What Exactly Am I?

Continuing the discussion from Is Postmodernism An Inherently Atheistic Philosophy?:

That is very kind of you, but now it has me thinking.

I certainly do draw on classic thinking, but I am also persuaded by some of the post-modern critiques of classic and modern thought. I’m not going to enumerate everything, but to give one example let’s talk about the Christian worldview movement.

We believe (I believe) that Jesus it the Truth. However, I do not think this declaration transfers to every thought that is inspired by Jesus in us. Invariably, the universals of Jesus are diluted and filtered down to a perspective or interpretation that is bound to our own language, experience, history, and context. This is not to deny absolute truth, but to point out the obvious, it is not the Christian worldview. It is not even coherent to discuss THE Christian worldview, as there are many Christian world views.

This is not something merely chalked up to interpretation errors, that can be eventually refined out, but rather is a consequence of our creaturely limitations. Therefore, I see great wisdom in the Eastern parable of the blind men and the Elephant:


It was six men of Indostan // To learning much inclined, // Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), //That each by observation // Might satisfy his mind

Each in his own opinion concludes that the elephant is like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched. Their heated debate comes short of physical violence, but the conflict is never resolved.
Blind men and an elephant - Wikipedia

This is not to deny absolute truth, mind you. There is an Elephant. There are truthful and false ways of describing said Elephant. There is a solid reality with which we are all engaged. All that is true. This seems very classical and modern of me.

Rather it is to recognize that we are unavoidably bound to our limited view of reality. Our view of the world is bound to our language, culture, time, history, experience, and more. This should humble us substantially, as what ever we think of the world, we will find someone whose perspective should add to our limited understanding. We should probably default to both/and, instead of either/or, even if there are certainly many things that are false. Even if they are false, however, there is often truth within them that should be and can be affirmed. This seems very postmodern of me.

This is one critical and humbling corrective that Post-Modernism legitimately gives to Christian modernism, and even to classic thought. There is no single valid Christian worldview. Appeals to “THE worldview,” “politics,” “creation science,” “philosophy,” “reason,”…they all seem diminished in relation to Jesus, the one who inspires all these things. I’d rather say that the Gospel is a seed that is planted into a worldview, to grow a new one that transforms it. In a different culture or context, that seed will grow in a different way, because it is transforming a different worldview.

To echo CS Lewis, it is like Jesus is the light of the sun that lets us see everything else (Is Theology Poetry? PDF.js viewer). However, we still see different things, and come to different worldviews, we because we see from different angles. Absolute Truth is some unachievable combination of what we see, and also the parts we haven’t seen.

For this reason, I read Jesus’s words as a corrective of Modernist Christanity that is fixated on worldviews and absolute truth (quoting @J.E.S’s article): “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.” Jesus is the Truth. He is the fixed point, the one thing that is greater than all worldviews, because he is the one who legitimately reorders all worldviews. I take Paul as an example. He became Greed to Greeks, Romans to Romans, Catholics to Catholics, Jew to Jews, scientist to scientists…holding nothing as constant or absolute except the fixed point he found in Jesus.

I very much benefit from classic thought, most important are Pascal and Bacon, even though they are outliers. However, I think Postmodernism gives classic thought an important corrective. They did not appreciate the influence of cultural differences, and the need for diversity. Reading them, it seems that intellectual humility is missing at times. I draw strongly from classic thought, but do not think they are enough.

Even now, I draw just as much from Watchman Nee and Martin Luther King as much as I might from others…

Any how, what does this make me? A modernist? A post-modernist? A classic thinker? Or something else?

Curious your thoughts @J.E.S, @jongarvey, @auntyevology, @anon46279830

There are at two least cocktails called "Post-Modern"s. Probably more. As one might expect, the ingredients are somewhat different. Kinda like what each person thinks post-modern means today.

Example A
Example B

The moral of this story is that I should probably buy some absinthe and sloe gin, because I think I’ve got all the other ingredients in my cupboard.

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Pragmatic Christian, I suppose.

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You are a classical thinker who is aware of your own limitations, as are many of us. Really we are all on a spectrum and few of us are pure anything. If there were a two-dimensional graph I think it would show you solidly in the classical thinker quadrant (as that quote above combined with your belief in God as a lawmaker ordering the universe is straight up classical. You just shade a bit more toward the relativistic/postmodern side operationally. IOW you know the truth is out there but take a skeptical view of our ability to know it perfectly. Did not the Apostle Paul express the same thought in 1 Cor. when he wrote that we see Him now as though through a veil, but then face to face"?

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You ask, so here’s my 2 penn’orth.

You and other posters are right to say that postmodernity’s emphasis on mutliple viewpoints applies to postmodernism itself: it’s rather appropriate that it means whatever people want it to mean. But there is a clear difference between a Foucault deconstructing society and a John Walton who recognises that an ANE reading of Genesis will differ from a modern reading.

Seems to me that postmodernism arose in reaction to the “assured results” of Enlightenment rationalism in its modernist manifestation. In that, it’s a good thing, but inevitably, being human, goes off to extremes (as rationalism itself took the virtue of reason to extremes).

