Postmodern and Wesleyan 2

May 12th, 2010 / 39 Comments

The following is the second half of a lecture on postmodernism and the Wesleyan theological tradition I gave about a year ago. In a previous blog, I proposed five ways in which revisionary postmodernism coheres with Wesleyan theological concerns. In this blog, I propose the final five.

In my previous blog, I qualified how I use the word “postmodern” and why I refer to the Wesleyan tradition among Christian theological traditions.  I encourage readers to review that essay briefly before reading this one.

6. An ethics of love

People give various reasons for why humans ought to act morally. Some affirm an ethics of duty: do _x_ because it’s the right thing to do. Modernist Immanuel Kant offers a sophisticated version of this approach. Duty-based ethics runs into significant problems, however, when people have largely different notions of what the right thing to do really involves. And this approach to ethics tends toward legalism.

Others affirm what they typically call “utilitarian ethics:” do _x_ because it provides the greatest good for the greatest number. John Stuart Mill is often identified with this approach. The problem with this approach is that it requires sophisticated rational calculation. And it has a difficult time accounting for what many believe are inalienable rights.

Still others say we ought to do what God commands. In its premodern form, this approach to ethics relied primarily upon the Church. If the Church says it, God commands it. Modernity saw moral authority shift to an individual’s interpretation of the Bible. If an individual’s reading of the Bible suggests God commands a particular ethics, it must be so. In the case of either the Church or the individual, God commands morality.

Various postmodern traditions offer new approaches to ethical justification or return to old ones. Narrative postmodernism criticizes the view that the individual decides right and wrong. It calls for a return to the community/church to be ultimate arbiter.

Liberationist postmodernism privileges the work of emancipation as the ultimate ethical goal. Breaking the chains of oppression – personal, communal, or global – is the right thing to do. Less often does this postmodern tradition provide a constructive answer to the question, “Freed to do what?”

Deconstructive postmodernism typically criticize all attempts to universalize or prescribe right and wrong. Having shown the weaknesses in other alternatives, however, it typically offers no constructive alternative.

All of the ethical theories mentioned have advantages that postmodern ethics should incorporate into a robust view of morality. Revisionary postmodernism does this, but it also shares with the Wesleyan theological tradition a fundamental commitment to love as the core of ethics. This commitment doesn’t mean that all other ethical approaches are unhelpful or invalid. But it does argue we should be primarily concerned with expressing love in each moment and becoming loving people – in community.

Many people today – even those who do not believe in God – intuitively know love should be their ultimate concern. In this way, revisionary postmodernism expresses well a central cry of our time.

Douglas Coupland, the one who coined the label “Generation X,” illustrates this cry in his book, Life after God

“Here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words.  My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone.  I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

Revisionary postmodernists can agree with John Wesley when he argued that love is the foundation for theology and ethics. Wesley said:

“There is nothing higher in religion [than love].  And when you are asking others, ‘Have your received this or that blessing?’ if you mean anything more than love, you mean wrong.  ….You are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of the Corinthians.”

7. Progress is possible

One hallmark of at least some modern philosophy was the idea progress is inevitable. Philosopher Bertrand Russell serves as a good example of this view, but he essentially tied progress to science. Science tells us truths about the world, said Russell, and in doing so forces out the false myths of religion.

Some modern theologians agreed with the idea of inevitable progress. Chicago theologian, Shailer Matthews, linked his belief in an almighty, benevolent God to the march of science and progress of evolution. For Matthews, there were good theological and scientific reasons to know better days were inevitable.

Not all modernists thought progress inevitable, however. In fact, some denied genuine progress was even possible. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, for instance, scoffed at the idea things were getting genuinely better. For Niebuhr, creation required God to rescue creation sometime in the future.

Postmodernists do not agree among themselves whether to affirm or deny progress. Revisionary postmodernism, however, argues that progress is possible but not inevitable.

With its fundamental commitment to genuine freedom, revisionary postmodernism says creatures can choose good or ill.  Their choices have genuine consequences. These consequences can make the world better or worse. Progress is possible, but creatures much choose well.

John Wesley shares this optimism about the possibility of progress. Wesley allegedly said, “The best is yet to be.” This pithy saying coheres with his basic conviction that genuine spiritual growth is possible in sanctification. Wesley believed the new creation began in this life.

Wesley used the word “perfection” to talk about the progress possible in the Christian life. What he meant by perfection, however, differs from what we typically mean today. I prefer the word “transformation” instead of perfection to speak of progress in Christian holiness.

Because Wesley also affirmed genuine creaturely freedom and the sin that comes from using freedom wrongly, his view fits well with the revisionary postmodern belief progress is possible but not inevitable. Sin has negative consequences. It can thwart the growth in grace God desires. But our cooperation as God’s “fellow workers” can further establish the kingdom of God here and now.

8. Relational plausibility

The question of truth has perplexed humans from earliest recorded history. Premodern and modern people attempted to grasp absolute truths absolutely.

Some modern Christians attempt to establish absolute truth by claiming the Bible is absolute truth. This typically means claiming the Bible has absolutely no errors whatsoever. The Bible is inerrant, they say.

The modern project of establishing the absolute truth of the Bible by affirming its inerrancy, however, collapses upon itself. The Bible itself cannot support the project, because it has multiple errors of various types. Fortunately, the vast majority of errors are of minimal consequence.

As a response, some modernists claiming the original biblical manuscripts were error-free. But his response offers no help for establishing that the Bibles we actually have now are absolutely true.

Deconstructive postmodernism reacts to the modern search for absolute certainty by pretending that seeking truth is unnecessary. In its crassest form, this version of postmodernism suggests truth is whatever the individual decides truth to be. The consequences: radical relativism. Such relativism undermines the attempt to make sense of reality.

Narrative postmodernism asks us to seek truth in the stories of the communities. While denying that reason is universal, narrative overcomes individual relativism by seeking truth in the form of life a people share.

