Skip to main content


Carl Trueman at 9Marks on Preaching Parables to Postmodernism
The treatment of postmoderns has a second-hand flavor. There is nothing wrong with that in itself; the problem is that Stiller repeats some typical shibboleths about postmoderns which need to be challenged. Thus he premises his discussion on seven characteristics of the postmodern era, all of which are highly questionable:

1. Postmoderns reject reason as the only avenue to truth. Well, yes, but has anyone ever really argued that reason is the only avenue to truth. Poetry, for example, is not the preserve of postmoderns, nor was it rejected by the Enlightenment (Goethe being a great example).

2. Postmoderns reject truth as objective. Agreed, but there is a distinction between "objective" and "neutral" which needs to be made. A Christian can—indeed, must—concede we're not neutral toward the truth—we can only speak from our perspective—but an objective truth exists nonetheless. Stiller's argument at this point would have been more cogent had he at least acknowledged this distinction and, with it, the fact that many moderns knew their knowledge was not "neutral" (cf. Kant, Marx, Freud, to name but three). One can reject the postmodern attack on objective knowledge without being required to subscribe to a naive belief in the neutrality of knowledge.

3. Rejecting authority as "will to power" leads to seeing history as a distortion, written by those who wield power. This may sound facetious, but having worked as a professional historian for some fifteen years, I cannot begin to describe how marginal history is to the real centers of power!

4. Postmoderns reject the notion of metanarrative. But here’s the rub: Christianity is metanarrative. To fail to set the parables within the metanarrative of the Christian story may be the reader’s choice, as Stiller says; but, if Christianity has any transcendent validity, one cannot avoid the conclusion that this is a wrong choice.

5. Postmodernism rejects the Enlightenment’s view of the autonomy of the individual for more communitarian approaches. Again, a valid point as far as it goes, but the Enlightenment developed numerous concepts that were key to much of its philosophical content, that were far from individualistic in nature, and which clearly stand in continuity with this allegedly more recent communitarianism—for example, the concepts (and language) of race, class, and nationality. This basic point must surely qualify dramatically any simple generalizations about Enlightenment individualism.

6. Postmodernity emphasizes the culturally conditioned nature of the world and views language as a prison. Stiller never makes it clear how this "linguistic prison" view really connects to what he is trying to do with the parables.

7. Postmodernity rejects the optimism of the modern era. Highly questionable. Many of the great modernists (Conrad, Eliot, Huxley) were profoundly pessimistic. Modernism’s optimism (and that generally a middle class phenomenon; not too many child laborers or chimney sweeps in the Industrial Revolution, I suspect, were very optimistic) is too often overplayed as a means of making the contemporary era seem exceptional and discontinuous with the immediate past.

HT: Justin Taylor


Popular posts from this blog

"Big eyes full of wonder"

Books. Fiction. Libraries. Second only to churches as are the best gateways in your community to ultimate reality and new possibilities.

Our local library has just re-opened after refurbishment, and I love that our boys have spent several mornings there during the summer holidays, discovering some wonderful new stories.

I realised a few months back that I wasn't reading enough fiction. My work necessitates reading a lot of non-fiction, a mix of historical and contemporary thinking, biblical studies and theology. But fiction is the cinderella. Easily overlooked, and yet able to awaken my imagination and show me the way things are meant to be.

So I've picked up a few more lately - bought and borrowed. Not every book attempted flies, and that's ok. These have been winners though.

Ink. This is Alice Broadway's debut novel. It's young adult fiction and tells the story of Leora who lives in a world where the events of your life are tattooed on your skin. Nothing gets hid…

Uniquely Matthew

Reading gospel accounts in parallel is sometimes used to blur the differences in perspective between the evangelists, seeking to harmonise the texts and find a definitive historical account of what happened. No such thing exists because every account is biased and limited. You simply can't record everything. You have to hold a vantage point. And that's not a problem.

Matthew, Mark and Luke take a very different vantage point to John who was of course an eyewitness himself of the events. Comparing the text of Matthew, Mark and Luke across the death and resurrection of Jesus yields two steps.

Firstly, the common ground. All three accounts tell of...
Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross…. · Jesus labelled as King of the Jews…. · Criminals crucified with Jesus… · Darkness in the daytime… · Jesus' loud final cry… The women who witnessed Jesus death, and Jesus' burial… · The tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Arimithea… · The women who went to the tomb on the morning of the…

Songs we're singing in Church

Christians are a singing people, it's part of what we do when we gather.

Our church meets morning an evening on a Sunday - normally using 5 songs in each service. So, over the year that's about 520 song-slots available. The report from the database system we use ( tells us that in the past year we've sung about 150 different songs.

Our current most used song has been sung 11 times in the last year, just under once a month. Our top 10 are used about every 6 weeks. By #30 we're talking about songs used every two months. The tail is long and includes loads of classic hymns from across the centuries, plus other songs from the past 40 years, that we have used around once a term or less.

1. Rejoice - Dustin Kensrue

2. Come Praise & Glorify - Bob Kauflin

3. Man of Sorrows - Hillsong

4. Cornerstone - Hillsong

Rejoice was a song I didn't previously know, along with a couple of others that have quickly become firm favourites for me: Chri…