To an extent, the person, like yourself, perhaps, who never bought fully into modernism already has many of postmodernism’s virtues (cf the “classical thought” conversation). Mediaeval science, for example, was concerned that a theory was useful because it “saved the phenomena”, rather than insisting that it gave an absolutely true description of the world. Galileo largely got into trouble with fellow-scientists not because Copernicanism was scientific heresy but because Galileo insisted it was how the world actually was rather than a useful way to describe it (Exam question: "Galileo was the first modernist " - discuss).

In contrast, remember Augustine’s famous dictum about the Creation story, to the effect that there are many possible intepretations of this complex passage that are compatible with the rule of faith. How postmodern is that?

I quite like N T Wright’s attempt to build on postmodernism, without buying into its relativism, in his version of “critical realism.” This is open to the recognition of one’s own subjectivity, but also to the existence of a solid truth (eg in the authorial intention of a text), to which is possible to approach. It is only that negotiation with reality that makes shared public knowledge possible.

If I have to judge, then I’d say that whereas the Modernist fault is to claim more certainty about things than we may actually have, then the “soft” postmodernism that is the spirit of the age (and hence what is usually invisible to us) is that we maybe claim more _un_certainty about things than is actually possible, or even desirable. Perhaps the people feeling the elephant might all realise that’s what it was if they were to think more critically, and rejoice less in their diversity.

Though that’s not so across the board - theology now seems to be considered a postmodern matter of opinion, whereas science seems still largely to operate as if it were about modernist matters of hard fact. Both have drawbacks.

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This critical realism thing is interesting, and seems in the right direction.

I still see high value in, what I will call, multiperspectival realism. That reality might not be possible to contain in a single perspective. I’m falling under the influence of Lutheran paradox too, where I might expect correct perspectives to be in apparent tension at times.

In human origins we are seeing this in some ways too. Accounts that are apparently in total contradiction can both be true at the same time. Who would have thought that?

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Wasn’t there some saying about “if you find a contradiction, draw a distinction.” So in the Genealogical Adam thing, contradiction is resolved by distinguishing “genealogical” from "genetic, “human” from “Homo sapiens”, and so on.

So maybe the virtue of living with cognitive dissonance (and it is a virtue, in many ways, since the alternative is bigotry) is that of recognising that we haven’t yet overcome, and may never in this life overcome, our category errors.

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I don’t like calling this tension cognitive dissonance. That is not a virtue, its a path to a mental disorder. Maybe “humility” is a better, and more accurate, way to put it. We recognize that we don’t have all the answers and that other sincere truth-seekers (getting rarer) can have perspectives that are different from ours yet still valid. It is not a dissonance per se, just a recognition that the truth is bigger than we are and perhaps bigger than our ability to hold it all in our heads at once.

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Polyphony. Perspectives more than optics. Listen to multiple competing hypotheses. Much different, it would seem, in the fields of genetics & genealogy. Perhaps some people would pit the hypotheses against one another across fields. Folk genealogy comes up often enough, though not here.

Realism is as almost always a safe ship. Careful with Roy Bhaskar’s notions of ‘critical’; there are others.

I like @anon46279830’s caution with @jongarvey’s apparent preference for cognitive dissonance (speaking of it as virtuous) as paradoxical theology.

The tension is real, especially for those who once were YECs and became OECs or ECs &/or TEs. The YECs who became atheists seem among the sorriest and angriest, most amazingly self-righteous, and ultimately despicable lot.

Joshua, so far, in your evangelical Protestant graces, you are (to answer ‘what am I’?) a person who would not use the word ‘despicable.’

Some people claim “cognitive dissonance required” so they don’t have to answer for themselves What Exactly Am I? on certain questions regarding origins. The ‘hold back judgment’ on key questions, which is something I don’t see Joshua doing here. To do that, they hide their ideological cards behind their backs. Yet on the internet, that is a fair game strategy, so they are within the safety rules.

It is simply a question oftentimes that those who disclose more, if done in the right way, even the same right way as others in ultimate orientation, get more interaction, attention and generate meaningful conversation by virtue of participation without cognitive dissonance. If you’ve got something that is wow - defensive or even better about ID that is offensive in the forward not attackful way, then please either share it or put away the notion that ID might still have power that others are saying it doesn’t. When it is put away the conversation will change, especially the way one addresses time referents.

To live with tension is an inevitability. “Which tension and how do I face it?” starts the real questions.

What is first required that I know about myself to be able to answer “What exactly am I?”?

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OK @auntyevology, I hit the upvote button in that one even though I think that last part, calling on Joshua to come down harder on ID, or maybe make some sort of final call on it is a better way to say it, is very premature. For one thing, some of the dispute may be the sides talking past one another on the definition of terms…

So, that is where Lutheran thought has been helpful for me (paging @J.E.S). When we are engaging transcendant things, or even merely things just beyond our current comprehension, we expect contradiction in our descriptions. Rather than shrinking back from the contradictions, they need to be embraced, and meditated on. That is what enables us to identify those “proper distinctions”, and avoid collapsing deep complexities into a over-simplified “solutions”, that succeed merely by ignoring important things.

My opinion of ID is well known. Im not sure it is going to evaporate as a movement any time soon. It seems wiser to build bridges with them, while being clear with what I disagree with about in their position.

Covering ID is for another thread. If you want to see people talking past one another, do a post mortem on this thread: ID and Science Classes.

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No - you’re right: not a good usage here. Cognitive dissonance is trying to hold conflicting views believing them to be incompatible. Holding things in tension provisionally (and in humility) was what I had in mind.