Critics of narrative postmodernism charge, however, its approach to truth only moves relativism from the individual to the corporate level. When communities affirm contradictory truths, no grounds remain to resolve this difference. This would mean, for instance, narrative postmodernism implies it to true for Christians that Jesus is the way to salvation and while equally true for atheists that Jesus is not the way.

Rather than seeking the self-assuredness of absolute certainty, revisionary postmodernists seek a humble confidence that some statements or views of reality are truer than others are. In this, they follow the ancient path to seek universal truth, while also acknowledging that some truths are local or based on individual experience.

Revisionary postmodernists are open to and sometimes recast, generalize, and adapt what they believe to be true in light of new experiences and information.  For this tradition, experiences of all types – personal, communal, religious, and even the experiences recorded in the Bible or enjoyed Scripture – can lead to ultimate truth. But we should speak about ultimate truth believing we know in part not the whole.

While not specifically constructed with revisionary postmodernism in mind, I believe the Wesleyan quadrilateral fits with the sensibilities of revisionary postmodernism. The quadrilateral claims Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all contribute to finding truth. These resources cannot provide absolute certainty. But they can provide grounds to claim greater plausibility for some views rather than others.

The pluralism of the quadrilateral – four sources – and the multi-faceted nature of revisionary postmodernism’s knowledge sources fit comfortably together. Truth can be pluriform and yet unified.

9. Cooperation with God

The two final ways revisionary postmodernism coheres with Wesleyan theology are specifically theological.

Over the centuries, those who believe in God have talked about divine activity in many ways. But one dominant way – represented well by some of what John Calvin says – is that God is in complete control.  Nothing happens except that either God causes it or allows it to happen.

Modernists of various stripes rebelled against this view of an all-determining God. For some, it is better to claim creatures are autonomous, independent, and entirely free vis-à-vis God. God created the world, but humans are now able to act freely.

Revisionary postmodernism affirms with Wesleyan theology a middle way between the God who controls everything and the view that creatures are entirely independent agents.

Wesleyans and revisionary postmodernists typically affirm what John Wesley called “preventing grace” and what today we know as “prevenient grace.” All creatures rely upon God’s empowering and inspiring activity in each moment of existence. But God acts so that creatures may freely respond. God does not control all things; but creature are not entirely independent of God.

Prevenient grace goes by other names, including “cooperative grace,” “responsible grace,” and “enabling grace.” Most versions of this theory argue that part of what it means to be God is lovingly to provide freedom/agency to others. Divinely initiated synergy is possible.

I want to choose an uncommon (and perhaps unique) illustration to show how we might understand a central Christian practice in premodern, modern, and revisionary postmodern terms. The practice I have in mind is the celebration of the Eucharist.

Some Christians believe that in receiving the Eucharist, God uses the elements to determine one’s salvation entirely. In this case, the Eucharist becomes a kind of “power pill,” unilaterally effective no matter what the receiver does.

Some modernist Christians, however, think of the Eucharist as something we partake to remember the death of Christ. Christians who view the Eucharist as memorial typically consider God’s action something done in the distant past for us to recall in the present.

When celebrating the Eucharist, revisionary postmodernists and Wesleyans can affirm God is truly present and active in that celebration.  But the effectiveness of the meal is partly dependent upon how the receiver responds to God in and through the wine and bread. God is truly present; the past is truly remembered. But the celebration involves divine call and human response today when celebrating God’s love and our love for God, others, and ourselves.

10. Relational God

Just as believers throughout history have understood God’s activity in various ways, so too have Christians thought differently of God’s capacity to relate to others.

A strong tradition in premodern times said the Father is unaffected by creation. This view denied “patripassionism,” because it said that while Jesus suffered on the Cross, the perfect Father remained unaffected. With Aristotle, these believers believed that God (at least the Father) was the unmoved mover.

Two prominent modern theologians largely continued the tradition of denying patripassionism. Paul Tillich, for instance, described God as “Being Itself.” Tillich could not understand God well as a Person(s) with give-and-receive relations with creatures.

Karl Barth worried philosophers considered God so similar to creatures that they stripped God of divinity. In response, Barth claimed God was “Wholly Other.” If we take this label seriously and literally, God cannot be understood or talked about in any constructive way. Barth appealed to the revelation of Jesus Christ as a way to overcome this problem. But this appeal was only partly helpful, because it wrongly assumed our statements about Jesus were free from philosophical categories.

Revisionary postmodern and Wesleyan theology envision God as relational. This view fits well with the biblical witness. God enjoys genuine give-and-receive, mutually influential relationships with creatures. God is the most moved mover.

The importance of a relational vision of God is hard to overemphasize. It is crucial for understanding God’s love, as I have argued in many publications. It makes constructive language about God plausible. And it seems central to making sense of the heart of the gospel message.

One important but sometimes overlooked implication of the view God is relational is its impact on how we understand religious experience. If God is relational — both in Trinity and toward creation — we can discover powerful clues about how we might imitate God. God can be our example for what it means to establish and maintain loving relationships with others. Personal and communal Christian formation involves reciprocity, friendship, and sacrifice for the good of others.

Conclusion

There is much, much more I could say about each of these subjects. Blogs reward brevity, however, and I’m already worried that my reward has diminished! For now, I hope this post and the previous provide an outline of ten significant ways revisionary postmodern coheres with the Wesleyan tradition.

It bears repeating that Christians in other theological traditions may affirm most if not all the ten items I list. Wesleyans surely don’t have the corner on revisionary postmodernism!

But I do think the Wesleyan tradition naturally coheres with this postmodern tradition. And this natural coherence bodes well for both Wesleyans and this postmodern perspective.

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Comments

Nate Fairchild

I especially like your description of revisionary postmodernism’s view of truth.  We need a middle ground between believing we have objective, proven truths and having no truth at all.  Our whole approach to truth should be informed by a humility that prevents us from arrogantly thinking we are even capable of understanding the entirety of absolute, universal truth.

