Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Putting God back in the church

By Peter Sellick - posted Tuesday, 13 June 2006

It is a great pity that the move in philosophy called postmodernism has attracted negative sentiments in the general public.

There is a fear this movement removes all that we know is solid - morality, values, and the scientific world view - to replace it with a sea of relativities and uncertainties.

It is thought postmodernism is just more radical scepticism emptying all that we thought we knew. Certainly the more outrageous expressions - particularly those originating in France - give off this odor. conjuring up a vision of young philosophers eager to make their names rampaging through our universities and overturning all the old authorities and certitudes.


An example of how postmodernism has been misrepresented is the silly questions set in English literature exams asking students to criticise texts from a particular position such as Marxist, feminist, postcolonial, or queer.

The origin of these questions lies in the program of deconstruction with its critical examination of texts for their underlying and often unrecognised biases and agendas.

While this process can be recommended for identifying false consciousness, it is important to understand how our position in life - as man, woman, indigenous, privileged, and so on - informs the kind of world we construct. Its deconstruction lays bare our soul and allows other points of view room to breath.

However, when this technique becomes the be-all and end-all for studying literature, then students standing back from the text with judgment in their heads are likely to miss the text altogether. The result can be moral megalomania, with the student self-righteously assuming the position of moral arbiter over our great texts of literature.

When suspicion rules there is no way texts may engage us. The greatest advantage of studying the great literary texts is that they are “other”. Student-centred learning, which insists on texts from the students’ own world, will not be confronted by difference and will remain in its own comfort zone.

Surely the importance of the great texts is their accurate representation of the human - something Big Brother as an alternative text does not do.


It is increasingly being recognised there was never room for theology in the modern project of setting up clear and distinct ideas based on firm foundations. This philosophical absolutism found its ground primarily in the natural sciences where theory could be tested and affirmed, or found wanting.

The success of this method ensured that all other forms of knowledge were relegated to the margins as subjective, with little or no foundation in the world. Theology suffered most from this move because the God that it investigated could be imagined only in terms of being under the auspices of natural science.

As a being among other beings God was vulnerable to negative evidence. And by seeking to lay the foundations of proof for God’s existence, we also lay the foundations of proofs for his nonexistence.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. All

Article edited by Allan Sharp.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

This article was helped considerably by several chapters of Overcoming Onto-theology by Merold Westphal.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

46 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Peter Sellick

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Peter Sellick
Article Tools
Comment 46 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy