Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

So Go Nomo to the Pomo

So I have written about the problems of postmodernism, what I have called the problem of European brain snakes. This might seem a little dismissive, but it all works out, because it actually is dismissive. Allow me to collect my thoughts on this in one place.

First, postmodernism, and all the posturing and posing connected thereunto, is utterly inconsistent with the spirit of testimony that faithful Christians love to exhibit. Our testimony (marturia) is to the truth, and the truth is personal and ultimate. When I say the truth is ultimate, I do not mean ultimate in the concerns of our own little faith community. I mean Lord of all that is, Lord of Heaven and earth, and King of all nature. The truth is Jesus, and He is eternal life — and there is no other.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son” (1 John 5:10). “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21). “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:27). “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6).

Anyone who can reconcile the aroma of these passages with the stench of postmodernism has already had too much graduate school, and should be sent home immediately.

This testimony is the basic reason why all postmodern pretense stands revealed for what it is — relativistic hash. But there are other criticisms that can be brought as well. The circus tent of postmodernism has no central pole, so there’s that. But there are other observations that can and should be made.

The fact that postmodernists have offered cogent criticisms of the pretenses of modernism is neither here nor there — even though I grant they have done so. The reason it is neither here nor there is that modernists can offer cogent criticisms of the postmodernists as well. When two secular positions get to criticizing one other, they are often very astute in their observations, and many of their thrusts go home. After Ammon and Moab were done with Seir they turned on one another (2 Chron. 20:23). Let them go to it, and then go get their stuff. But any Christian academic who in all seriousness publishes a series of papers on how Moab’s post-structuralist critique is worthy of some more chin-stroking on our part is just acting like an Ammonite and should be sent to his tent.

Next, we should reject postmodernism because it isn’t really postmodern. Before awarding the grand prefix post to anything, we should ascertain that it actually is describing something in the rear view mirror. If we look at the foundation stones of modernism, we should quickly identify one of them as being the thought of Darwin — evolution. But why is it that none of these johnnies are saying that they are post-Darwinian? Evolution is a metanarrative, but the only incredulity I can find anywhere is in the discussions of tourists in the parking lot of the Creation Museum. The postmodernists pretend that they are blowing up the foundations when they are actually just painting the eaves a different color.

And then, after we have rejected postmodernism because it is just the next stage of modernism, I will put forward the second half of my koan and say that we should reject it because it actually is postmodern. We should also reject postmodernism because, despite its strongest efforts to be an inconsistent parasite on the body of modernity, it remains a parasite that will in fact destroy its host. Modernity is not dead yet, but if this particular tapeworm has its way, that will eventually be accomplished, and the prefix post will come in fact to pass.

Another foundational thinker for the modern project was John Stuart Mill, and the whole idea of liberty of thought. This is the basis for academic freedom and so on, but academic postmodernists are strangely drawn to the argument “because shut up.” They have shown, they thought, that all orthodoxies are disguised power grabs, which actually turns out to be preeminently true of them. This is the basis for all the hate speech nonsense, and the absolute intolerance for any views other than their own. Someone has aptly said that progressives want diversity in everything . . . except opinions. This really is the result of postmodernism, and postmodernism really is post-freedom. That part is true enough.

And last, postmodernism has been defined as “incredulity toward all metanarratives,” but the problem here is that this is not self-referential. Lack of self-awareness in this is the name of the game. “All metanarratives” is metanarratival, and far from displaying incredulity toward it, postmodernists are gulping it all down with the enthusiasm of a new recruit taking notes at a Watchtower conference. So let’s not listen to them.

We should not be surprised at your inability to stand if your argument is that you have no legs.
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