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A thought i once had for the Postmodern-Christian mailing list, which i left because the good people were too quiet

—–Original Message—–
From: Andrew Lorien
Sent: Monday, 21 May 2001 12:08
Subject: Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies
i disagree with the thrust of the article below.
I don’t think the postmodern age is now dawning – i think postmodernism is the dawn of another age. i think the post-modern is also the pre-something else, which we will be able to name when it gets lighter. I think it IS the “overturning”, and the “self-conscious evaluation and critical assessment” of a once-dominant set of values; it IS an adventure, and an exposition of the self-deceptions we had taken for granted. This guy, though, has i think made the very common assumption that this is where we are going to stay. We’re Re-evaluating things. We’re doing Tolerance and Relativism. We’re entertaining Doubt, and investigating Other Paradigms. It’s all very exciting, yes, but it’s exciting because it’s in flux. Things haven’t changed, they’re changing.

But humans aren’t much good at all this live and let live, freedom and equality nd tolerance thing. It never lasts. For the moment, while everything is up in the air, we have no choice (as david says below, “it is unavoidable”). We can and must let everyone own their own thoughts, and say their own piece, if only because (as stressed almost daily on this list), we can’t all agree on the values or authorities we subject ourselves to.

but for all the talk of re-appraisal and re-evaluation, noone seems to really expect that there will be an end. Which there will. eventually, as a culture (or a mess of sub-cultures) we will finish evaluating, and settle quietly down to discover the implications of what we’ve come up with (possibly after the war to decide who’s appraisal wins). This surprises me a lot. There are a few people (my favourite is Umberto Eco), who can put some shape to the culture which will be born out of the death of modernism, but most people are running so hard to keep up (or to escape the Death), that they don’t have a thought for where they’re going. Let us hope we run well, because if we can’t see where we’re going we might easily trip.


—–Original Message—–
Sent: Saturday, 19 May 2001 18:25
Subject: Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies
David J.A. Clines
University of Sheffield

The postmodern is the name of the age that is now dawning. It is not the kingdom of heaven, but neither is it the dominion of Belial. It is the moment to which the modern has been tending, the outcome of the Enlightenment project initiated by Renaissance and Reformation. It is the overturning of the values in which we all have been educated, and yet, in another light, it is nothing but the self-conscious evaluation and critical assessment of those values. It is the spirit of the age, yet it is parasitic upon the past. If we are the modern — in our formation, our education and our shared quest for truth and knowledge — , then the postmodern is nothing other than ourselves sceptical about ourselves, ourselves not taking ourselves for granted-which is to say, the modern conscious of itself.

In a word, the postmodern is the quizzical re-evaluation of the standards and assumptions of traditional intellectual enquiry and scholarship. In biblical studies, it is, as Nietzsche would have put it, the re-evaluation of all values-not so as to negate all values but so as to expose the partiality and self-deceptions in the values we have come to take for granted. It is an adventure for us in biblical studies because we do not know where it will take us. It is an adventure because it is risky. But it is also an adventure because it is adventitious-that is, because the moment is ripe, because it is unavoidable, because it is the next step in our exploration of what it means to be humans, to be intellectuals, and to be students of the biblical texts.
from the author’s homepage

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