THE "HOLY GRAIL" OF POSTMODERNISM
Most would-be futurists cling to the "Holy Grail"
of postmodernism. They blindly adhere to every novelty of this
philosophical fad. In fact, the very definition of the "emerging
church" includes this philosophy—or, what many now consider, this
No doubt, something needs to challenge the
harmful excess of modern thinking. Something needs to question the
manipulating self-interests of our small worlds. Something needs to
expose the distortion of our rhetoric, the slant on our slang, the
leanings of our lingo. And, something needs to refuse the arrogance
of our "God in a box."
But, with too many gullible postmodernists, "One
enormously precious baby was tossed with tons of unpleasant
Postmodernism, after all, angrily rejects the
modern past. It arrogantly "deconstructs" a "truthful"
present—especially everybody else’s truth!—and it cynically proposes
a hopeless future. In short, Truth—with a capital "T"—no longer
exists: "Absolute truth is an illusion and one interpretation is
purportedly as good as any other."2
Yet, the claims of postmodernists get a little
embarrassing. Their "authoritative announcements" that "there is no
authority" get a little befuddled. After all, "To say there are no
absolutes is in itself absolute."3
But postmodernists ignore these inconsistencies.
"Truth is whatever you want it to be, it’s whatever suits your
purpose." In other words, "You do your thing, and I’ll do mine."
Their "new world," then, becomes an anarchy of endless private
opinions—a sea of disconnected dots. So a "move of the Spirit"
easily becomes lawless license. An "anointing" often becomes
knee-jerk reflex. And a "manifestation of God" usually becomes one
more psychological condition.
Still more embarrassing, "postmodernism" has
already come and gone. This fad is about the death of the past, and
the past has already past! "Postmodernism is so yesterday . . . To
deconstruct everybody else’s ideas . . . just (isn’t) any fun
Obviously, we live in a "post-modern" period, but
we must not confuse it with "postmodernism." Something else has
already replaced this fleeting philosophy.
There are profound implications, for example,
beyond mere subjectivity. There are vast worlds of prophetic
visions, inspired revelations, and vicarious beauties far more
significant than mere opinions, self-made notions, or selfish
beliefs. There is even a language beyond language that transcends
us, language itself, and the culture in which it "speaks."
Truth, after all, is autonomous. It’s not
something we create—it’s something we encounter. It’s a "not us." It
has an "is-ness" or existence prior to our interpretation. And, it
has self-evident signs and self-authenticating tests that differ,
for the most part, from the "proofs" we’ve misused for so many
In short, wiping the slate clean removes neither
God nor His Truth.
Which World Do You Live In?
So it’s important to know where we live! Do you
live in the world of "modernism," "postmodernism," or somewhere
else? How do you know?
Take the following test to reveal where you
stand. Select which statement in each group best describes your
opinion. Then, at the end of the following five groups, you may
rediscover the world in which you live and whether you are working
with or against the Lord of History:
A. The Church will be ready for the future if it
retains its vision of progress—if it continually improves what it is
B. The modern idea of progress is an illusion.
The Church can no longer move into the future by simply improving
C. Instead of focusing on the death of old
thinking, we need to focus on the birth of a newly empowered and
profoundly faithful way of thinking.
A. Scripture is a storehouse of facts that
accurately describes reality, so our challenge is to faithfully
figure out the facts.
B. Scripture does not contain facts. It is a
relative truth, because its writers and readers never escaped their
subjectivity or the inadequacy of their language.
C. Scripture speaks only through the voice of the
Spirit and transcends both interpreters and interpretations. We must
learn, therefore, to let Scripture speak for itself.
A. The most persuasive sermons build logical
lines of thought which arrive at sound theological doctrines.
B. "Logical lines of thought" have never proven
what the modern world promised. It’s time to wipe the slate clean.
C. "Wiping the slate clean" removes neither God
nor His Truth. "Truth" is not something we subjectively invent. It
is a reality we encounter.
A. Skilled rhetoric and great oratory prove the
best hope for spreading the "Word."
B. All languages reflect our manipulating
self-interest and our blind subjectivity. So we will never bring
objective honesty to the Word or anything else.
C. The Church has known a spiritual language that
transcends our opinions, our language, our doctrines, and the
cultures that have invented them. This language is the only language
of the Word.
A. An authentic interpretation of the Gospel
requires setting aside our emotions and feelings.
B. All interpretations of the Gospel are
subjective, so the only "realities" are one’s own opinions and
feelings. That’s the reason we should avoid telling others what to
C. The Church has long known a "knowing of the
heart" that transcends our subjectivity—our intellect—and our
differences. This "knowing" is essential to the future of the
If you selected mostly "A" statements, you are
firmly stuck in the modern period. If you selected mostly "B"
statements, consider yourself a postmodernist. However, if you
selected mostly "C" statements, you are probably a
POST-postmodernist—you are probably following the Lord of History.
These conclusions may be simplistic, but their
combined force pry open many unexplored doors within the emerging
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An
Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality
(Boston: Shambhala, 2000) p. 81, 82.
2. Lewis Edwin Hahn, Editor, The Philosophy of
Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995) pp. 278-280.
3. Leonard Sweet, quoted in Peter Walker and
Tyler Clark, "Missing the Point?" Relevant Magazine, Issue
21, July-August, 2006, pp 70-74.
4. Wilber, p. ix, x.