During the conference I've had the chance to participate in a blogger's forum for the MB Herald, our denominational magazine. What follows is my entry responding to a presentation by my friend and mentor Myron Penner.
What about po-St/mOd(ern)ity?
Yes, this is how actually how Myron Penner spelled the oft-controversial term “postmodernity,” alluding to the idea that postmodernity is by no-means understood or even accepted as a helpful term in academia. With an intellectually stimulating presentation, Myron suggested that postmodernity is misunderstood and misused when Christians describe the world. Working from his perspective as a philosopher, Myron was quite critical of Christian characterizations of history, particular in the blaming of philosophy for our “alleged” postmodern context. Postmodern thought, Myron suggested, was only about a 10-year span in the ’70s and ’80s, seen now as “sophomoric skeptical posturing” in philosophical circles.
In fact, Myron proposed that postmodernism has little traction in much of academic discipline in general. In this line, to suggest philosophy is somehow father and proponent of postmodernism, as Christians are prone to suggest, is simply wrong. At best, postmodernism describes a cultural situation, but not a philosophical position. Myron concluded, then, that philosophy is not bound by the caricatures of worldview (e.g. “modern” or “postmodern”), but has and continues to offer an “intellectually viable” presentation of Christian beliefs.
As one trained in theological studies, I was challenged by Myron’s critique of theologian’s caricatures of cultural developments, particularly our descriptions of postmodernism and “secular” academic disciplines. Despite popular Christian opinions often fuelled by critique of belief in God (e.g. Dawkins), Myron helpfully clarified, citing the work of Alvin Plantinga, that “actual contemporary philosophy is not hostile to belief in God…God is alive and well in the academy of philosophy.” To summarize, I think we as Christians too often tell the story for others instead of allowing others, in this case philosophy, to tell the story themselves. To that end, Myron told us a much-needed story.