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Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture Paperback – February 15, 1994
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About the Author
Gene Edward Veith (PhD, University of Kansas) serves as the provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College, where he also oversees both academic affairs and student affairs. He previously worked as the culture editor of World magazine. Veith and his wife, Jackquelyn, have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
Marvin Olasky (PhD, University of Michigan) is the editor in chief of World magazine, holder of the distinguished chair in journalism and public policy at Patrick Henry College, and senior fellow of the Acton Institute. He was previously a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, a Boston Globe reporter, and a Du Pont Company speechwriter. He is the author of twenty books and more than 3,500 articles. He and his wife, Susan, have four sons.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although few people are conscious of this belief system in today's society, it is subtly pervasive. Veith's four part analysis of Postmodern Thought, Art, Society, and Religion ranges from interesting to startling to mildly cynical. While I found his discussion of postmodernism to be very revealing and largely accurate, I question whether modernism is as "dead" as he suspects. Perhaps the best example I see of an extant modernist philosophy is that of methodological naturalism: a necessity for evolution. (Philip Johnson does a great job of explaining methodological naturalism in his book "The Wedge of Truth).
However, for the most part, Veith hits the nail on the head in his diagnosis of postmodernism, especially with recognizing the trend in Christianity (but perhaps in religion in general) toward consumerism and empty spirituality (lack of truth). At times the book is repetitive and somewhat pessimistic, yet Veith also has hope for the postmodern age. Christians can build their thinking and live their lives on the foundation of Christ, and share this with society, as the postmodernism's self-contradictory relativism will inevitably collapse.
Postmodern Times is easy to read, and it certainly has increased my awareness of the current "zeitgeist".
Vieth is cautiously hopeful. He recognizes postmodernism's potential weakness for despair; when a person believes that all truth is relative and indiscoverable, they will quickly loose hope. He also correctly identifies the dogma of absolute tolerance as intolerant.
Nevertheless, his hope springs in part from the fact that Christ was no stranger to the use of image and story to communicate the Gospel; living (as Vieth contends that we do) in an increasingly post-Christian culture, we are able once again to communicate the fundamental tenets of Christianity through allegories, parables, and pictures. Postmodern thought's ability to embrace paradox without tension leads postmodernists to instinctively understand certain aspects of our faith which the material, clinical mindset of the modern era has failed to adequately illuminate.
This book is no condemnation of postmodern thought, nor is it a postmodernist's apology; Vieth makes the distinction, for instance, between postmodernism and postmodern thought patterns, and posits that the latter lends itself to authentic, historic Christianity. He begins with the premise that the Christian faith is a timelessly relevant embodiment of truth (not the exclusive domain of modern Western thought), meaning that it will speak relevantly to any system of thought, and concludes that postmodern thought is no more alien to Christ's message than is the receding modern worldview. I have read and re-read this book, referenced it countless times, and it has aged well on my shelf. While the first third of the book has proven to be the most helpful section (as of yet), five years of re-reading and a brief encounter with the author leads me to conclude that "Postmodern Times" is offered without agenda as a well-informed perspective on the challenges and opportunities postmodern thought poses for Christ's followers today.
That said, Veith's book is a good introduction to the subject, and worthy reading for every person who is seeking a well-rounded education. From a Christian perspective (more specifically a Lutheran, not protestant, one) Veith traces the rise of Modernism from a biblical worldview, and the inevitable transformation from Modernism's empty claims to certainty to Postmodernism's notorious uncertainty and relativism. Between the two Veith charts a path that seeks to avoid the errors both of pompous Modernist dogmatism and Postmodernist denial that truth can be reasonably ascertained.
Veith's book conveys understanding and insight, if not a straightforward guide to helping others out of the morass of Postmodernism. Ultimately Postmodernism fails because it is so internally inconsistent (how can one argue rationally for it if rationality itself is suspect?) Rather than point to the internal inconsistencies, I suspect a better route will be to present a positive epistemology that is more consistent than the Modernist ideology that Postmodernists abandoned; in short, the biblical worldview.