Rough Crossings, which I am now absorbed in, writes from a postmodern perspective on history,
- “The claims for historical knowledge, must always be fatally circumscribed by the character and prejudices of its narrator."
- The essence of history has continued to be that it should try to tell the truth, to describe as best as possible what really happened. Over this time, of course, many historians have been exposed as mistaken, opinionated and often completely wrong, but their critics have usually felt obliged to show they were wrong about real things, that their claims about the past were different from the things that actually happened. In other words, the critics still operated on the assumption that the truth was in the historian’s grasp.
- Today, these assumptions are widely rejected, even among some people employed as historians themselves. In the 1990s, the newly dominant theorists within the humanities and social sciences assert that it is impossible to tell the truth about the past or to use history to produce knowledge in any objective sense at all. They claim that we can only see the past through the perspective of our own culture and, hence, what we see in history are our own interests and concerns reflected back at us. The central point upon which history was founded no longer holds: there is no fundamental distinction any more between history and myth.
I enjoyed reading this article by Kimball on The Killing of History. (I should add that I have a somewhat muted response to this article. Certainly one wants to be behind the search for objective truth, but I am not sure that I would agree with him on what that was.)
This entire discussion strikes at the heart of my questions about the scriptures when I first studied Greek and Hebrew in the Near Eastern Studies Dept. at the University of Toronto. If so many words are of unknown origin, and so many passages have multiple interpretations then how can we know objective truth about the scriptures.
I talked this over with Al Gleason, in the linguistics dept. and he recommended that I pursue canonical criticism. I think now in looking back he meant something closer to the history of Biblical interpretation, or what is sometimes called "reception theory" - the history of the reception of the Bible.
As I take another look at some of these issues, and ask myself the question, what do I know for sure, and how do I deal with facts, I note that I am still interested in objective knowledge as a focus of study but the questions are different. I no longer ask of a passage, what exactly does this mean, but rather, how did Chrysostom or Calvin or Bucer translate this passage. This is something that I can often discover as a fact. Certainly there is some doubt if I don't have a photograph of the first edition of that particular Bible. But, there are ways of finding these.
I was delighted to be able to hold the Pagnini/Beza 1579 Latin Bible in Toronto last fall and photograph parts of it. Now I can say with certainty that in 1579 this edition of the Bible had a certain phrase in it. I might even have a photograph. How cool is that!
One of the really interesting things that I have realized - and I know now this must seem as obvious as the nose in your face, is that the reformers used the Vulgate as the authoritative translation of the Bible. They quoted from it. The Bibles of the Reformation are the product of the Reformation, not the guiding texts of the Reformation. This makes knowledge of the Vulgate or the Douay-Rheims Bible in English an essential text of Reformation studies. Maybe everyone else but me knew this.
Back to postmodernism. I know I have a prejudice, and I am learning in dialogue, but I do want to ground my learning in tangible facts. This has been my strategy. I wonder approach others take.