12 June, 2010

All Odd Postmodernists are Primed

(First post in series)

It's an old joke, really, but I'm going to make a point from it anyway. Sorry.

How a mathematician, physicist and an engineer prove that all odd numbers, (greater than 2), are prime.

  • Mathematician: "Well, 3 is prime, 5 is prime and 7 is prime so, by induction all odds are prime."

  • Physicist: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 isn't prime, (bad data point), 11 is prime, and so is 13, so all odds are prime."

  • Engineer: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime, 11 is prime 13 is prime, so all odds are prime."

I think maybe it's a good thing aspiring theologians aren't told by their professors that God said all odd numbers are prime and then asked to prove it. I suspect their proofs might look a little bit like this:

  • Calvinist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is ... Who art thou that repliest against God!

  • Arminian: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, Christ's atonement sufficed for 9, but 9 didn't heed the call of prevenient math.

  • Pentacostal: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, Oh! Hallelujah oh Lord! We praise you for the mystery of 9. Your ways are glorious and the sight of your glory ... la! la! holelulalalaleboo!

  • Fundamentalist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 was good enough for Paul, and it's good enough for you! Repent sinner, or face the judgment with factors for 9 that the Bible, the HOLY Bible, testifies against!

  • Ecumenicist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is not a doctrine over which to divide. Sure, some say it has factors, but division over oddness brings tears to the heart of God. Where some would divide we must add, and even multiply! Instead of factoring 9, let it be a factor. ... Ummm. We don't know what to do with 81, but 81's clearly a non-essential.

  • Postmodernist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, ... Ummm. 9's not prime. Ummm. Neither are 15, 21, 25, 27 .... Hey! Who made up all this garbage!?!

  • Calvinist, Arminian, Pentacostal, Fundamentalist, and Ecumenicist in concert: Off with their heads!!!

I'm beginning to really feel the plight of the Postmodernist. When the Modernists (and all denominations and non-denominations over 40 years old are modernist) answered the questions of the atheists, higher critics, and apostates of 50 years ago, their answers were merely human. They had the divine revelation in front of them, but they were humans working to parse it out. Their answers had gaps.

Then came the information explosion.

My children heard about God's sovereignty from me. Then they heard about the burning of Falun Gong members in China, the genocide in Rwanda (perpetrated by Christians on Christians), the plight of Muslims in Palestine, the deaths of aborted babies by the millions, the fall of Christian leaders, the weirdness of the bible and how no one can agree on what it should say much less what any of it means, the fact that history is written by the winners, and that everyone who holds power is corrupt.

They are bombarded with information every day that says a sovereign God is either a figment of some oldster's imagination or He's pathetic.

To which Modernists reply, "God has a wonderful plan for your life. You are separated from Him by your sin...."

God has been mocked before. He's been rejected before. He's been forgotten, disproven, and declared dead. Today, He's being called out on His record. The Internet has catapulted "The Problem of Evil" (Theodicy) straight at the heavens and not bothered to wait for an answer. Every evil in the world, and every failing of Christianity in the face of those evils, is published to anyone who cares to subscribe.

Faith seems almost impossible with a high pressure pipeline spewing (honest) bad news into each of our minds, but the church's answers seem stuck in the 1950's. So many churches just keep asserting 9 is prime. God is sovereign. This world is the best of all possible worlds under the loving care of a loving God. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

I can hardly blame my children for rejecting my apparent naivette.

Time has expired for the evening, but the skepticism of Postmodernism seems very honest to me. I don't blame them for digging their heels in and wondering where the real answers are hiding.


Bill said...

Hey, Kevin.

"Postmodernist: 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, ... Ummm. 9's not prime. Ummm. Neither are 15, 21, 25, 27 .... Hey! Who made up all this garbage!?!"

That really captures it perfectly.

So sorry for your children, even more so than mine, having to battle through the very forefront of what is indeed this 'information explosion'.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the thoughts. This is an important post, imho.

Missy said...

Kev, great honest post. Have you figured out what the updated response it? I'm having grand trouble sitting in studies these days. I'm past the point of indignant questions, but stuck in the mire of silence because of the fear of leading people on the same wild goose chase I put myself through. I involuntarily roll my eyes a lot these days, and I'm disgusted with myself over it.

Kevin Knox said...

Thanks Bill and Missy.

Have I figured out an answer? It took me 4 years to get this close to the question. :-)

I worked hard to raise good little modernists, and I'm only beginning to figure out where things changed. I don't think there's ever been the generational difference we see now. A lot changed during the Reformation, for example, but the change didn't come this fast. The printing press changed things, but not the way the Internet has changed everything. They're about ready to teach our refrigerators to buy our food when we run out! It's crazy.

I've thrown away two posts trying to massage the question into an answer. Here's the bottom line. Jesus suffered with us.

Most Postmodernists accept that Jesus lived and died and maybe even rose again. The question is, so what? So, God suffers all this with us. He's done it for millenia in an incomprehensible way, so He did it down here where we could watch Him. But what Jesus did then, He's doing now. He's suffering everything we're suffering.

I'm going to take another stab at it, but NT Wright really has a comprehensive answer in The Challenge of Jesus. He's awfully intellectual, but he's got a rich, rich perspective when you make it through. "Simply Christian" is written more accessibly and carries the same nuggets.

Thanks for asking, and may the Lord suffer with your quest and stay with you until He resolves it.