Whitworth professors Dr. Dale Soden & Kathy Storm [also the Vice President of Student Life] wrote an article for Christian Scholar’s Review in 1996 entitled How Firm a Foundation? Postmodernism and the Multicultural Agenda. Dale sent it to me awhile ago, and I reread it a few days ago. While not well-received at Whitworth in ’96, the article is a good balance of thoughtful reflection on both the benefits and challenges of postmodernism to the Christian faith.
The article has some good points concerning absolute truth and postmodernism. One sentence eloquently states what I’ve mentioned before concerning absolute truth: “While Christian doctrine would not share postmodernism’s skepticism regarding the possibility of absolute truth, it would share with postmodernism and the multicultural movement a stance of deep humility regarding the possibility of absolute knowing.” Postmodernism does in fact allow us/cause us to become more intellectually humble – desiring truth, seeking for truth, all the while accepting the fact that we may never fully know T(t)ruth.
One of the main points in their article was the importance of the community as an epistemological reference point in postmodernism. “And in our reading of Scripture, with its message regarding the relational nature of human beings, the limitations of reason and the dangers of solipsism, this clarion call to community as an epistemological source is one that should be taken seriously.” Doug Pagitt, in his new book Reimagining Spiritual Formation, writes the following:
The work of theology must happen in full community. Of course it must include the ideas of those who have come before us, but to simply accept the work of our forebears in the faith as the end of the conversation is to outsource the real work of thinking, and that turns theology into a stagnant philosophy rather than an active pursuit of how we are to live God‚Äôs story in our time. The communities that are best equipped for the task of spiritual formation in the post-industrial age are those who make the practice of theology an essential element of their lives together. This is in no way a call to be less theological, but a call to our communities to be more involved in the work of theology as a necessary part of the spiritual formation process.
So, where does this leave us? Spiritual communities must be engaging in the work of theology; the dirty, messy, beautiful work of theology. Spiritual communities must be actively engaged in hermeneutics – for many are claiming “community” as the final arbiter of truth in the postmodern context. And for me – well, I guess this sounds good to me. Doesn’t it make you feel better to put the power of interpretation into various diverse communities, rather than in the hands of individuals?