Metanarrative

Most every critique of postmodernism i read includes a statement about how postmoderns reject ideas of absolute truth and metanarrative. These critiques are generally not written by a pomo-minded individual, but by modern observers. Given the chance, i think a postmodern would say something quite different.

I think postmodernism does not reject absolute truth, but is rather weary of shams and playacting that tries to pass itself off as truth (nevermind absolute or all-encompassing and complete-can’t-be-added-to truth). I think the pomo rejection of truth has more to do with a rejection of tactics of individuals and groups who co-opt truth to further an agenda, political or otherwise.

This trickles into metanarrative and the attempt to stretch a viewpoint (mini-narrative) into an all-encompassing explanation for why the world is the way it is (which are two different concepts, by the way). This stretching looks a lot like trying to stretch one’s lower lip over one’s head; the observer can’t help but be awed by the dedication and effort put into the action, but does wonder about the ultimate value of the benefits, if any.

What i’d really like to say is: Salvation is limited to Christ, but not to our understanding of Christ. One’s understanding of Christ does not a metanarrative make.

It’s awfully easy to confuse meta and mini narratives. It’s easy to think that what i think about Christ is all there is to know as regards salvation, the kingdom, loving people… but what i think about Christ represents only a very small percentile of who Christ actually is- in reality, what i think about Christ does not really represent Christ one bit- but i act like it does, and that’s dangerous.

So, despite the accusation that postmoderns reject absolutes, i would argue it’s not the case. Modern critiques of postmodernism delight in pointing out the self-stultifying nature (thanks for the link, andrew!) of the “no absolutes” claim, but i think a postmodern would reject the “no absolutes” stuff as silly and say simply, “we ought to be more careful with what we call ‘absolute'”.

This post is in development. Caffeine will likely be required to bring it home.

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4 Comments on “Metanarrative”

  1. Mike Ash says:

    i often wonder if Christ reveals Himself to us in the way that we can, as individuals, understand it best. Using that as a starting point and then stretching us and our understanding of who He is from there.
    That would make Christ look to an individual very much like that individual, especially as people initially get to know who He is. This is also dangerous, because it almost gives an individual the ability to make Jesus look like they want Him to look, and because growth and change is difficult, they can go on with a very shallow understanding of who Jesus is, yet because it fits their purposes and supports their beliefs and values, they don’t allow Jesus to stretch them by revealing who He really is.
    I’ve also wondered if we just see Jesus like we want to see Him. I’m strategic, so I think that Jesus is strategic. I have a friend who is moving to South America with no place to stay, no job, and not much of a plan at all. He feels that He is doing what Jesus would do. I don’t think so at all. Strategic Jesus is easier for me to follow. No plan Jesus is easier for Him to follow. So, we both follow our little picture of Him, try to convince others that He is as we see Him (possibly to reaffirm us more than to free people) and roll our eyes when someone else’s picture looks drastically different than ours.
    Either, He reveals Himself to us through our personality and giftings in a way that we can most fall in love with Him, or, we have just made Him look like we want Him to so that it’s easier to follow Him.
    I hope the first scenario is true…
    I hope that this made any sense at all…

  2. metamoses says:

    Hey Mike. I’ve been turning this over in my head since you wrote (well, by the way) and i’ve been wanting to respond and grow this idea a little more. Gonna cut n paste in a page and see what happens. Wanna contribute?

  3. meg donahue says:

    Mike Ash, I just have to comment. Yes, we are excellent at deceiving ourselves, and even more so as we are farther from God. We must be so honest with ourselves that it hurts. Throw out the preconceived ideas, all we learned growing up and from other people, and say “Jesus, you put it all back the way you want, you teach me scripture, you filter teachers words and show me who and what is real and right, you be everything, you place my foot in my next step.” Jesus Christ and encounters with him are the bread, butter, salad, roast beef, potatoes, pizza, and your favorite pie of life. Anything less is stale water and moldy bread sprinkled with ricin.

  4. Meg Donahue says:

    Mike, you first mentioned…your first sentence..God seems to walk with us right where we are at in life. Unfortunately, He lets us choose how we view Him,and that’s also fortunate. I see God as the “Daddy”, and myself as the toddler, and dropping my ice cream cone is as important to Him as whether President Bush decides to declare war. He also permits me to run off after pretty, shiny baubles; He will tell me the danger of running out from under His protection but will let me choose, but, then again, He’s right there when I see that big, dangerous world is too much for this little girl. Our decisions can indeed really be scary and affect others around us. But, remember, Daddy is still here and bigger than any danger.
    Why is my ice cream so important to God? Because my purpose in this life is to learn to know His voice, to trust Him, to follow Him without fear, to learn obedience. Heb 5:8 is incredible, life wasn’t meant to be easy; good, yes, easy, no.

    Dave, you give me a lot to think on, thanks. shiny heart


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