This is not to say we can’t understand truth, but that we should approach others with the profound understanding that we could be wrong.  No matter how convinced we are, we could be wrong.  What keeps us committed to our understanding of truth is nothing other than faith.

The understanding that we might be wrong increases our ability to have respectful and loving conversation with other points of view.

Of course, a lot of our problems could be solved with a little humility I suppose.  Perhaps the heart of real postmodernity lies in humility.


Dan Smitley

While I agree and completely affirm the idea of approaching truth in humility but the inability to know truth absolutely concerns me. If we are not willing to say we can know truth absolutely what confidence can we have in correcting someone elses opinion/beliefs? Even if a truth can be “more true” than another if it is not absolutely true do we have a right to correct others?

I have a feeling I am more modern than I like to admit to myself but those are my concerns.

-Dan


Jon Hawkins

Number nine; cooperation with God is hard to explain in my opinion. This statement by “John Calvin says – is that God is in complete control.  Nothing happens except that either God causes it or allows it to happen.” These bold statement needs to have tons of evidence to back it up. If one does not have the evidence statements like this should not be made. Granted, I bet John Calvin has research, thoughts and scripture regarding his statement. I believe making bold statements about God is going to take you on a continued circle. We will never fully understand God. If our goal in life is to figure this out, our lives on earth will not be what God intended.


Jarrod Anderson

Viewing God as relational and keep on emphasizing that point is important. I like that point being made because us as humans sometimes want to get caught up in other aspects of religion, theology or scripture meanings. But viewing God is relational and starting from there at the end of the day where ever we may fall sides of issues we know relations are important. That being the salt and the light, present in this world are most important. I know this had little to do with the blog, but this touched a cord with me. But I do like the blog host overall and agree with a lot of what it is saying.


Becca Spivey

When I was reading section 8 about truth I could not help but think of lyrics from a Lecrae song. The lyrics state “if what is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me, what if my truth says yours is a lie? Is it still true?” I really like these lyrics, because some do believe that all truth is relative, especially when it comes to religion. In some ways we have become too individualistic, in the west, and have lost what it means to be in community not only in living, but in what we believe.


Roman Lyon

I find number 7, progress is possible, to be interesting. I think I like what Wesley has to say when he talks about perfection in the Cristian life. His definition teaches that we need to understand context because what he means is not necessarily complete perfection; rather it is transformation. If we are being continuously transformed in our Christian walk then I agree that transformation would be progress. So, if we look at progress in those terms then yes, progress is possible. I think the real issue here is thinking in the proper context.


James Hardy

Though the 9th section was the only one that specifically referred to the via media—the middle way—I saw instances of a middle way in almost every section. I find this implicit statement extremely important as we move into the postmodern era. Those of us within the Wesleyan-holiness tradition need to remember that our tradition has never emphasized leaning toward one extreme or another on any issue.  We will inevitably face struggles and encounter problems that will need to be addressed, but keeping the via media in mind will help us maintain a balanced foundation on which we can address these issues.


Robby Skinner

I think that the 7th point is an important one. In my experience, postmodernism has been demonized as propagating a view of inevitable progress and rejection of the past, which after reading point number 6, seems to be more of a trait that can be attribute to modernism, rather than postmodernism. I think that there must be a balance of discovery and reflection, both in Christianity and in other spheres of life. There are important lessons we can learn from the past, but new things that must be discovered. This is a tension that the Christian, Wesleyan or not, must live in and discover the truth through.


Kaylee Bunn

I appreciate the clarity this brings to the ways that Wesleyan theology can exist in line with postmodern thinking. Particularly in using the Coupland quote, it is made evident that people in this postmodern time are searching for relationship and love. There is no need for a Wesleyan perspective to be viewed as something outdated and stringent. Rather, these two can exist in beautiful, fulfilling harmony.


Emma Roemhildt

I don’t believe in postmodernism. I find it extremely unhelpful in virtually every academic field (except maybe art, and even that is questionable). I don’t find it helpful in describing the ideological setting of the world today, especially given the stark contrasts of perspectives around the globe. Speaking of postmodern ideals is leaving out the large populations of the developing world today. I find it a Western obsession. Since I don’t recognize postmodernism as a viable way of explaining the world, I don’t find value in trying to relate it’s “tenants” with Wesleyan thought. I’m no philosopher, but my interactions with postmodernism in other academic fields have been widely frowned upon.  I will comment, on number 8. I think that the statement that modernists claimed the truth of the Bible through employing inerrancy is incorrect. Not all modern theologians claimed these principles. In fact, we see a host of theologians of the modern period who have dealt with the truth of the Bible through modern techniques, such as the historical method, that do not claim inerrancy. Inerrancy issues cannot be this simply put, doing so damages important aspects theologians and theologies of the modern period.


Nicholas Carpenter

I am very interesting in the notion of “progress” and what that really means. I would think that progress is the constant striving towards that which is good and best overall. But I know that can vary from person to person. It is also aggravating how some people view the idea of progress. You mention Wesley’s optimistic idea of progress being made with perfection, yet it seems to me that so many postmodern people are fairly pessimistic in their views of humanity and life in general. They keep marching forward trying to bring the progress they see and want to make, but have a negative outlook on people and life thereby contradicting themselves in a way. I like the idea of progressional perfection and hope to keep on keeping on despite the negative influence all around.


Rachael Snyder

I find some forms of postmodernism’s ideas of truth to be quite helpful. In matters where the truth is unclear or ambiguous, greater grace and wiggle room can be allowed. For example, I happen to think that the Wesleyan explanations of Christian faith are most accurate. Studying them and ascribing to them have brought me closer to God. However, I also recognize that this has much to do with the connected and love-oriented way in which my mind works. My father, on the other hand, thinks in very black and white ways and is uncomfortable with ambiguity. He has grown closer to God in the pursuit of Calvinist studies. I say to both instances, glory be to God.


