The postmodernist quest for God

” For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

~Romans 1:19-20, Revised Standard Version

Who is God? What is his actual substance? Does he exist, or because we cannot see him does that mean that He is only empty space? Or even worse, that maybe His existence is only a creation of our consciousness in a desperate attempt to make tangible that which is inherently intangible. As we look at God do we see something that is:

“…an infinite series of universes expanding into one another, all at the same time? So that the expanding expands futilely into itself, and infinitely convoluting dark matter of ghastly insensate endlessness, with no properties, no volume, no transformative elemental energies of light or force or pulsing quanta, all these being inventions of our own consciousness, and our consciousness, lacking volume and physical quality in itself, a project as finally mindless, cold, and inhuman as the universe of our illusion” (Doctorow 4)?

If this is indeed true, then the God of the Scriptures becomes impossible to understand using merely human faculties.

Romans 1:19-20 states that God has made Himself plainly known to man through what He has created. If this is truth, why is it almost impossible to understand God by looking at the vastness of the universe? Does the existence of God become a cosmological or an epistemological problem? Can we truly know who God is if we look at the universe or does this only exacerbate the problem? When we look to the universe for answers, what we find is that God is limitless, without boundaries, and impossible to define. He can appear cold, mindless, and inhuman; a God so far removed from how we as people understand humanity that what is left becomes impossible to relate.

We have dismantled the cross, hid it behind the altar, and, preaching under its shadow, have created a Christianity that fits our desires (Doctorow 32).

In the first two pages of his book, City of God, E.L. Doctorow has outlined the postmodernist dilemma when it comes to believing in God. What we know about the universe reveals that it is incredibly complex; its vastness alone leaves man in a quandary. Doctorow writes that he wishes he could speak with an astronomer to discover if they need to deaden themselves to their discovery in order to cope with the reality of what they see. Is this how we, as postmoderns, view God? Is what we see so incredibly vast, cold, and inhuman that we need to deaden ourselves in order to cope? It is an interesting theory I must say.

As I have been reading the news, lamenting over political posts on social media by Christian friends, and thinking about how my own faith plays out on the stage set by postmodern America, I have decided to embark on reading E. L. Doctorow’s postmodern masterpiece.  The premise is quite fragmented, the action confusing, and the narrator extremely unreliable; all the hallmarks of great postmodern literature. Personally, I think that looking at Christianity through the fragmented lens of postmodernism helps to gain an understanding of where the Church is today.

Postmodern Christians have dismantled the Gospel of Christ and are using the fragmented remains to justify their beliefs and their double-minded, unstable thinking (NIV Ja 1.8).

We have dismantled the cross, hid it behind the altar, and, preaching under its shadow, have created a Christianity that fits our desires (Doctorow 32).  It can be politically motivated, shame the “unsaved”, and lift up the saints to heights that are unattainable by the unwashed masses of sinners.  Postmodern Christians have dismantled the Gospel of Christ and are using the fragmented remains to justify their beliefs and their double-minded, unstable thinking (NIV Ja 1.8).  This form of Christianity has given birth to a new brand of Pharisee; one who hopes that the fragmented remains of the Gospel will make them “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV Ja 1.4).

Works Cited

Biblegateway. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles. 2001. Web. 20 August 2016.

Doctorow, E. L. The City of God. New York: Penguin.  2001. Print.

Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, New International Version. Richard L. Pratt Ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2003. Print.

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