I am in the middle of reading David Well’s final book in his wonderful four-book series, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ In A Postmodern World. The book has a lot to commend about it, and though I am only just over half-way through, I thought a couple of things deserved comment.
At the top of the list is his dismay at certain circles in the church who apparently are trying to assimilate postmodernism instead of confronting it. In a phrase interesting to those familiar with Niebuhr’s categories of cultural engagement, Wells states, “Yet confrontation is always at the heart of the relation between Christ and culture because that relation is one of light and its relation to darkness, truth to false belief, and holiness to what is fallen.” (p. 164) That strikes me as right. As he goes on to argue, instead of figuring our how to be relevant (in his words to “reach” our culture by becoming like it), we should be confronting postmodern culture on a worldview level.
In accord with what I have mentioned before, Wells argues in the same chapter that in spite of all its verbal wrangling to the contrary, Postmodernism is a worldview and deserves to be analyzed and critiqued as such. A very long time ago I posted that Postmodernism contains in it the seeds of the destruction of the church if we become too Postmodern. Wells agrees: “This casual embrace of what is postmodern has increasingly lead to an embrace of its spiritual yearning [one argument in the book is that it is individual spiritualism disconnected from truth and religion] without noticing that this embrace carries with it the seeds of destruction for evangelical faith.” (p. 158) His specific examples of such embrace include Middleton, Walsh, and McLaren. (A poster once remarked that if only I read Walsh I would understand how accurate the postmodern take on epistemology is. For the record, I have read Walsh and that is why I no longer read much of Walsh.)
One of Well’s takes on these seeds of destruction is a take on the Greek words for love, Agape and Eros. Christian, God-like love is Agape. It begins with God reaching down to sinful humans and their response is enabled by His grace and revelation. We engage a Truth-something bigger than ourselves, universal, transcultural, and absolute. Eros love is the only kind of love left when we have become postmodern. Because there is nothing we can grasp outside of our selves, our love begins in us, looks like us, is in accord with what we want to believe, and ends with ourselves. Given the epistemological and metaphysical nihilism inherent in Postmodernism, there is no Other with which to engage. We are all we have access to and all we really need to have access to.