01 September 2007

Modernism, Post-Modernism -- How to Explain the Difference?

This past Thursday, I was talking with a dear Unitarian Universalist friend about the differences between modernist and post-modernist world views that we find in Unitarian Universalism today.

I should provide a disclaimer -- I'm not a professional philosopher or theologian -- I'm just a person who has read a lot of books and web sites. And the analogy that I used is the baseball umpire analogy.

This analogy was recently quoted in a theology paper presented at the 2007 Wheaton Theology Conference by Tony Jones on emergent theological perspectives in Evangelical Christianity. Tony's paper was not published by Wheaton College with the other papers presented at this conference due to the theological disapproval of Wheaton College's officials (you can read about this incident and find the original paper on Tony's blog).

Here's the analogy:
"Of course, it’'s not lost on me that since the earliest days of the postmodern conversation, there’'s been story floating around about three umpires,
  • The pre-modern umpire says, 'I call 'em as they are!'
  • The modern umpire says, 'I call 'em as I see ’em!'
  • The postmodern umpire says, 'They ain't nothin' 'till I call 'em!'"
This is an off-shoot of a story told by literary theorist Stanley Fish about the baseball umpire Bill Klem to explain "interpretive communities":
"[Stanley] Fish defines as the function of interpretive communities are seen here: The first of these involves baseball umpire Bill Klem, who once waited a long time to call a particular pitch. The player asked him, impatiently, 'Well, is it a ball or strike?' Klem's reply: 'Sonny, it ain't nothing 'til I call it.' What Fish is presenting here exemplifies the idea of interpretation: while baseball supplies a rulebook, it is the discretion of the umpire to judge whether or not a pitch falls into the category of ball or strike. Balls and strikes are not undeniable truths."

1 comment:

RevElz said...

Thanks for a good story to illustrate a tough distinction.