Friday, July 01, 2005


Beyond Absolutism, Pluralism, and Relativism: Brian McLaren 7/01/05

"Check your fly."

That's the advice Brian McLaren received, after asking his first Cornerstone audience what advice they had for him.

here are my notes from McLaren's first talk:

I. Pre-modernism -- the time before 1500, before Martin Luther. People listened to "the authority", i.e. the church, government, etc. The belief was truth resides in people, and people tell me what's true.

Until...
Copernicus, Galileo, and Martin Luther. The first two questioned epistimology on the basis of science (philosophy), with the later did so based on theology. This "unleashed the modern era" that "truth is determined by individual reasoning.

II. Modernism -- All of this lead to all the nastiness between the protestants and Catholics. McLlaren shared the story of a bridge in Prague, where there was a large crucifix. During a battle between the two sides, Jesus was beheaded. This deep sense of unrest in Europe also showed up in places like France, with Rene DesCartes. He was concerned about war. He said the best way to defeat the enemy is with the weapon of the enemy. Defeat doubt using doubt. "I doubt therefore I am."

This lead to the enlightenment project and the age of reason. Knowledge and reason are the foundation.

III. Foundation of Post-moderrnism -- fast-forward to post war Germany. The atrocities of the holocaust came in a country that was once the center of reason. This nation was intellectually brilliant, morally evil. What went wrong?

People questioned this. Not just the holocaust, but Stalin, the decay of colonialism, and other forms of oppression: racism, slavery, economic concerns.

They said something is sick about our culture done in the name of reason. The Jewish intellectuals repented, but McLaren says Christians didn't.

In modernism, there was "excessive certainty" and that lead people to rape, kill, and steal. Overconfidence lead them to do horrible things.

McLaren went on to define meta-narrative. It's not just a "big story", it's a big story that legitmizes those in power to stay in power. Just as propaganda has negative connotations, McLaren says meta-narrative does too. He calls it a "polluted, violent word."

IV. People began to critique excessive certainty. This is post-modernism. Seeing excessive certainty as a cancer. Chemotherapy is dangerous, but sometimes needed. This chemo, McLaren says, has two facets:
a) Pluralism - realizing not everyone sees everything the same way.
b) Relativisim - all are more or less true, more or less false. No one has the upper hand.

V. Where we are now? The world has pre-moderns (most notably the Middle East, maybe Latin American). The moderns are headquartered just down the road from McLaren in Washington, D.C. The postmoderns are in Europe.

McLaren agrees excessive certainty is a cancer, but points out chemo can kill too.

"My belief is the church in America is caught." he says. "How do we proclaim the kingdom of God?"

Do we capitulate to pluralism? No. "I believe the solution is not to go back" to the age of reason he said. "Something unarticulated", in this case, the Kingdom of God is the solution. "I don't believe anybody can save the world but Jesus Christ." We need to see our selves as whole people. John 17:17.

We need to trust in God, not trust in what we think we know about God. Proverbs 3.

Oh, and he doesn't like a lot of this modern worship music. Says it "makes my skin crawl" to know Jesus is feeling him, or whatever the music is saying :)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report, Steve. I love this guy. I've only read one of his books so far but have 3 others on my list.--Bruce B

Becky Laswell said...

Sounds like it was a nice talk, Steve, and I bet pretty entertaining. :)

Bruce -- have you ever read McLaren's open letter to songwriters?
http://www.anewkindofchristian.com/archives/000431.html

I've read Finding Faith and More Ready than you Realize and they were both worthwhile reads.

Becky

Anonymous said...

Nope. I've only read "A Generous Orthodoxy."--bab

stefan said...

I was looking for more information about the term "excessive certainty" - and then I found your blog... Great blogging and nice notes you made. Less than a week ago I heard McLaren here in Denmark.
Aaand...you've been to Cornerstone. I went there in 1999 - feels like 100 years ago... I lived a while with Jesus People in Chicago. Wasn't it great at Cornerstone?? Man i'd like to go there again...

If you knew danish you could read my blog...if
/stefan