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Friday, November 22, 2013

Christians Should Include Self-Criticism When Criticizing Others

Dr Graham Cole teaches at Beeson Divinity School, a school which sprang up from Samford University. In the accompanying video, Cole is asked about Post-Modernism.





In this interview Cole is asked for a definition of Post-Modernism and he provides a partial definition. He states that Post-Modernism is the rule of relativity as opposed to Modernism which is the rule of reason. And he praised Post-Modernism because for challenging Modernism's for relying on human reason. However, he criticizes Post-Modernism because it embraces relativity. He states that neither Modernism nor Post-Modernism is a sufficient guide for finding one's worldview.

If neither Modernism nor Post-Modernism are good enough, what should we use to develop a worldview? Pre-Modernism is the answer according to Cole. The reason is because Pre-Modernism relies on the rule of revelation and Christians know that we have God's true revelation. So Christians should use God's revelation as the ultimate standard in developing one's worldview.

Before we proceed, we listen to what Cole says about one's worldview. According to Cole, a worldview consists of the ideas we use to interpret the world. These ideas act as 'gatekeepers' in determining how we process the world around us. A Christian worldview uses the Scriptures as one's primary source for ideas used to interpret the world. Cole identifies 3 criteria a Christian should use in evaluating competing worldviews. The first criteria is whether the ideas we rely on here are Scriptural. The second criteria is whether the ideas we relay on here are 'thinkable.' Here, a worldview is thinkable if it is consistent and does not lead to contradictions. Finally, one must determine if one's worldview is 'livable.'

Before criticizing Cole's views here we should note that his criteria for developing worldviews are good. We should also note that this clip does not give us an opportunity to hear everything that Cole thinks about Post-Modernism. But here is the problem. At least in the interview seen in the above video, though Cole gives an adequate definition of Post-Modernism, he fails to list the issues that Post-Modernism has been trying to address when it embraced relativity and rejected both the rule of faith/revelation, which is Pre-Modernism, and the rule of reason. Post-Modern embraced relativity because those in the movement found the colonialism, wars, and imperialism that resulted from both Pre-Modernism and Modernism to be not livable. And this is true especially when WMDs exist. Neither Pre-Modernism nor Modernism showed themselves to be effective in restraining man's tendencies to show intolerance, dominate others, and make war.

So what we see in Post-Modernism's emphasis on relativity is not the assertion of a positive but an attempt to remove a negative. That is that Post-Modernism attempts to remove any reason which, according to history, people have used to rationalize their brutal treatment of others. Seeing that neither the rule of faith/revelation nor the rule of reason has curbed our abuse of others, none are livable.

So Cole's problem here is not found in his criticisms of Modernism and Post-Modernism. Rather, his problem is not owning up for Pre-Modernism's failures, Christianity's sins to be specific.  And though his hesitancy to criticize Pre-Modernism because of its reliance on revelation, his, and our failure to own up to our and our forefather's mistakes is not just a problem in the video, it is our modus operandi. It is not until we address our mistakes that we will start to answer the questions that Post-Modernists are asking. And it is not until we address our mistakes that we have a chance to restore credibility to the Gospel.

We should note that many who refuse to own up to mistakes often do so in order to avoid accountability and to establish or maintain a position of authority. And perhaps this is why some Christians, especially American Christians, find it difficult to give Post-Modernism the full credit it is due. For as wrong as Post-Modernism is in embracing relativity, it is trying to challenge the presumption of some who believe that they, because they are exceptional or have a monopoly on some truth, are entitled to rule over others. Such people view attacks on their right to rule as attacks on the truths they hold dear. That is because they equate their right to rule with the facts as they see them and the principles they practice.

If America and American Christians want to experience a growing influence on their worlds rather than a diminishing one, they need to be upfront with their past and present sins. And to identify their sins they must listen to the complaints of those with whom they disagree in order to find the truths in what they say. Failure to do so will only mean that we follow the same flawed course that we are on now. And though while we will feel persecuted because we are losing our influence on others, the truth will be that as others will gain more and more power, they will treat us as we have treated them.




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