To listen to some folks talk about post-modernism, you’d think it was a cultural conspiracy somehow conceived in a vacuum outside of historical context. As if it were a political or religious heresy that just spontaneously sprung up out of the ground one day, baptizing everyone in the existential waters of relativism. Until involuntarily, we all began to deconstruct the modern paradigm, in a defiant denunciation of modernity. When in fact, the inextricable truth of the matter is, that post-modernism was always going to be the inevitable consummation of the modern project.
It is a prevailing modern myth to believe that everything can be explained, given enough time — and that such explanations will propel humanity forward into some, yet to be realized, self-evolved future. Therefore it only follows, that within such a mythology that the explanation of a thing would be elevated in significance above the it’s actual existence – convinced that the explanation is the real essence of it. So is it any wonder how this would produce the type of reckless nominalism we find embedded in the post-modern ethos? An ethos that pits competing explanations against one another, as if all we had to do now was pick the one that best suits our preferred presupposed expectations.
This is precisely what one would expect from a non-theistic framing of a material universe – a universe subdued by the rational consensus of human reason. But when I found this same paradigm at work within Christian theology attempting to explain the ineffable mysteries of God, by subtly promoting the idea that the explanation of God is concomitant with the reality of God, I was taken aback . . . and began to rethink how I approached my faith beliefs. This first occurred, for me, about 15 years ago . . .
This should not be taken, on my part, as an anti-intellectual dismissal of theology — as I have long had an appreciation for an honest and humble study of theology. My objection is to the modern academic mentality that often fosters an infatuation with God by proxy — that is to say, God as a scrutinized idea. As I take it to be an intellectualized breaking of the 2nd Commandment — the worship of the one true God . . . but only as he can be explained . . . as an idol of our own imagining.
In the pre-modern framing of the Christian faith, the mystery of God is held as sacred — not as a puzzle to be solved. It is this sacred mystery that invites us to engage God in the vulnerability of our faith – and not in the vanity of our intellect. The communion of the saints, the body of Christ; the Kingdom of God, already in our midst, and yet to come; the indwelling Holy Spirit, conforming us to Christ’s image. These things are too wonderful – they are beyond me (Job 42:3), because “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” ~ Psalm 139:6.
So I find no comfort from what I think I know about God, as such cognition can only serve to affirm what I have already chosen to know about God. But there is a knowing of the ineffable and inscrutable God, who speaks universes into existence, that does interest me – it is the relational knowing of him, he is persistently inviting me to . . . that I might know his heart. It is found in the communion of the saints, and is present as I meditate on his word. It meets me as the sun rises, and as I whisper my prayers at night, falling asleep. And modernity has no instrument for measuring the beauty found in such intimacy.
. . . and it is this knowing intimacy that still animates my faith.