Jonathon Wren

This idea of a relational God I believe is very important and helpful in this postmodern era.  The movement of viewing God pantheistic and relational with the World, I believe, is more appropriate and biblically sound.  There seems to be this connection revealed within the biblical witness that we must adhere to.  God is not simply some being that set the world into motion and watches from afar, but rather He is constantly creating, engaging, and relating to us in many profound ways.  Our relationship with Him should reflect this very thing and we must live in a way that seeks out this relationship.


Greyson kilgore

I can imagine how deconstructionism in our postmodern culture could be scary for the church. If people are starting to deny universal morality and right and wrong, one would think that this would cause people to step away from the church. However, it seems that because we are beginning to deconstruct the foundation of morality that has been passed down through generation, we are beginning to rely more on our relationships for a sense of stability. In other words, we are beginning to rely less on strict moral laws and ideologies, but we are putting more emphasis on community and relationships. If the church responds to this movement with a willingness to engage in tough conversations for the purpose of building relationships, it will continue to be relevant in postmodern culture.


semaJ

While this does not speak to the content of this blog, it does question some of the presuppositions behind it. You offer a handful of different types of postmodernism (i.e. deconstructive, narrative, revisionary, liberationist) This method of dissecting postmodernism into distinct and different types, does not strike me as the best practice. One of the strengths of postmodernism is recognizing the interconnectedness of the different parts that contribute to the whole. Rather than speaking of different types, (as to make them sound disconnected) it would behoove us all to speak of the different perspectives of postmodernity: nuanced aspects of the integral whole.


Topher Taylor

Just like the last one I really like the ideas on the side of postmodernism. I don’t need an error free Bible and I like the ideas on progress. And the notion of a relational God. That we can live in partnership with a loving God that actually interacts and can have his mind changed are ideas that I agree with.


Aaron Moschitto

While I find Emma’s critique of number 8 about inerrancy true, I find it unnecessary. Of course the full explanation of inerrancy isn’t given in a few sentences of a blog about something else. Additionally her critique about the term postmodernity is in itself quite postmodern. While postmodernity may be a western construction, these are ways in which the “west” perceives the rest of the world. For this reason I think it is very helpful to talk about with this acknowledgment. I find the conversation presented in number 8 to be very helpful in the way we understand scripture and truth. When we claimed to have truth in our hands we missed the very thing we thought we had and made Christianity defend a lot more ground than it needed to. For this reason we have divisive debates about many topics in Christianity that could be talked about in a more constructive way if we understood truth within the postmodern/premodern framework.


Kristina Wineman

It has been interesting to understand that there are a few different views on what truth is. This, just as you said, is certainly a question from the earliest recorded history. It is a question I have always had: what is true? Is there absolute truth? I believe so. If God wasn’t God, then I wouldn’t be who or where I am today, so I believe God to be the absolute truth and through the Bible, even though there are errors, we are able to understand the truth.


Amina Chinnell-Mateen

I never really thought about the power that deconstructionism has over the church and the people in it. As we move toward postmodernity it challenges the traditional views and ideologies of the church. People feel frightened and afraid it might dismantle all they believe. I love and agree with Greyson where he says, that people denying universal morality could make people leave the church. How are people to attend a place they find no ground in? There becomes no separation from good or bad? I appreciate you mention the power of stripping God away from his divinity. It only solves for half the problem when the revelation of Christ is the focus. Where does Gods power lie?


James High

In all this dialogue about the postmodern era and the different philosophies we’ve seen come from it, I think the topic that is going to be the crux will be this idea of relational plausibility that you talk about here, Dr. Oord. Whenever the word “postmodern” is uttered, we at the church immediately shudder with visions of extreme relativism that is sweeping the world, with everyone choosing what truth is for themselves as we all spiral down the social drain into anarchy. The reality is rather far from that, though we do see the effect of relativism in many facets of our everyday life, but the philosophy of revisionary postmodernists gives us a very valid alternative on which to build. While it acknowledges that who we are as an individual is greatly impacted by our context and our community, it allows the people to come to an understanding that “some statements or views of reality are truer than others are.” The Wesleyan quadrilateral was a perfect example of this. Everyone will have different experiences, traditions, reasoning, and even Biblical interpretations, but together as a community we can see through these that there is some unifying experience that we all share, and this points us back to God. Postmodernism isn’t the harbinger of doom for the Christian church, but rather the next obvious step as we turn our focus to the areas of life that we have largely ignored. This is a natural progression out of which the church will grow and benefit from the discussions and decisions that need to be made going forward.


hubert tiger

Under the banner of the ethics of love, a quote is given from Douglas Coupland’s book: “My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love”. I highlight this quote because I believe somehow it captures poignantly the prayer I want to humbly consider should be the prayer of our hearts as children of God. This intimacy will move us in the direction where love is not only a theory of our theology but that it is truly the position from which we flow and move. What a beautiful opportunity we have in cooperate with God and being His agents of change in our world. We cannot really be these agents of change when we don’t start and flow from a position of love. No matter which era or change we confront in the future our faith will stand and always be relevant because of Love. [194]


Chelsea Pearsall

Within the sixth conclusion or tie of revisionary postmodernism to Wesleyan thinking, I was drawn to the description of the ethics of love. By centering on love for the ways of thinking and living, I think that we can better guard against some of the radical relativism that other postmodern ways of thinking can fall into. By loving self, we are reminded of the significance of our own experiences and the ways that God communicates to us as individuals. At the same time, we are drawn to remembering the community and creation when we also remember to love each other, as Christ taught. When we recognize that such love comes from God and when we continue refining the ways that we love God, we can remember that there is possibility of change and truth in our world.

