Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Postmodernism = pluralistic relativism?
There are those in the Christian world who claim that us postmoderns are nothing but pluralistic relativists. I always scratch my head at that accusation, because it really seems like they must not actually be listening to anything we're really saying. For instance, consider this excerpt from Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian:

"The terms [pluralism & relativism] for me refer to a popular approach to questions of heaven and hell that says, 'There may or may not be a God, a heaven, a hell, and so on, but there are many beliefs about each, and all are valid for those who hold them. No one belief has superiority over the others.' ...This approach is more often a mood than a logical position. But if you pinned it to the ground and forced a confession of faith about hell, I think it would say that since no one can prove anything one way or the other, you can choose whatever belief you want as long as you accept others' rights to do the same.

This approach at first glance feels very tolerant. But ultimately, it may be the least tolerant position of all, since behind the scenes it must admit that every other position's claim to legitimacy is bogus. The only ones who really have it right are the pluralist/relativists - which is a kind of exclusivism all over again. To me, pluralism/relativism is more of a late-modern option - trying to hold itself aloof from personal commitment, trying to be absolutely objective, trying to avoid believing in anything that can't be rationally and "absolutely" proved. It's certainly very popular, although I consider it a seduction into apathy."

I find it very interesting and provocative to think that pluralism/relativism is really a modern, rather than a postmodern, point of view. And that really it's driven by the same kind of desire for absolute proof and certainty that also tends to motivate modernistic Christianity.
posted by Mike Clawson at 11:05 PM | Permalink |


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