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'pomo' prefigured

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A long, long time ago, in a brewery not far away, there was a little think tank and a lot of clever people, plus me, talked about some interesting and important ideas, like the notion of postmodernity, and what it means in terms of evangelicalism's present and future. The major texts were reviews of The Younger Evangelicals. The following is a little ditty I wrote following reflection on the think-tank and related issues. Someday that little ditty might grow up to be a proper essay...

"'pomo' prefigured",

or, "inventing something just like a wheel only not round in quite the same way"

Last week I had the immense
privilege of participating in a quiet little gathering to discuss
Robert Webber's notion of "The Younger Evangelicals", a
his book of the same name. The discussion was deep, funny,
profound, witty and silly both, and touched on everything from a pop
song I'm not hip enough to have heard to the deepest meaning of the

But I'm not going to talk about
that right now.

What I do want to talk about is
"pomo", as in "nomo pomo", to quote blessed
ranter Kevin Miller. The
"post-modern" is usually described as the way of the world
after the modern, or, it is hyper-modernity, depending on whom you
consult, or, existence in such a world. In fact, post-modernism is
simply the present-day permutation of the levelling process
of the present age. The fact that no one has observed this, not
even David F. Wells in his otherwise extraordinarily fine No
Place for Truth?
, tells me, at least, that reports of
evangelical appreciation for history are greatly exaggerated. This
may be a harsh sentence on Webber's "younger evangelicals",
who are scarcely beginning to appreciate the length, let alone the
breadth or depth, of even ecclesiastical history. Extenuating
circumstances can be plead for those trained in the pragmatic and
traditional traditions, of course.

A remedial crash course on the
character of the present age:

"[...the present age..] is at
the same time reflective and passionless, transforms that expression
of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything
standing but cunningly empties it of significance. Instead of
culminating in a rebellion it reduces the inward reality of all
relationships to a reflective tension which leaves everything
standing but makes the whole of life ambiguous: so that everything
continues to exist factually whilst by a dialectical deceit,
privatissime, it supplies a secret
interpretation -- that it does not exist."

--[S.K., PA, trans. Dru, 1962, p. 42-3]

Sound familiar? Yet the
description is a century and a half old! Old as punditry, perhaps,
but as prophecy -- well, the blood was not quite shed between the
temple and the altar, but nonetheless...

The doing away with distinctions
which is the peculiar characteristic of the present age will
continue. The distinction between really talking and remaining
silent is collapsed into talkativeness. The distinction between
manifestation and concealment is done away with for superficiality,
and flirtatiousness devours the tension of real debauchery and real
love. Examples may be multiplied, of course. The point remains,
however -- "The Present Age", dear reader, is not a
phantom, but a living reality.

In order that you and I should not
be caught up in collapsing the difference between ourselves and our
predecessors, I propose passionate, and serious, study of the past.
Not to mine it, to sift it for valuable nuggets to be made into
trinkets, superficially, but to build real inwardness. The quest
for a personal conception of the Ekklesia, divorced from the
authoritarian and hierarchical constructions inherited from the
Papal domination of the Church? Herr Professor Emil Brunner will be
more than glad to speak to your concerns. Concerned about
understanding the relationship between the world's culture and the
Gospel? Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria have taken some
time to consider the matter, if you care to read.

No, studying history, even
ecclesiastical history, in itself does nothing to to make us turn
inwardly and see ourselves alone, naked before God except for Jesus
the Christ, who died and rose from the dead that I might no longer
live of myself, but in him. But for those who know that they have
died, and that their lives are hid with God in Christ, a little
perspective cannot possibly hurt -- and even if only the Father sees
you reading church history, huddled in your closet, you have your

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