Revisionary postmodernism also helps individuals and communities come away from absolute certainty, yet also acknowledges that truth does exist. A very interesting comment by Dr. Oord was in regards to the discussion that postmodernists have within this thought community. I appreciated how Dr. Oord described that there are some things that postmodernists themselves do not always agree upon. If anything, I think that this can serve as a helpful reminder to us of the various voices that our congregations have. With that, we have to come in humility and with listening ears as we have disagreeing voices that are seeking God.

Another aspect that I found to be helpful in understanding the ways that others think involves God’s character as being relational. This discussion helped me to see how those who think of God as distant may find it easy to disengage with the world around them, as well as others, because their example of God is distant. On the other hand, by experiencing a God that is very much relational, as Dr. Oord describes, we can better interact with those around us.


Courtney Gilbert

“Rather than seeking the self-assuredness of absolute certainty, revisionary postmodernists seek a humble confidence that some statements or views of reality are truer than others are.” I am happy that this postmodern world view affirms individual truths but also seeks for universal truths that we all experience as humans. I also appreciate the attention to the truths of cultures and various groups. Something that is true for a certain group or culture might not be true to me or my culture. Revisionary postmodernists seem to have respect for diversity as well as approach thoughts with an open mind. I appreciate the attention to the marginalized and the minorities.
I could not imagine beings deconstructive postmodernist, thinking that seeking truth is unnecessary. I believe we do need to know with certainty that some things are true. Sometimes we need absolute certain answers, sometimes, uncertainty does not work. We need answers sometimes and “maybe” just wont do.


Robert Merrills

“Liberationist postmodernism privileges the work of emancipation as the ultimate ethical goal…Less often does this postmodern tradition provide a constructive answer to the question, “Freed to do what?” We live in a society modern paradigm that views self promotion, self-identification and self interest as appropriate defense against systems and institutions that have colluded to defraud or mislead “the little guy.” The natural defense is echoed in the words ‘I need to look out for me because no one else will.’ The individual seeks liberation from their own oppression whatever form it takes. What will allow the oppressed to heal through and carry on in productive way? What will keep them from becoming an oppressor themselves? Liberationist thinking has not really addressed that. A necessary way to negotiate is through love. Perhaps the way of love is a way revisionary postmodernism can help course correct. The hope of love is most recognized and effective when it is given away, when it is demonstrated. It includes voluntary action. It invites an “other. Its prerequisites are relationships and a willingness to share it in spite of the thought it can be rejected. In short it involves risk. It is a commitment without the knowledge the other will engage in it with you. “This commitment doesn’t mean that all other ethical approaches are unhelpful or invalid. But it does argue we should be primarily concerned with expressing love in each moment and becoming loving people – in community.” With love as a foundation, perhaps we have an adequate tool to encourage progress, invite discourse on relational plausibility, learn how to cooperate with God and relate to others as God works through us.


Tom Wilfong

These two blogs have helped to provide me with a great deal of insight about how Wesleyans relate to revisionary postmodernists. I know I have experienced people automatically rejecting postmodern ideas just because they heard postmodern. I think that if we were to take and begin to illustrate how much we have in common with revisionary postmodernism that people would stop treating it like a heretical undermining of Christianity. I especially liked the thought that “progress is possible but not inevitable” because we can make choices for good or bad. For instance, there are some countries that are being held back by its leadership and progress is not possible. These leaders are making bad choices which keep their countries impoverished while they live a lavish lifestyle. Progress is dependent on their choices and the degree and type of consequences will depend on their choices as well. We are free to choose our actions but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.


Mirtha Z. Castro-Martin

God bless everyone!
As I read Dr. Oord’s final five features of revisionary postmodernism and their relationship with Wesleyan-holiness theology, it gave me better understanding to worldview concerns for Christians today. As Christians go about discussing and interpreting what is right and wrong, what is certainty and truth, one must provide the opportunity to deconstruct our thoughts to then reconstruct a better theological worldview for ourselves. Love is a profound topic that many people fail to appreciate and misunderstand. For some people the moral principles of love is sometimes seen as a “duty” which becomes a problem when there are different views of what is considered right or wrong. Unfortunately, love based on moral duty leads to legalism. No one should ever be forced to love for something or love to get compensated for something. Love is done naturally and voluntarily.
On the thought of progress being possible, I think that progress is not possible unless a person willingly chooses to make it possible. According to Dr. Oord, “revisionary postmodernism argues that progress is possible but not inevitable.” Because there is consequences to what we do, by choice we can also make peoples’ reality better or worst. As I think about reality, when it comes to relational plausibility, I take into consideration how Christians might establish their truth as they claim the Bible as absolute truth. For many people the Bible has no errors. It’s not until you do your research that you find that the Bible indeed has multiple errors of various types. As one deconstructs theology, compares it to actual scientific evidence, and looks at what narrative postmodernism has to say about the Bible, one can only realize that the “truth” that one believes is true in light of new experiences and information.
As far as preventing grace, I like the thought that God does not control all things; but creatures are not entirely independent of God either. It reminds us about the power of God’s loving relationship towards the world in allowing free will. God gives us examples of how to establish loving relationships with other people. As Dr. Oord said, “If God is relational — both in Trinity and toward creation — we can discover powerful clues about how we might imitate God.”
[World Count: 381]


Denice Gass

As I read the first part of Dr. Oord’s article yesterday I found myself reflecting on practical ways that I could pass on the tenets of my personal faith to the children in my ministry. For this second part however, I find myself moving from the practical to the personal. Revisionary postmodernism was not a term I knew well before this, but I find myself agreeing more and more that in many ways it does fit with many of the important aspects of my faith. For instance, throughout my life love has been at the center of what I believe about my Savior and my calling. It is because of love that Christ died for me and for all of humankind, and it is as an extension of that great love that I seek to love those God has called me to serve. Dr. Oord writes, “Many people today – even those who do not believe in God – intuitively know love should be their ultimate concern. In this way, revisionary postmodernism expresses well a central cry of our time” (Oord, NP). Whether saved or unsaved, for the human heart love is a need that cannot be denied. Love is a reflection of the very best of us and for me it lies at the core of the image of God that each of us was created in.

