Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Postmodernism - CMDS

At the CMDS Christian Medical and Dental Society) annual conference in Winnipeg Dr. John Stackhouse gave the plenary sessions on relativism.  Pierre Gilbert PHD lectured on Reason.  There was much discussion of "Post Modernism".  Interestingly it was a term I'd used prior to the conference to believing it represented the time after the World Wars in Europe and fall of Communism with the decline of  intelectuals Darwin, Marx and Freud.  I was interested in the idea that what is commonly called "post modern" such a 'new' era was in fact simply 'super modernism' and representing instead the dying gasps and devolution of an old epoch.  Post modernism then was an illusion and the very thinkers were marketeers trying to put a pretty spin on the failure of materialism and rationalism, nationalism and supermodernism, corporations.  So that's what I brought to the conference as a medical clinician whose time for philosophy and ideas is immensely curtailed by my need to know the value of cymbalta versus abilify in the treatment of bipolar disorders with pscyhosis in the head injured HIV addicted heroin and crack cocaine addicted being started on methadone.
I was very thankful that men like Pierre Gilbert, Author of Demons, Lies and Shadows, A Plea for a Return to Text and Reason, had done the research to enlighten us more on one of today's most misunderstood and perhaps meaningless 'buzzwords'.  These are extracts from the notes.  I'm sorry if I've not got the spelling right.  Perhaps blogging is a 'post modern' endeavour as it does not pretend to be a finished work but always represents a 'work in progress' like the 'hypothesis' of science which has so much more humility than the arrogance of intellect.
Jean - Francois Lyotard - pioneered the use of this expression.  Wrote a book.  Intellectuals were all over this like rottweillers on poodle
Jaques Ellul was ignored - said social scientists could hide themselves in room and tell each other stories - warned against this - despite his warnings - intellectuals began to characterize western society as ‘postmodernity’.  Collectivity began to do this
Alvin Plantinga’s definition
  1. rejection of notion of objectivity (classical foundationalism)
  2. rejection of the notion of absolute truth
  3. rejection of meta narrative
  4. Rejection of Judeo Christian  moral God
  5. Exultation of the self and moral autonomy
  6. And they lived happily everafter????

We should be Happy
Post modernists say we have it all. We should be happy.
We have a ‘unified field theory’
(They don’t sound or look well. They don’t seem happy)
  1. There is no absolute truth ?  (A contradiction in terms)
  2. No evil in the world?
  3. No absolute moral code? (There is plenty of moralism in our media)
  4. Postmodern where it doesn’t matter - okay in spheres that don’t seem critical to us in religion and sexuality
  5. Modern where it matters - ‘who needs a post modern engineer?  (who wants a post modern doctor?  who wants a postmodern bank account)
  6. No metanarative?  - What about materialism? Evolution, secularism, pluralism, new age spiritualism.
  7. Self confidence of post modern society is illusion and delusion
Cognitive dissonnance is structural and fabric - can’t go on for long at risk of society and individuals.  We are deeply sick.”that only a deeply sick society can consider such phenomena as abortion, divorce...sexual promiscuity, substance addiction, and teenage suicide as unavoidable”  Society is depressed - Tony Anatrella “Non a la societe depressive (1997)
Age of Confusion - post modernism is a Rejection of Christianity.
  • it’s is an expression of man’s (C. L. Lewis ‘s) “bent” towards Pantheism
  • Rejection of Christianity
It is rebellion against Christianity and Return to Pantheism
I call postmodernism as SENSUAL PAGANISM
  • no kids - largest self genocide in history of the world
  • no to personal responsibility
  • No community
  • No personal and no moral God
  • Nihilism - like to feel good about their nihilism - hence a jargon and philosophy that is so confusing
  • Doesn’t explain Love, doesn’t explain good
The Mystery of the problem of good
Dr. John Stackhouse described relativism as part of the 'post modern package'.  One might describe this as 'post modern baggage' just as well.   Dr. John Stackhouse who has many books and articles to his credit teaches at Regent College, Vancouver and encouraged us to attend the summer school which offers week and two week courses. He described his parents, his father a doctor,  doing this annually to keep abreast of the ethical issues of the days and to renew thier own Christian faith in the company of fellow believers. What I found most exciting about CMDS was that though the doctors were Christians with a few core beliefs in common the diversity of opinion and the erudition of discussion and debate showed how in any family people are not clones by any means.  Dr. John Stackhouse encouraged education because stupidity and ignorance fostered both alienation isolation and violent conflict.

