Sunday, October 14, 2007

Book Review

"The Rebirth of Orthodoxy" (Thomas C. Oden) - I liked this book, but it was very slow to read. It doesn't read like a novel, and I think it could be reorganized. That said, it makes a lot of interesting statements and has a lot of insight.

Oden believes the "postmodern" movement is actually the death throes of "modernism". Oden classifies the modern age as 1789 to 1989 (Bastille to Berlin). Modern thought started with a great deal of optimism. It was believed rational thought and logic could eliminate all of mankind's problems. The whole history of modernism can be seen in science fiction (which barely existed before the twentieth century). Starting very optimistic, even utopian, then proceeding to more pessimistic and directionless forms. That is postmodernism. The idea that everyone can believe anything they want, and everyone is right. This idea is attractive to many, but is leading a lot of people to look for more.

Oden differentiates Orthodoxy (capital O, like the Eastern Orthodox Church) from orthodoxy (small o), which is what is being reborn. This is seen in churches returning to Biblical foundations, and increasing willingness for churches to take a stand on fundamental differences (for example the Pope reaffirming that the RCC is the only true church).

There is a fair amount here, that I will probably return to later.


pgepps said...

hey, there!

I'd enjoy reading this book, but the discussion of postmodernism sounds dangerously scant. "postmodernism" may be pessimistic, from certain points of view, or not . . . it depends. There is plenty of pessimistic modernity, though, to draw from. Certainly such high Modernists as Charles Williams, the early Eliot, Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, etc. were not especially optimistic--Albee, Becket--Hugo, Hardy, Arnold--pick your art and the latter 19th-C & early 20th are full of thoroughly modern, thoroughly pessimistic, types. And where they weren't outright pessimists, they were (Arnold's "Dover Beach" or Tennyson's whole oeuvre) frequently summoning the void to realize their hopes, i.e., doing vaporware as theology. :-)

So "pessimistic late modernism" is a broad brush which turns on, among other things, confusing a mood with an epistemic stance ("epistemological pessimism" is not necessarily dispiriting at all: I find it quite liberating, actually, to quit seeking within my head the foundations of my surety in Christ and His world). Oden sounds interesting but suspect for leading you there.


nedbrek said...

Sorry for the delay!

Sorry for the mood. I'm not getting this all from Oden. I've read a lot of postmodern books (mostly fiction) lately. And it's kind of getting to me :)

Oden's attitude is much more along the lines of, "People are discontent with the whole not knowing thing, and looking for roots".