Sensibilities and Powers

Let me begin with an outrageous conclusion, and then try to defend it. This is not usually a good procedure because it just gets everybody’s back up, but if the outrageous conclusion is actually the voice of sweet reason, then why not?

Here is the conclusion, in a short series of statments. The only genuine Christian postmodernism is theonomy. Those Christians who are genuinely yearning to enter a postmodern era are the true heirs of Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North. Those who repudiate the central theonomic tenet held by Rushdoony, Bahnsen, and North are postmodern posers and pikers. All hat and no cattle. All foam and no beer. All words and no semiotic nuance.

The next two hundred years, whatever happens in them, will be governed by a certain intellectual sensibility. The apostle Paul used to call them principalities, but nowadays we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but rather against sensibilities and powers. This intellectual sensibility will allow some things and prohibit others, and it will do so in accordance with a certain standard.

If fundamentalist Muslims were to overrun the world, that would constitute an idolatrous postmodern era. The word that governed all discourse would be the word of their Allah; Sharia law would be the standard. It wouldn’t be right, but it would be genuinely postmodern. But if we react away from this (against every form of “fundamentalism”), and say that we want the “free interchange of all ideas,” “principled pluralism,” “the give and take of neutral, secular, civilized discourse,” and whatnot, we are returning to the very font of all modernity — a frightened postmodern child running back to his modernity mama.

Postmodernism as a buzz word began as an architectural movement, and it was just another fad in a long series of fads. But the same thing is true of every other application of the word. Modernity is going through a crisis of faith in its own larger system of dogmatics, that is true enough. But we still keep churning out the goods — medicine, travel, clothing, electronics — and modernity (for all its loss of faith) still tenaciously defends the goose that keeps laying these eggs. And on this subject, postmodernists join ranks with the modernists, shoulder to shoulder. Postmodernists (falsely so-called) make different choices about what they buy and sell, but all this is just milling about in different aisles of the same superstore.

Christians who are “emergent” complain (like lots of people do) about the global market forces that are busy distributing their market havoc and wealth, but iPod sales have mysteriously remained steady among them. And all you have to do to reveiw the latent modernist in virtually everyone is suggest that the Lordship of Christ needs to be publicly recognized over all market transactions. Note — not that I personally should remember the Lordship of Christ as I head out to buy my personal iPod.

No. Who is Lord of all things? Who should be recognized as Lord in the public square? The one who actually is Lord, or some other god? Suppose someone advances the idea that the Lordship of Christ must be publicly recognized as the final authority over the market, over the legislature, over all our public life. Of course this cannot be accomplished successfully by any form of political coercion, but rather by right worship and robust evangelism. All I am asking here is whether we believe that would be a good thing if it happened. Or would it violate the sanctum sanctorum of modernity — liberal democracy?

In saying this, I am not setting out our agenda for the next two years. Rather, I am declaring the gospel — Christ came to save the nations of men — and I am declaring what must in fact happen if we are to be saved. There is no salvation anywhere else, there is no deliverance from our dilemma in any other name under heaven.

This is our faith, and, as it turns out, true postmodernism is a post-somethingelseism. True postmodernism is theonomic postmillennialism. And so we return to the basic question. Should Christians embrace postmodernism? A lot of details need to be worked out, but I would say yes.

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