Cultural Hegemony
-there is one right way to be Canadian
  • you are allowed to be different as long as you serve the interests of the empire
  • - therefore, your differences cannot be any that are important to the empire.
Relativism 1
  • “Everything is beautiful it’s own way”
Everyone felt that in Canada that we should affirm everyone and everyone’s religion and philosophy.....I used to poll students and was able to teach members of all the world religions at University of Manitoba - they would talk about their faith....they all felt that they had to pretend that all religions were equal ...if they wanted to be a university person”
9-11 blew this off the table.
If you asked a person if religious baptism was the same as religious sacrifice - no one really believed it they just believed it to get along.  The way to hold that belief is to not to know much about others religions.
“All religions are the same.” No. That’s why there are “pockets’ of disagreement in the Middleeast called ‘the middleeast’.
Relativism 2
  • Nihilism:  from nihil (=”nothing”)  This belief is quite consistent with tribal religions around the world. The world is interesting dangerous place and the point of your religion is to learn where the traps or taboos are. The aim is to live the most pleasant life you can, it’s a weird video game, y
  • Consistent with tribal religions aimed at survival
  • Consistent with secularlism /naturalism/ atheism; rarely embraced here so far
Relativsim 3
“Everything is .....well,  I don’t know - and I don’t know how one could know”
  • skepticism
  • Marx, Mao, Capitalims, Christianity - are all ‘meta narratives - these stories have been seen as stories to priviledge somebody else - has lead to disillusionment
  • “I’m from the government, I’m here to help you.”  “I’m a doctor, you can trust me.”
  • characteristic of the disillusioned....
  • and of the ‘diversity-aware’
  • The more you know about others the more you ask is that true or is that what a white person ,or a middle class - what’s obvious to one group - is not what another group would perceive it - diversity aware - realize they don’t think quite the same way in China.
  • but also of those who apprehend human limitations us Christians...we shouldn’t have needed post modernism to tell us that we tend to see things from our interests. We tend to see the world the way I enjoy the world .  I didn’t need marx or neitze to know that I just needed to read the bible. We don’t know it all and that’s why we need God’s revelation and others. We could be skeptics our selves of this kind  if we know our limitations
Relativesm 4
-everything is relative to one or another ‘frame of reference’.  We encounter “that may be your reality’, ‘that may occur in your world but not my world’.  That  may be how you perceive the world .
  • increased number and diversity of such frames in Cnaada espe. since 1960s
In 1960’s we changed immigration laws
The challenge is our lack of education in the different frames.  We can’t tell tell a mosque from buwada (mosque house of worship) versus (budwada).  Name ‘5’ things about each of those other groups.  “If others knew only 5 or 10 things about your Christianity” would you think they would know much about where you were coming from.
-challenge is exacerbated by lack of education in each other’s frames
-someone who thinks that they are living in a different reality from the rest of us is considered mentally ill for instance a person who believes gravity doesn’t apply to them.  -the idea that people are locked into very different point of views.   This is hard form
-in soft form we can discuss things and of course things are relative to a different frames of reference - a surgeon wouldn’t say coloncystectomy - we adapt our communication to their field of reference - we re package it to make it relative to their vocabulary and education and their values. A simple good thing might have to be explained because the person will question us.
Relativism in Medicine
  • general doubt of authority - in culture at large there’s this doubt now - described his stunning experience as basketball coach of small kids - “I want a 2nd or 13th opinion”
  • skepticism from disillusionment of inflated medical expectations - last 100 years or so amazing strides - now lay people expect you to fix everything - do you have to run another test - now you know it fix it, ---don’t know where to position our confidence in authorities - 0-1.  We have realized that amount of platinum research that is wrong is shocking. How do we have confidence in things we know - like top of line medical research - mass media has made this a real mess - everyone who has study with 12 people goes viral and then the top people declare it crap 2 weeks later and it shows up on page 36.
  • dubiousness of much medial research

These are clearly a 'selection' even a 'though a long selection of notes from Dr. John Stackhouse's lectures.  They are quoted by selection and out of content and do not at all do justice to the breadth and depth of his profound insights which some might well call genius.  He is by all means a truly gifted man who I admit I rather delighted in disagreeing with in part.  Overall I could only admire him greatly.  I felt like I was in the heavy weight champion of the world when I listened in the question and answer period to the likes of Dr. Phillip Ney and Dr. John Patrick challenging him and his responses.  Just to be there at CMDS and witness this giants of thought and elders of life living was a gift for this aging clinician and sometime reader of things other than  Bart and the Simpsons. .  At best in great ethical and moral decisions when I fear for my soul I trust that being a Canucks fan might get me that extra bit to pass St. Peter's higher exams.

