A friend who went to seminary with me recently posted a link to this stuff on Facebook. I’m reluctant to post any of the images here, for fear of association, but you can see them at this link. I’m not sure if my friend is sympathetic to the views expressed here, but I’m guessing not, since he has a sense of humor and is a bit of a cynic about these kinds of things. However, what stuck out to me was the nature of the posters and their messages.

My guess, as an academic, is that when you consider a certain view to be questionable, you might want to investigate further to see if there is any good academic work supporting it. Next, you might want to seek out some other academics familiar with the field to get their take on things–positive or negative, or just a summary of what’s going on (maybe likened to a “status of the question”). If at any point you settle for yourself that the view is indeed questionable, is the right thing to do in order to change the view or cause holders of the view to possibly reconsider, to attack them? It seems, in these posters we’ve got exactly that – nothing but an ad hominem. Effectively, rather that offering a compelling critique of postmodernism, the creators of these posters are calling postmoderns “stupid”. I can imagine them standing face-to-face, the poster creators saying to the postmoderns about their thinking/position, “that’s bullshit.”

What strikes me as particularly unfortunate is that, given the other material related to the website where these posters are located, it seems that the writers are, on some level at least, interested in an intellectual discussion. So why do they only use an ad hominem? Unfortunately, it seems their only intellectual ammo aimed at postmodernism is the self-referential argument – that is, as if often leveled at postmodernism, it is called relativistic. This argument is clearly implied in a majority of the posters. But the accusation of relativism is weak, and ultimately, illegitimate. There are hints in the posters that their creators are aware of this (post-foundationalism, the provisionality that comes with paradigm shifts), but nevertheless, because they cannot offer a better reply, they still resign to “making fun” of people who are wrestling with postmodernism.

Yes, I know that part of my argument is the very thing they attack in the posters (see the one on Conversation). If they were to read any more of my blog, they’d see where I’m sympathetic to postmodernism. Thus I see how some of their posters are meant to attack people like me (see the ones on Chastened Epistemology, Certainty). So I guess I’m backed into a corner: I can’t talk to them because I’ll bring up all the things they believe they’ve defeated. For one, as a Christian I’d ask where Christian charity is in all their attacks…but they already have a poster on that. I’d prefer to talk with them because I think they have some serious misunderstandings about postmodernism. As I’ve argued elsewhere, that’s what you get when you only read modernist apologetics – their arguments, both implicit and explicit in the posters, only come from there.

At the risk of further spreading those posters around just by talking about them here, my advice to readers is don’t do what you see. In other words, those posters are an example of what not to do. Don’t understand postmodernism?–try to figure it out…don’t just give up and dismiss it out of hand as relativistic. Here are a few helpful texts.

Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? by James K. A. Smith

Solomon Among the Postmoderns by Peter J. Leithart

How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, Crystal L. Downing