Another aspect of my faith that is very personal to me is the sacraments. I grew up in a wonderful denomination full of faith believing people, but it is a denomination that does not practice the sacraments. It wasn’t until I came to the Church of the Nazarene in my mid-thirties that the sacraments became a tangible part of my faith experience. My baptism is a moment I will treasure for eternity, and each time I baptize a child through my ministry I cannot do so without weeping tears of joy. Communion too is a special and treasured part of my faith. I still cannot take the bread or drink from the cup without being reminded of all that Christ has done for me and experience his renewed presence upon my life. Neither can I serve it to others without a strong sense of God’s presence in the moment. Oord shares, “God is truly present; the past is truly remembered. But the celebration involves divine call and human response today when celebrating God’s love and our love for God, others, and ourselves.” (Oord, NP). I love that, because it is a reminder for me that even as I have the privilege of participating in the sacraments themselves, beyond them is the simple reminder of God’s love for me and his call upon my life to love others in the same manner. So, yes, I can see in revisionary postmodernism a method of thought that fits well with my faith, not only from a practical perspective, but from a personal perspective as well.


Mike Curry

The final five ways in which revisionary postmodernism partners with Wesleyan theological concerns continues build a good framework for Christian ministry to youth and families in this contemporary. “An ethics of love” is a necessary reminder that love must under-gird our motivation for everything we do in ministry. When that is forgotten ministry becomes obligatory and monotonous. “Progress is possible” informs us that in ministry, the results are not guaranteed. People who make choices are involved in our ministries. There are consequences to those choices which affects the results of ministry. There are not secret formulas to our successes or failures, but rather a steadfast trust in God for the outcome as we live in the new creation that has been bestowed upon us. “Relational probability” forces us to look at the many facets of truth and seek to understand how others see the issues that we face in living life and ministering to others. Dr. Oord’s assertion that the Wesleyan quadrilateral “can provide grounds to claim greater plausibility for some views rather than others” is an encouragement to employ these tools or sources when engaged in ministry.
The final two ways that speak to theology, namely, “cooperation with God” and “relational God” set up the relational and even incarnational tone that our ministry should take on. Understanding that God’s prevenient grace is at work takes the pressure off of our “performance” in ministry and liberates us to freely give others a chance to positively respond to God’s grace as we administer it in its various forms. Additionally, if we believe in a God that is relational, those engaged in Christian ministry must also be able to” establish and maintain loving relationships with others” beyond the evangelism pleas and follow-up teachings. We must be ready to live in relationship for the long haul.


Andy Perrine

The revisionary postmodern approach “calls us to be reoriented in our worldview without being disoriented.” These five features, along the the previous five, help direct us to view and interact with the world in a different light. The feature in this set of five that stood out to me was number six, “An ethics of love”. We can argue, as Wesley did, “that love is the foundation for theology and ethics”. I believe we, Christians, lose sight of this when we interact with others in the world. I think non-believers would say love appears to be far from our foundation. I think there is a perception of Christians, by some, that would say we are judgmental, egotistical, and hypocritical in what we say and do. Some of us show the perception of having love at the foundation, but the the reality of the love is not there. Are we dependent on God when reaching out, talking to, and helping others? This feature goes hand in hand with feature number ten, “Relational God”. “God enjoys genuine give-and-receive, mutually influential relationships with creatures” and if that is the case, shouldn’t we do the same? There needs to be a give and take relationship when we talk with others. We cannot just speak, but we must listen as well. As Christians, we must imitate God’s love and be a witness of it by showing others God’s relational love. We must change the perception of Christians and bare a new appearance that shines the light of God.


Jennifer Ayala

Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, we all long for “love.” Whatever the definition we have of love, we all want to feel loved. There is a kind of love that surpasses any description we have in our mind, and that’s the love of God. Words cannot do justice to God’s love, and that is why we need to express love through our actions. To show love to others, we need to surround ourselves with a community of people. In ministry, I believe that love draws people close. When they sense your genuine love and compassion, they will stay close to you. Expressing love not only works in the church, but it will flow to your homes, workplace, or anywhere you spend your time. The most time you spend with other people, the more your heart longs for the truth, “experiences of all types-personal, communal, religious, and even the experiences recorded in the Bible or enjoyed scripture-can lead to ultimate truth.” Although we cannot be entirely sure of the truth, we can still be satisfied with the knowledge we find. God is a relational God, “God enjoys genuine give-and-receive, mutually influential relationships.” As we minister to others, we should remember that we are building a relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ, they are not just another person whom we teach and share knowledge. We share stories and create conversations that are meaningful and beneficial to our spiritual growth. If we can become this person whose actions speak louder than words, I am sure people see God’s characteristics more. (268w)


Jessica

“Many people today – even those who do not believe in God – intuitively know love should be their ultimate concern. In this way, revisionary postmodernism expresses well a central cry of our time” (Oord).
The book, and movie based on it, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, well illustrates this. A disfigured boy, who has been homeschooled for years, goes to a private school for the first time in fifth grade. Of course, he is picked on, made fun of, and betrayed, but the overarching theme of the story is kindness, or love. It is a powerful story, but I’m not sure how realistic the outcome really is, in this age of rampant bullying, and resulting suicides. Isn’t the current climate of “#metoo” really a cry out that love should be the ultimate concern? It is a rallying cry for respect for all persons, and for traditional roles and power structures to be rethought and reworked. So this “central cry of our time” may well be greater love, but there is also a large movement to keep traditional power structures in place, held there by wealth, oppression, and prejudice. I think that Christians are called to be radically counter-cultural in this area, pushing aside power and wealth to truly show love to those who are disabled, elderly, poor, in prison, and on and on. It is not a time to sit safe and comfortable in the church building, but time to be out among the people, being Christ to them.


