Postmodern Conversation

I just got back home from Petland, picking up some treats for my dog. As I went to the checkout line, a lady with some cat food and other things was ahead of me. Here’s a paraphrase of the ensuing conversation between “Cat Lady” and the checkout clerk. My comments are in brackets.

Clerk: [scanning cans of food, and singing a silly song] Cat food, cat food, I’m allergic to cats!

Cat lady: That’s interesting. Why do you work at a petstore?

Clerk: Well, you see people don’t realize that whatever is going to happen is going to happen regardless. [Determinism?]

Cat lady: What makes you say that?

Clerk: You see, I’m a Christian, and according to what I believe everything that’s going to happen is going to happen. You can’t change it. [I’d like to think the guy is a Calvinist, but this is sheer fatalism. No informed Calvinist would state things this way.]

Cat lady: Maybe, but I do believe that we have free will [True enough…depending on the definition you’re employing of the term “free will.” I think she was responding to his unhealthy fatalism.]

Clerk: Well yeah, we have free will about whether we’ll go “up” [heaven] or “down” [hell]. [Classic Arminianism. Interesting. So God determines everything that will ever take place….but leaves in our hands-Oh, Sovereign creature!-the greatest possible choice, i.e. the efficacy of Christ’s atonement!]

Cat lady: I’m going to have to disagree with you there. But, if it works for you…! [Typical postmodern pragmatism. Let’s not say the other person is, no. To each his own. What matters is that a belief “works,” not whether it fairly represents reality]

Thus the conversation ended there. I stood there, biting my tongue. I actually wanted to correct the clerk more for his poor presentation of God’s sovereignty than Cat lady for her relativism. But I knew it wasn’t my place to butt it and wax theological.



Posted on November 30, 2009, in Culture and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. 1. Most people don’t think through or express their convictions well. This isn’t necessarily a fault, just the way people are.

    2. It’s easy enough to criticize a so-called post-modern critique, but why should either person indeed feel a certainty that their view “corresponds to reality” and the other doesn’t. Quantam mechanics and modern neuroscience have shown such a notion to be utterly unattainable by the individual.

  2. Mark, thanks for the reply. In response to your thoughts:

    1. I agree, but we should at least try to “think through” our convictions (especially as Christians), and should at least try to articulate them well (lest, as in this case, we present one thing-the absolute personalism of biblical foreordination- as it’s polar opposite- impersonal fatalism).

    2. I’m not necessary affirming a “mirror epistemology” in which our thoughts are a 1 to 1 representation of reality (only God can do that). But I think the correspondence approach to truth (though surely not the whole story) is a helpful tool for clarification. I’m convinced that since the same God created the external world and our cognitive, emotive, and intuitive equipment and gave us the mandate to subdue it to His glory that a sufficient (not perfect) correspondence is attainable (either due to the imago Dei or common grace).

  3. “I’m going to have to disagree with you there. But, if it works for you…!”

    If I could summarize most of what I’ve read in postmodern philosophy it is exactly this implicitly smug, apathetic evasion of having to decide “for” or “against” saying:


    Except it’s usually done in French…not (American) English…

    Postmodernism is on its last leg. We’re now post-postmodernists. Hence, the surge in Universalism, Syncretism – think Oprah and the New Age Movement.

    Whenever I take a look at the trends of thought that have come and gone, that find ancient religio-politco-socio-philosophical correlations, Ecclesiastes 3:15a comes to mind:”That which is has already been,
    And what is to be has already been…”


  4. “If I could summarize most of what I’ve read in postmodern philosophy…” based on what you just wrote, I’d have to say “next to nothing,” or at the very least only in secondary anti-pomo sources. You simply echo every schoolboy caricature of postmodernism bandied about in the popular Christian press. Not really useful because it resembles nothing in the real world.

  5. Hiram, you need to read Peter Leithart’s “Solomon Among the Postmoderns.” It’s brilliant. What you call “Whatevs” he calls “postmodern provisionalism.”

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