The Anglican Communion/Biblical Authority/Postmodernism – a conversation

It may be that schism is inevitable, and indeed it may be beneficial, in so far as the progressive (emergent?) way (and I mean this to include all aspects of Christian belief and practice, not just sexual matters) needs to be able to grow while the traditionalist view dies out (as I think it eventually will, but sadly it will continue to hurt and confuse a lot of people along the way). Maybe the progressive way needs to focus on teaching a radical redefinition of biblical authority — I believe that the church cannot speak authentically to a postmodern world without this redefinition.”

L. SOF.  Posted 09 February, 2011


4 Comments on “The Anglican Communion/Biblical Authority/Postmodernism – a conversation”

  1. Seb says:

    Originally posted by Lothiriel:

    Oh my — time to step in with a little clarification of the terminology. Out of its original context, it is open to misinterpretation.

    Evensong quoted my post on the Anglican Scandal thread, in which one theme is schism in the Anglican communion over attitudes to homosexuality. In that context, I used the word ‘traditionalist’ (and explained that I was using it in that way) as shorthand to refer to those who do not welcome the ordination of openly homosexual people or the blessing of homosexual relationships. ‘Progressives’ in that context referred to those who do welcome such. These terms were used in that specific context. I know that these are broad terms with all sorts of connotations, but they were just meant in that context to serve a very specific purpose. So don’t try to stretch them too far in this discussion.

    ‘Redefining biblical authority’ as I mean it does not at all mean throwing out authority. Let me say that again — It Does Not Mean Throwing Out Authority.

    A lot of what I meant by ‘redefinition’ is getting over the Enlightenment and its true-false dichotomy. For most people schooled in modernity, such a shift in thinking is radical and means a major re-jigging of paradigm and worldview.

    Reading the bible without our Enlightenment glasses on means that we can perhaps understand better what the scriptures meant to the Jews and early Christians who wrote and heard or read them. We can see the evolving understanding of God that grows and develops from the story of creation, through God’s speaking to Abraham, through the history and literature of the nation of Israel, to the culmination of the revelation in Jesus. God may not have changed over that time, but the picture of God in scripture certainly does.

    I’ve been influenced in my thinking on biblical authority by NT Wright, especially in his book The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.

  2. Seb says:

    Posted by Evensong:

    A big part of the postmodern mindset is the questioning of authority.

    Jean-Francois Lyotard famously defined the postmodern as ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’. This rejection of any kind of grand story about the whole of reality is mainly rooted in postmodernism’s critique of the idea of progress as an ideology of domination that has legitimated the exploitative exercise of power

    So actually attempting to redefine or articulate a new biblical authority is a total waste of time…because postmodernists reject authority.

  3. Seb says:

    Originally posted by Beeswax Altar: On Ship of Fools February 17, 2011

    Postmodernism is a rejection of metanarratives but not narratives. What you and Gargantua are missing from Lyotard is the equal focus on language games. Orthodox Christianity is a language game. It can’t be objectively proven. Those who embrace it do so because they see the internal consistency of it and because it rings true to them. Once you accept it, you accept as authoritative the rules of the game.

    Questions about objectivity have no place in postmodernism because postmodernism all but rejects objectivity. Rhetoric not science is postmodernism’s queen of disciplines. In the market place of ideas, converts are won not by appealing to objectivity but in rhetorical appeals to what is the best system. I would argue that everything is rhetoric including everything we do and every word we say.

    Modernism attacked the objectivity of Christianity and all other religions. Postmodernism helps religion by putting them on an equal footing with science by questioning objectivity. Arguments expecting objectivity are not modernism rather than postmodern.

    It is clear why orthodox Christianity teaches what it teaches. You can disagree with that. You can say a religion based on the stuff discarded by orthodox Christianity would lead to a more fulfilling life and better world than that which it embraced. All fine and dandy. Problem is you have to then form your own narrative and convince others by positive words and actions that your way is better than orthodox Christianity. This is not done by constantly whining about the problems you see in orthodox Christianity and it’s need to change because you are unhappy with it.

  4. spienaar says:


    Posted 27-03-2012 02:05 PM

    Now let’s continue to discuss postmodernism in relation to Faith, not art (where it was defined) or in philosophy (of which religions are manifestations).

    To establish a framework, the definition in religion must be separated from that in art, (where it has become static) and must be re-stated. Postmodernism in art is a reaction against secular humanism, the philosophical attitude that men are inexorably ascendan,t based on an accumulation of wisdom, and a building on that wisdom, originating with Aristotle. A religious strain also exists, Justin believing that the Classics were invaluable in the transformation of believers and Aquinas, who drew heavily from …. Aristotle!

    This reached a climax during the Enlightenment, when men believed that reason would redeem men from their natural bestial drives, music soothe the hearts of savage beasts, art transport hoi polloi from the drudgery of the reality they faced to a higher plane, and science, why science would eventually remove even he sting of death!

    What changed the trajectory of modernism was the Great War. Science as slave harnessed for man’s redemption turned around and became a tyrant, causing the death of millions.

    The Great War had a massive and indelible impact on the male population of the UK: 886,000 men died, one in eight of those who went to war, and 2% of the entire country’s population.

    No longer was science and its methodology, logic, given the freedom to peddle its manifesto of common good. Every assumption needed to be, and was, challenged.

    In art, presenting aesthetic qualities, either fudged by chiaroscuro by Raphael and his contemporaries , or by the Impressionists and their ancestors, the pre-Raphaelites who in turn had reacted against the Latins, practitioners began to question the purpose of art (Dadaists ). Iconoclasm on an apocalyptic scale.

    The final nail in the coffin for aesthetic art was the invention of the camera: both realism and aesthetics were now delivered by a machine. Art as a medium of recording and embellishing was made redundant. It could only hang on as a propaganda tool: Guernica, anybody? That meant its contents were now up for debate. No longer could it hide under the pretext of being exponents of a particular style or school.

    In epistemology, (both philosophical and its subset, religious), postmodernism has come to mean questioning the framework of a hypothesis.

    In science, a hypothesis is universal in the sense that the phenomena was an absolute, remained the same whethe r at the North Pole or on top of Everest. Whatever factors influencing the results could be corrected for and the results were assured to remain constant (forget about quantum physics for now, our planes are still flying!, we’re mainly operating in the domain of applied physics). The modernist in a field which depended on ancient text tried to apply logic and reason where the variations could NOT be reliably corrected for leading , to the multiplicity of sects seen today!

    The postmodernist religious practitioner should not stop at the uncertainty prevailing in the art and think lateral, not linear.

    Five Act Play hermeneutics. This is the approach most clearly advocated by Tom Wright, in which God’s story is seen as a five act play…

    We are not unfulfilled modernists… Postmodernism IS a better modernism.

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