College pastor Rhett Smith has been blogging recently about the emergent church, a topic I know next-to-nothing about, but this post had me up thinking too late last night.
In the midst of rightly criticizing the vitriolic tone of many emergent church critics, Rhett made this claim:
Either you are operating in a modernistic mindset or you are operating in a postmodern mindset. And it seems the two shall never meet.
In the comments to his post, I responded:
I don’t have any thoughts at all about the emergent church, but I thought I would point out a third way. You mention that either people are modern or post-modern–I actually think that it’s still possible to live as a pre-modern. The categories are fuzzy, but the best of Medieval thought (Thomas) seems to allow for a rationally defensible worldview that is fideistic (not badly fideistic) and optimistic about truth acquisition. The modern mindset questions the former–the post-modern (which, I’ll point out, I’m no expert on either–I just recently bought Grenz’s primer on Po-Mo) seems to question the latter. So, all that to say, hooray for the third way.
As I thought more about this, it seems that if the categories hold (and I’m not sure they do), the only rationally defensible mindset is actually the pre-modern mindset, especially for Christians. The Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love demand, I think, a presumption of belief, rather than the presumption of skepticism that Descartes initiates. Additionally, as our faculties are designed by God, it seems they are oriented toward truth acquisition or attainment, so there is good reason to be optimistic in that respect as well. The post-modern critique seems to be that the lack of agreement destroys the claims that truth attainment is possible, but I fail to see how this follows, as in a pre-modern context where truth-attainment wasn’t questioned, disagreement still existed.