Friday, February 27, 2004


Check Matt Powell's post Truth and Systems over at Wheat & Chaff. He gives an excellent commentary on the pitfalls of Post Modern thinking. Here's an excerpt:
What Postmodern Christians do is to assume that their system is superior to ours, or anyone else's. They do this by denying that they have a system, and criticizing us for having one. But everyone has a system, a way that they read Scripture and interpret everything that they see and hear. Everyone does; it's impossible to function without one. I see an animal that has four legs and barks; I call it a dog. I do this because of my system of truth, which has taken a set of attributes and given it the label "dog".
This is an idea that links back towards how we communicate with one another whether it be through personal dialogue, blog postings, or reading literature. We can only effectively communicate if we use public, shared concepts. To use Matt's example: I could go around telling people that I have a pet laxnear but unless they know that I use the term laxnear to refer to dog, they would be clueless as to what I was talking about. The point being that we can't make up meaning for text that someone else has written simply because it appeals to our private concerns. Matt referenced another blogger, named Steve, with which he's having a debate. In one of the posts he links to I read the following:
Modernity sold us a pup. It sold us a belief you needed truth as all-encompassing and systematic. Modernity took truth and wrapped it in culture and then sold it to us as a cultural syncretistic product: truth as pure, abstract, timeless. Yet, the God of the Bible was a God of community … moulding community in the desert, moulding community in the church … urging community through the broken body of Christ…..telling story after story, narrative after narrative of the actions of the communal God … refusing to sieve narrative into doctrinal purity, God took the risk of letting stories serve as the interpretive vessel for the body of God. For where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there is Christ … he broke bread and gave it to them … then their eyes were opened and they recognized him …. The God of all, revealed in community… When moderns encounter postmoderns they sniff for a watering down of truth. What they fail to smell is the decaying odor, the rotting carcase, of their modern, all-encompassing, systematic cultural approach to truth. (Note what I said, the cultural approach is rotting, not the truth.) (emphasis in original)
"The God of all, revealed in community..." It sure sounds good and it appears to have scriptural backup doesn't it? But how do we know that is the idea God was revealing? Let's use the very system Steve appears to posit, namely, that stories serve as the interpretive vessel for the body of God. Matthew 18:20 - For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them. (all NET) Is this about community? No. It's about church discipline. Instead of isolating the verse let's look at the paragraph it concludes and the paragraph that precedes it:
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”
The phrase Jesus chose to use is further indication that this passage is about church legal matters. He references the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 19:15 - A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legal only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Does this mean that God is not the God of all, revealed in community? Certainly not. But that fact should not cause us to disregard the intended, public meaning of a passage.

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