Carlie Hoerth

I am particularly drawn to Dr. Oord’s description of the Christian’s responsibility in Eucharist as an analogy for how the Church should work in cooperation with God. He writes, “God is truly present; the past is truly remembered. But the celebration involves divine call and human response today when celebrating God’s love and our love for God, others, and ourselves.” Premodernity taught people to believe that everything that happened to them was entirely up to God which was problematic because people were not taking any responsibility for their wellbeing, and gave people the impression that God wanted bad things to happen to them. In response, Modernity taught people that they were responsible for everything that happened to them, they were their own agents, and if they got sick they must have done something to compromise their immunity and had better figure out how to make and administer medicine to get well again; this gave people the impression that they were in charge of everything in their lives and that God was non-existent or distant at best. Reconstructive Postmodernity on the other hand, helps people find the balance between the two extremes that should please Christians. Reconstructive Postmodernists teach that humans can’t control everything, but have a responsibility to react positively to the things that happen. For example, sometimes bad things just happen, but people don’t have to sit by and accept it, they can overcome it. This is good news because it allows reasonable doubt that there is a God who loves and cares for the world, and it reminds Christians that they have a responsibility to react positively to what God is doing in the world. Just as in the Eucharist, life is about being fully present with God and working together in partnership to help the world reflect God’s kingdom. If pastors can help their congregations understand that Christianity is about working with God towards salvation and restoration our congregations will be stronger and our churches will be more effective in the world.


Shauna Hanus

An ethics of love

We are called to love others. Others are not always easy to love but love is foundational to the Wesleyan church. What Douglas Coupland is profound we need God. God will be the one who helps us to love. Yes, those who do not know Him love but the love that God calls us to is a different type of love where we love the other.

Progress is possible

Yes, I agree that progress is possible, but we are stilted by sin. I do not believe the world will ever find itself back to the perfect world God created before sin entered. I also do not believe we will ever arrive to an almost perfect place. I do however believe that progress will move us closer to God. Those in His church who are moving toward Him may lead the way, but other aspects of creation will also participate.

Relational plausibility

We cannot find truth from any one source. Truth is all around us. Scripture provides us the truth of salvation. Reason brings truth through our intellect. Experience brings truth from our lives and the lives of others. Finally, we find truth in the traditions of the church. Often what was done in the past is for a reason and truth can be found in that reason.

Cooperation with God

We are created with freewill, but we are called into relationship with God. It is our freewill that allows us to sin and chose an anti-Christ path and it is our freewill that allows us to enter into a cooperative relationship with God. What is interesting here is that we are in this relationship with God before we even recognize the relationship. He is present and working in our lives through prevenient grace thus the relationship exists. It is up to us to enter into the cooperative element of our relationship with God.

Relational God

A relational God is a God looking to be in a cooperative relationship with His creation. It is impossible to live life apart from experiencing God. We may not recognize what we experience but we do experience God. It is through the relationship that we can begin to experience what He intends for His creation.

Overall these final five postmodern ideas line up well with Wesleyans. There are no two ideas or concepts that will ever match perfectly. Just look to marriage as an example. Two people bonded together in agreement yet still independent. The ideas presented here line up well with Wesleyan theology and the marriage fits.


Pam Novak

Of all the provocative remarks in this essay, I’ll respond to the idea, shared by both John Wesley and revisionary postmodernists, that the Eucharist is both an instance of God’s presence and dependent upon the spirit in which a person receives the elements. This makes sense on the surface—the Bible warns against taking communion in an “unworthy manner.” If interpreted too strictly, however, this way of understanding God’s role in communion leaves little room for the working of the Spirit. If no one comes to God apart from being drawn by the Spirit. Why couldn’t receiving communion play a role in that? I remember from a former class that Wesley did not believe that a person should pass on the elements if he or she knew there was unconfessed sin or some other “unworthiness.” He was concerned that it was spiritually harmful to become separated from fellow believers.
I began to think about the role of prayer, which can be efficacious regardless of the spiritual state of the one praying or the one being prayed for. God will answer prayer not in a vending machine way but in a manner in keeping with His attributes of holiness, power, and love (among others). Often there’s little worthiness involved with answered prayer. We believe we have free will, and as you have said elsewhere even Calvinists live as if they have free will. When God answers prayer, the ground doesn’t shake. A person says, “I came to the Lord,” as if the person freely chose to do so. And yet…somehow God worked in cooperation with the person’s free will to answer the prayer of someone who had been on their knees about this very outcome.
What I’m trying to get at is that the theory of God being present in the Eucharist if-and-only-if seems to leave out the factors we cannot actually know.


Missy Segota

There are many parts of this blog that I agree with wholeheartedly. The first point is the commitment that love should be the center of what drives us. If we shift our thinking and teaching from a outcome and instead focus on loving the people we are ministering to then it changes how we minister. We are no longer worried about whether this person has accepted God into their heart and we instead focus on being the support that comes along side the other person in the inevitable valleys that come along. When our concern is simply loving the others to show them the love of God we are able to stop worrying about the goal and just be in the present. The relationship and the love is what creates the room in the relationships for God to come and work.
The second point is progress. It is stated emphatically that progress is possible but not guaranteed. This is the belief that I hold as well. Because God gives us free will, we can choose to take the steps or not. The choices we make determine if we make progress or if we stay exactly where we are. It is that theory of natural consequences. If we want to learn to play the piano but we never make the time to practice, then we will not progress. If we want to lose weight but we keep eating pizza and chips we will have a very difficult time making any progress. If we want to get into a deeper relationship with God but we don’t read our Bible and we don’t pray in earnest then we cannot grow deeper. Progress is possible. Progress takes work and is not magic.
Relational Plausibility. I cannot agree more. The truth that we perceive is only in relation to the experiences that we have and the information we receive. I am gonna go out on the extreme here; if we are raised to believe that abortion is a valid form of birth control and we are never taught that what is being removed is a human being, then we may be in favor of that method. After we learn what the process is all about and the information that shows us what is really happening, then we can see truth. Each of us lives in a limited view of the world. We cannot possibly experience everything that the world has to offer and what you experience greatly affects your truth. This is one of the reasons I think it is important to experience other places and ways of life. If we experience something different then we can change our views and our ultimate truth. If we never have those experiences then we cannot possibly understand that truth.
Often in the Christian faith we are taught that God is in control of everything. I think this often skews the image of who we view God to be. When we see the sick and hurting we may blame God for the hurts and disappointments. But, if we can realize that God made us creature with free will to choose or not then we must take responsibility for our own choices. And, if we see God as someone who is in a relationship with us then we can truly understand the heart of God. God affects the lives of the people He has created but we also affect His life. If we think of God as our Father who truly wants the best for us in all situations, then we can begin to see that the things we do that are against his will for us also affect Him. He hurts when we are hurting because we go against His will. I think in ministry we must teach people this concept. God is not just a deity in the sky that is unaffected no matter what we do. That is not a relationship. He desires a true relationship with us and wants what He knows would be best for us. If we can start to teach that this is a process and an relationship then we can start to see what God has in mind for us from the very beginning.


Meg Crisostomo

Hi,

It’s interesting to see the different approaches of each postmodern tradition. Though they all seek to fill gaps left by modernity, each postmodern tradition has a different way of interpreting those ‘gaps.’

An Ethics Kind of Love
Each postmodern tradition approaches good versus bad in a different way: narrative postmodernism calls for community to be the judge of good versus bad, liberationist postmodernism claims that “breaking the chains of oppression is the right thing to do”, deconstructive postmodernism criticizes all attempts at establishing a universal good versus bad, and revisionary postmodernism views love “as the core of its ethics.” In this way, it shares values with Wesleyan tradition where love is viewed as most important.

The significance of the revisionary postmodern view is that it not only aligns with Christian belief, but it’s widely accepted by non- Christians as well. We live in a society where culture emphasizes love for all. Whether this ideal is rooted in religious belief or not, it’s still greatly supported by diverse people groups.

Progress is Possible
Postmodernist traditions don’t agree on their view of progress, but revisionary postmodernism “argues that progress is possible but not inevitable.” John Wesley’s views are somewhat similar. He refers to transformation when discussing progress and the transformation that occurs through salvation. When we live according to God we are growing in Him, but when we sin we are distancing ourselves from God. In this manner, progress can or cannot happen.

Relational Plausibility
Each postmodern tradition approaches truth in a different way: deconstructive postmodernism claims that whatever the individual believes is true, narrative postmodernism finds truth in the community, and revisionary postmodernism adapts truth depending on experiences. The Wesleyan quadrilateral aligns greatly with revisionary postmodernism, because it draws from different sources to establish truth and adjusts accordingly.

In Christian ministry, being able to modify truth depending on situations and experiences is crucial. As an individual walks through their faith, they face different obstacles that challenge the way they interpret God. The more obstacles you overcome and the ways you overcome those obstacles change the way you interpret God. Therefore, the truth one holds regarding God is constantly changing though God himself stays constant.

369.


Kaylee Tilford

One thing I always struggle with in talking about morality is how easily it can lead to relativism. We don’t even have to begin with the belief that everything is relative to arrive at it as the conclusion. Take the argument in this article that says we need love at the center of our understanding of morality. To some being loving means never telling soneone else they are wrong while others believe the loving thing to do would be to gently correct others. And to say it is determined in community is just as problematic because one church will affirm one view of love and another the other. Therefore, when we talk about morality we must always begin with God and the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing morality before we ever consider the best philosophical approach to dealing with morality. It is only God that keeps morality from being completely relative.


Stephen Phillips

John Wesley spoke several times about the importance of love, in saying that love is the very foundation, core of what we believe as Christians. This should be our mission especially when we are working in Christian ministries where our aim is to fully express the love of God in a lifestyle that the world can see. This lifestyle of love should be the most important item we practice as Christians, this should be our priority. When we understand that God wants to have a relationship with us that is based in love we better understand prevenient grace. God wants us to join God in saving all humanity. There is freedom in knowing we have free will but there is also greater freedom in knowing that when we are lost God is more than able to save us out of that darkness. That even though we have freedom it can not stop God from saving us if we are willing to be saved. I believe that God is at work in every nation and culture. That from the very start of time God has been on a mission to save all humanity. The nature of God is that God wants to have this relationship with us where we are not being forced but rather it is a give and take relationship and in this process God is gloried because we are living out our very purpose for which we were created for. This is the beauty of a God who is relationally and loving.
w.c: 254


Samantha

Continuing with the other five ways that revisionary postmodernism is like Wesleyan theology is once again greatly interesting. There were a few things mentioned in the article that stood out to me. First quote that stood out was, “We should be primarily concerned with expressing love in each moment and becoming loving people – in community” This is so important for us to comprehend. Love is such a vital role for us to know as love should be a concern for us all. Loving others in our community is an essential part of the Christian life and absolutely necessary if you are in christian ministry.
It is interesting that some modern Christians “absolute truth by claiming the Bible is absolute truth.” I do not have the mind capacity to wrap around the thinking that it could possibly be absolute truth when other humans wrote the Bible. I have seen areas of contradiction myself in the Bible, however I have more faith in God and who he is that I am not concerned that it is not truth. I simply do not believe that it could be absolute truth.
Finally, my favorite, the thought of God being relational. This is of absolute importance, the relational aspect of walking with God is vital. “God enjoys genuine give-and-receive, mutually influential relationships with creatures. God is the most moved mover.” This quote speaks at such a high understanding of the relational aspect God wants to have with each of us in our walk with Him,
Word Count: 254


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