Maximize Shalom
Implications for Relativism
  1. Everything is beautiful in it’s own way. Everything is affirmative.  We have dropped in Canada the adult world ‘tolerance’ and replaced it with “affirm’.  Opposife of ‘affirm’ is ‘exclusion”.  Tolerance is a much wider grouping.  It’s impossible to practice medicine because you can’t ‘affirm’ everything and everybody.  Somebody is going to be disappointed.  You simply can’t tolerate this.  “It’s impossible to practice medicine, or live in any other mode, this way
  2. Relativism 2 is wrong, and we must offer the hopeful Christian alternatives when, we encounter Relativism 2.
  3. Relativism 3 makes a lot of sense but it’s dangeroous.  The idea that human beings are limitted in our knowlege. It makes sense to be skeptical of claims to truth.  Having an appropriate filter , scripture teaches us how easy it is to be fooled, but if we are too skeptical we become paralyzes
  • but too much skepticism paralyzes us and prevents our acting while
  • too much confidence flatters u and prevents our learning
  • real danger is that we trade faith for fanaticism
  • so a stance of ‘critical realism’ seems to make sense - medically as well as in the rest of life   ----I think that reality is more or less true, so that if we’re going to do will of God , makeing disciples in Christian mode, we should be quite confidence most of our interpretatiosn are quite right ....however the critical part is the ‘humble’ part is that I
Relativsim 4 needs addressing
  • people come from different backgrounds - we need more education in other frames - I believe religion should be taught at secondary level to learn these other frames
  • with development of ‘translation skills’ between frames
  • with recognition and recommendation of trans-cultural truths.
Dr. Stackhouse made it clear that all we did to be better people and to make our lives and the world around us better places was Godly.  He emphasized the idea of this garden and our role as gardeners with the need to cultivate not ignore , to care and participate with .  He commented that some ecologists have made the earth so much (?a deity, idolatry - my question?) that they would have us believe it would be best that humans leave it and go elsewhere to save the planet.  In contrast Dr. Stackhouse pointed to the importance of 'right relation', what he called 'shalom', sometimes translated 'peace' but with the deeper meaning of the best possible relationship.  It was a very uplifting inspiring thought to go back into our workaday worlds with.
  • -The Creation Commandment: make Shalom.  Take this good raw material and have dominion over it.  God doesn’t oppress us and doesn’t exploit us. God creates us out of the earth and we are in symbiotic realtionship.  This is a subsistence garden.  We need the garden.  We make shalom.  We creatively improve the world.  We have caught up in the church myth of heaven - you die, go up, shapeless white robe, assigned to a cloud, and you play, and the worse thing about this is you can’t die.  Give up all your goodies so you can come to the worse church service ever.  Others believe heaven will be a beach with cabana boy.  The biblical image “you’re going to reign with Christ”.  After the final judgement there are no non Christians.  Jesus is the son of God, not just divine.  We have resurrection of body. We’re going forward to the new Jerusalem that came down from heaven , the garden , We should make shalom.
  • The world because of us, in Genesis 3, has great fall.  This is a temporary situation of a fallen world. Being Christian is way we come back to being proper humans, be what we always should have been.  The point of being a Christian is to be saved out of a deathly life and be properly related to God doing what we are supposed to do.
  • The great commission is to be disciples, not just preaching the gospel.  Preaching the gospel is easy - preach on street corner - until they take you - then preach in jail. Easy.
  • In contrast called to “make disciple”.  To make disciple means to change allegiance.  No one could make me cheer for a team I don’t like.  I choose to cheer for the home team, canucks.  It is a trivial example.  It’s hard work converting myself to a good disciple.  Jesus says “make disciples’. By the same power I make you disciples is the same power to help make disciples.  We need to cultivate humans.  Everything we can do to help another human being to a better disciple
I do apologise to Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Stackhouse for my poor note taking. Any errors are mine.  Also I apologise for the selection and use out of context. The fact is that I would wish everyone could be at this conference, at least every doctor and dentist. I would wish everyone in general to give some serious thought to this new/old idea called 'post modernism'.  Too often people are literally railroaded into believes and not given alternatives.  Dr. John Patrick's Augustine School for young adults, a first college year, attempts to prepare them for university with an education in the 'thought' of western world and how it has come about because so often people are ideologically 'bullied' by those who are 'policially correct' and believe themselves 'right beyond any shadow of a doubt' so impose their rule on others for 'their own good'.  I am very thankful that Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Stackhouse have devoted themself to the scholarship that  I hope is evident in this 'slice' of their vast erudition in this area.  I hoped here to give a 'glimpse' of the ideas that are discussed at CMDS as a reflection of the depth and breadth of Christian scholarship and study and also to hopefully to raise questions and thoughts and encourage people to discuss these very important ideas before perhaps it becomes illegal to question even their premises.  There definitely is something in post modernism that appears attractive and hopefully we can tease out what is valuable from the obvious supermodern baggage.  Hopefully we can deconstruct deconstructiionism before the deconstructionists insist it is 'illegal' and a cause for imprisonment to question 'deconstructionism'.  My truth then may be made to be your truth whether you like it or not.
In contrast Dr. Stackhouse offers shalom.  Dr. Gilbert  asks that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Shalom.

      1 comment:

      Anonymous said...

      thank you for your article

      I have always thought that we think too much

      and when we do think too much

      it is always on things that have no answer...

      not a good idea...


      these still work today