Deconstructing Postmodernism with the Gospel

Here's an excerpt from one of John Piper's recent Taste and See articles. This one is entitled, "Meditations After a Monday at Barnes and Noble". Piper's thoughts model well how we should deconstruct postmodern thinking with the gospel and a focus on Jesus Christ as the fullest revelation of Truth.

Then I looked at Diane Setterfield’s novel The Thirteenth Tale (Atria, 2006). I turned it over and read one of the most up-to-date pieces of postmodern counsel I have ever read. At first, I thought it was a blurb for the book from Vida Winter:

My gripe is not with lovers of the truth, but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney, when the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with her long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing rocking safety of a lie.

No, Vida Winter is not a critic praising the power of this book. She is a character in the novel, and this is a quote from page five. Again, I feel no desire to be clever about the contrast between “hard-boned” truth and the “plump comforts” of a story. My main response is the feeling of wonderment that people today really believe this. And then I feel pity. And then a desire to find some way to shock them out of the trance. What shall we say?

First, this is good writing. Weak metaphysics, but strong metaphors. Listen for the consonance (the hard c’s) in, “What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story?” Feel the sounds: “wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney” . . . “the rain taps at the window with her long fingernails.”

Second, the writer of this paragraph has probably never really feared for her life. And almost certainly not for her eternal life. “Plump comforts of a story” will not soothe if you have three minutes before your hijacked plane incinerates you on the Pennsylvania plains.

Third, I wonder why she equates “story” with the “soothing rocking safety of a lie,” instead of asking whether the greatest story might be true? Dorothy Sayers and C. S. Lewis have helped us see that the reason “myth” or “story” have such power is not because they replace truth but because they resemble Truth.

Fourth, I pray that those who see themselves in this paragraph will discover that 2,000 years ago the Truth became flesh and dwelt among us. He is “hard-boned” but not “fleshless.” His name is Jesus Christ. He is the center of the true story of God’s saving history. It is not the “soothing rocking safety of a lie.” That is why his story will bring “succor” and “consolation,” not just when the wind howls and the rain falls, but when breath fails and we slip through the lips of eternity.


Anonymous said...

Good to hear back from you, Brian. And thanks. If we at Banner can do anything to be of help, just let us know. God bless, brother.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the off topic comment, I don't have any thing strong to say about this post, though it is in my list of rereads. Please don't take this as ignoring your post.

I ran across a video today that is talking about how we should not refer to God as a woman. I am trying to get some thoughts on this subject and thought you might have some stuff to say. Here is the link:, can’t wait to read what you say.


Anonymous said...

I think postmodernism is off the target, but in the right shooting range. I think facts, mere facts, are worthless. The Old Testament and the gospels seem to work this way also. They both use story to recount the actions of God. But than again, these are stories of truth, they are applied fact, not lies. I think the church needs to think about the facts she tosses around and realize that via story (film?) people are apt to listen and are apt to understand.

But are stories a sheath to facts, dulling the edges and making out lives all right?