Thursday, April 30, 2020

Deconstructing Postmodernism

Rather than enter the couple of conversations where food-fights have broken out regarding post-modernism and deconstruction, I offer a thought here.  I am sure it will be considered childish to actually look up the terms, but here goes (from Wikipedia…yes, I know, childish squared). 

Deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), who defined the term variously throughout his career. In its simplest form it can be regarded as a criticism of Platonism and the idea of true forms, or essences, which take precedence over appearances.

Deconstruction purports to show that language, especially ideal concepts such as truth and justice, are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible to determine.

Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical era said to follow after modernity and the tendencies of this era.

While encompassing a wide variety of approaches and disciplines, postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection of the grand narratives and ideologies of modernism, often calling into question various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality.

My summary: deconstruction says truth and justice cannot be defined or determined; if something cannot be defined or determined, it cannot exist – in other words, truth and justice cannot exist.  Natural law and Christian ethics (the overlap is considerable and necessary) is the only cure for deconstruction.

Postmodernism calls into question the grand narratives of the Enlightenment and modernism.

So when PVK labels Peterson as a postmodern classical liberal, it sounds right to me given this definition.  PVK did not label Peterson a deconstructionist, and this also sounds right to me given this definition. 

Classical liberalism (the target of postmodernists) killed God, offering that science (narrowly defined) is all that man needs.  Peterson, looking for a cure to the malaise (meaning crisis) of our times, finds…what?  God!  The God that classical liberalism killed as part of modernity’s grand narrative!

Peterson is calling into question the grand narrative of modernism.  This is postmodernist thinking.

NB: Addendum: I should have gone further in looking into this.  While it is true that Peterson is turning the most important (in my view) narrative of the Enlightenment on its head – the death of God – he is doing so in a manner that is not at all the same as that which is typically seen from most postmodern thinkers.

A Bridge Too Far

Remember who the real enemy is.

-          Said several times by several characters in The Hunger Games movies

I think I have bitten off more than I am qualified to chew – maybe more than should be chewed, I don’t know.  I am speaking of my working through the book Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity, by Brett Salkeld.

For those of you involved with this blog, you understand my reasons for exploring the connection between Christianity and liberty.  More than a connection, it is a requirement.  In this light, I offer a comment I made in a recent discussion:

This is why I refer to the necessity of Christian men of good will in leadership - and we are so lacking in this; it is why I appreciate ecumenical dialogue; it is why I see the necessity of a foundation of natural law; it is why I find so costly the fracturing of the church by leveraging disagreement on dozens of minor points in doctrine.

Forgive what may appear to be a digression; it is not.  I read the following, via a link at the LRC blog; it is an essay entitled “How Political Ideology Is Pushing Religion Out of Religious Studies.”  The author is discussing the leading trade association of Religious Studies intersectionalists (I would never call them academicians or scholars), the American Academy of Religion.  The author is offering the titles of some of the lectures at their recent annual conventions:

The 2016 meeting featured more than 40 LGBTQ events. The presentations included these topics: “Ruth as Undocuqueer: Re-Reading the Book of Ruth at the Intersection of Queer and Postcolonial;” “Sarah, Sodom, and the Queering of Time in Genesis 18-19;” “Daniel 11:37 and the Invention of the Homosexual Antichrist;” “The Gospel and Acts of the Holy Ghost: Queer Spectrality, Affective Homohistory, and Luke-Acts;” and “Crucifixion’s Idolatrous Resonance: Animality, Slavery, and Sexuality in Pauline Rhetoric.”

The 2017 meeting, held in Boston, was similar, including a presentation on “Queering Martin Luther.”

These woke topics are so new that even my Microsoft Word spell check has yet to include many of the terms in its dictionary (no, I am not adding these).

In addition to the LGBTQ agenda, religious studies scholars promote a litany of issues that coincide with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party: Marxism/socialism, immigration reform, climate change, criminal justice reform, and identity politics.

So, back to Salkeld’s book.  With almost each comment to the three (so far) posts I have made regarding this book, I have felt that maybe this is a subject I need not take on publicly.  These three posts have covered all of thirty pages of a 240-page book, and I am already feeling the weight of it.

I am going to pause from posting anything more from this book.  As mentioned, I really am unqualified, and therefore it is really unfair to the topic for me to continue.  I may post some more eventually; I am not sure – maybe just a final post after I finish reading the entire book…maybe not even this. 

My only purpose for writing this post is to be fair to those who encouraged me to move forward with this topic, so you understand the void.  I will suggest: for those of you interested in this topic and dialogue, just buy the book – I haven’t even come to the detailed discussion on the views of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and John Calvin (each with its own chapter), and it is already eye-opening.

I will continue to engage on the topic of Christianity and liberty.  I continue to believe that unless Christianity takes on its proper institutional role in the life of society, incorporating Aristotelian-Thomistic Natural Law (no, I am not suggesting that all must be Catholic), we stand no chance of moving toward liberty – instead, continuing a slide into ever-increasing decadence.

In the meantime, we have too many corrupt Christian leaders in too many positions of the highest authority.  Is it any wonder that Religious Studies conferences have evolved into the alphabet soup of wokesterism?


I value every reader and contributor here.  I know that you know that I am learning along with you and that I learn much from your feedback.  I hope nothing that I have written in this post causes anyone to feel otherwise.  But I really do feel that this time I have attempted a bridge too far – certainly for me.