Friday, March 03, 2006

Post Modern Genius

I was just reading an article in Touchstone Magazine (it's an old issue, with my memory, the articles are all new again! October, 2005) in which the author (David Mills) writes a brilliant explanation of the Post Modern Mind. Here's part:

"If you talk to the Everyday Postmodernist long enough, you will feel as if you are speaking to two people inhabiting the same body. But, and this is the crucial point for our purposes, you cannot get him to recognize the contradiction, must less defend it. He hops from certainty to relativism and back. His philosophy requires no more of him, and justifies him in doing no more.

"The genius of this sort of idea is that it protects its devotees from rational challenge. They cannot easily be corrected, and worse, feel this to be a virtue, especially open-mindedness and tolerance. But it is a dangerous point of view, one of those false philosophies likely to increase misery and vice, and it is, unless I miss my guess, the way most of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers think."

I think Mr. Mills is a Chestertonian.
And I think he's right.
This is WHY I am a Chestertonian (at least at a Chestertonian discussion, everyone will agree to use REASON as a basis for argument) and why my family and friends are, for the most part, yet unconverted. The Everyday Postmodernist sounds so wise and accepting, so tolerant and non-judgemental, doesn't he?


  1. Thanks for posting this, Nancy. Is there an electronic copy of the article available?

    Our embrace of tolerance is seemingly a way of avoiding responsibility. So much of modern thought seems to simply provide a justification for what we are already doing. We are “tolerant” because we are afraid of being bound by a coherent philosophy. In this ethos, where all ideas are considered equal regardless of merit, truthful discernment is impossible and we are left with no other choice but moral relativism. Our culture of death is the fruit of this intellectual fear.

    This does not mean that we cannot respect or, in the true sense of the word, tolerate differing religious convictions; the pendulum need not swing to the opposite extreme. I truly believe that the Lord reveals himself in different ways to different people. While no one gets to the Father except through the Way, Truth, and the Light, the Son has many faces and it is foolishly conceited of me to think that I know one of them, much less all. Yet, I absolutely reject moral relativism. To the extent that any religion or moral philosophy does not embrace God’s gifts, perhaps the greatest of which is life itself, it is wrong and should not be tolerated.

  2. Tom: I searched, but this article is not on line. However, if you click on the link (on my post) and go to the Archives, there is plenty of good reading available, even though this particular article isn't.

    I agree with you that tolerance is usually a front for an avoidance of our sins, denial of behavior being sinful, or a wishfulness that we could get away with what others who don't have convictions can get away with.

    When a professed atheist claimed that the Church barred his freedom, I asked if he rebelled this hard against the police for barring his freedom to go 100mph on the freeway, or for painting stripes on the highway and making him stay in the lines.

    People usually think they have complete freedom *except* for those awful rules of the church. It doesn't take many examples to show them that our lives are restricted daily by rules and regulations designed to keep us safe or others safe from us.

    And Chesterton said something like that there were hundreds of ways or perhaps even thousands of ways to get to God, we can't know them all, we know ours and can't assume that is how God leads everyone. I think this comes with age, and patience. After 20 years of New Age, a sister converts back. After 23 years of atheism, a brother-in-law is suddenly lighting vigil candles in church. You see these things and it gives you hope, and you know that you can't "hurry up" someone's journey to God.

  3. How did that GKC quote go? "Of all the graces in the Garden of Eden, the one rule was perhaps God's greatest mercy." I had never really thought of freedom properly until I began reading Chesterton.

  4. The truth of this article is illustrated perfectly by the fact that while all of this tolerance and so forth is so cherished, the old Burke quote about evil remains as popular as ever among the very same people. I guess they won't put two and two together, because that might not be what two wants to do or something.

  5. An amusing anecdote about tolerance and stupidity.
    You know those Feng Shui posters (they have nothing to do with real Feng Shui), the ones with the Chinese characters for various ideals like love and peace and wisdom, and whatnot?
    Well, in a New Age bookstore, I found one labelled "Tolerance", and I nearly doubled up laughing.
    The character they used (if your PC can read Japanese, here it is: 忍) is called Nin in Japanese, and Ren in in Chinese. It means "perseverence," and one of its secondary meanings is "tolerance"...but only in the sense of "A high ~ for alcohol". The concept, as we use it, is not so easily expressed in Chinese or Japanese.
    But wait, it gets better. It's also the first half of the Japanese word "ninja", as in "Teenage Mutant ~ Turtles". The role of ninja in history was anything but tolerant; the Iga and Koga ninja were spies for the Tokugawa and Sanada warlords, and the Oniwabanshu were spies in service of the shogunate. They were basically the 17th century equivalent of the KGB or the GRU, making sure none of the nobles were plotting against the supremacy of the Tokugawa clan. Oh, yeah, real tolerant!
    "The Liberal
    That no belief constrained
    Opened his mind too far
    And thus was scatterbrained."
    That wasn't Chesterton, was it? Nobody I ask seems to know.


Join our FaceBook fan page today!