Is There a Home for the Bible in the Postmodern World? *

Article excerpt

What place do ancient texts have in situations that are radically different, in terms of both structure and drive, from the worlds in which they were formed, revised, transmitted, and authorized? Can "premodern texts" (which were questioned in the "modern era") be at home in the "postmodern world"? Can ancient scriptures still (be made to) speak in the postmodern world? In other words, would the postmodern world accommodate the Bible? How may the Bible serve as "home" in the postmodern world?

Postmodernity, eScapeGoated

"Postmodernity" is the new beast at whose feet many people lay the blame for whatever ideas and behaviors make them nervous. It has been shoved into places usually reserved for the mischievous (woman) temptress that must be domesticated, the wild (queer) orientations that must be tamed, and the reckless (satanic) tendencies to confuse values and violate boundaries that must be ruled. Many defy postmodernity because they feel that it does not exhibit and sustain "faith" or have respect for "order." They do not feel at home in the postmodern world because it is unsteady, fragmentary and fragmenting, and hostile to the principles of faith and order, which presuppose certainty, harmony, and fixity. (1)

Postmodernity, the specter behind "postmodernism" (see distinction below), is a scapegoat for whatever exposes and agitates people's insecurities. Some of my colleagues and friends accuse me of being postmodern whenever, for instance, I challenge religious or cultural traditions. Previously, in their eyes I was just silly, but now I am postmodern (for the same reasons). However, they do not realize that being critical and difficult do not necessarily make one postmodern. I might still be silly, but that does not mean that I am, therefore, postmodern. I argue, on the other hand, that the onslaughts of the Western Enlightenment Era (or "modernity") and its scientific modes of thinking are much more contentious against cultures and traditions and matters of faith and order, which do not always stand on the kind of positivist evidences and reasoning that modern minds prefer, than postmodernity is.

This essay does not address the (dis)connections between modernity and postmodernity (2) but, rather, joins the chorus of voices that seek to demystify postmodernity (3) and to ponder how we may still appreciate the Bible (differently) in our postmodern world. (4) The essay circles around the Bible primarily because it is one of the points of intersection for many Christians, a site of contact that signifies Christian unity. I circle around the Bible also because it contains multiple voices and is open to a diversity of responses, so it is a lighthouse that points to the harbor of diversity in unity and unity in diversity.

This essay aims to show and tell, in form and content, that postmodernity is not as spooky as people fear it to be. It will hopefully help relax the dis-ease with the place of other teachings and doctrines in the work of faith and order in various spheres of the Christian life.

Postmodernity, Unspooked

Postmodernity is like a rip current that pulls swimmers away from shallow shores. A rip current forms when waves break unevenly; usually the ends break first, then the waves fold inward and gush back out to sea at the middle, creating a ripping pull that is much stronger than the power of the waves that came from the deep. The rip current is scary for swimmers who try to swim against it, for it is like swimming upstream against the strong whitewaters of a narrow, but deep river; it can be deadly (those swimmers can drown). It can also be "deadly" according to the way Indigenous Australians use the word vis-a-vis referring to something that is pleasurable, fun, cool, awesome, and so forth. The best way to enjoy the rip current is to ride it out to sea, feel for a place where one can swim away from the pull of the current (by swimming outward to the left or to the right of the rip),then circle around the current and back to shore. …