Meltdown: Making Sense of a Culture in Crisis Paperback – 15 Feb 2002
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an excellent book. Written primarily for students but suitable for any Christian -- John Marsh; Evangelicals Now; January 2003
From the Inside Flap
Our prevailing culture, with its absence of certainties, is a haven for a vast diversity of views and theories, opinions and life-style choices. Common to all this diversity is a rejection of the received wisdom on the past about who we are and what kind of world we live in. Marcus Honeysett takes us through the enormous upheavals of our culture, providing a reliable guide to a Christian response both in theory and in practical and moral living. Without such a response, he argues, we are condemned to be shaped by our world, rather than shaping it for Christ.
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Honeysett talks at length about society's blind acceptance of homosexuality and how the deconstruction of gender allows paedophilia in by the back door (Michel Foucault, one of postmodernism's key exponents, was himself both a homosexual and a paedophile); how society has downgraded our understanding of virtues and values; how we are losing our critical faculties and are addicted to worthless commodities and ironic lowbrow entertainments; how our country is now so screwed up that it regards Jesus Christ as an oppressor and someone not to be trusted; how television destroys all rational thought; how many universities attempt to corrupt young minds by denying truth; and how most people aren't even aware of the influence postmodernism has on their lives.
Regarding an earlier review, it's easy to see why someone who admires Brian McLaren would struggle with this book. McLaren preaches a false gospel; Honeysett does not.
The writing is on the wall. Postmodernism touches everybody and "Meltdown" is a wake-up call for the church.
Book itself was very good indeed. Well argued and evidenced; it prompted me to buy soemmopre on postmodernism and its failings.
Rather than embracing the advances of postmodernism, Meltdown rejects them outright. In writing the book, Honeysett has failed to consider the history of Christian thought, nor looked at the culture-specific and time-specific nature of the Christian faith. Honeysett sees postmodernism as an attack on the very foundations of his belief, rather that recognising that his beliefs are as much a result of modernism as Christianity.
This book gives an insight into fundamentalist Christian thought. However, for those interested in the real ramifications of Postmodernism on evangelical Christianity, I would recommend the books of Brian McLaren.
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"Meltdown" is an extraordinary book for at least two reasons. First, the author's assessment of postmodernism (the philosophy) and postmodernity (the set of contemporary cultural conditions in the West) is dead-on. Unlike not a few evangelical authors, Honeysett discerns that postmodernism is not our great liberation from modernist metanarratives. Rather it is a truth-denying, authority-denying philosophy set against the truths authoritatively revealed in Holy Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Instead of fruitfully opening people to all kinds of spirituality (Christianity included), postmodernity discourages rational discourse, is hostile to Christian truth-claims, and encourages relativism and philosophical pluralism. Against the flow of many evangelical trendsetters, Honeysett has not made his peace with postmodernism-and for this we should be grateful.
Second, Honeysett states his case in an understandable but intellectually responsible and deeply challenging fashion. This combination of being both accessible and accurate on challenging topics is indeed rare. (He also exhorts when needed, which is refreshing in a book not lacking in academic substance.) This is no simple task when dealing with such daunting themes and authors as complex (and often opaque) as Derrida, Baudrillard, Foucault, and Butler. Honeysett navigates the conceptual terrain deftly, summarizing difficult material without over-simplifying, analyzing it logically (often exposing internal contradictions in postmodernist theory), and assessing it biblically. He shows a knack for discerning just where postmodern thought collides with Christian truth, why this matters (and not just to academics), and what we should think about it.
It is encouraging that postmodernism is vigorously opposed by a number of Christians, especially among those leading the renaissance in Christian philosophical work in the analytic tradition-a tradition that is antithetical to the continental waters in which postmodernism was spawned. Yet too many evangelical theologians have been accommodating to postmodernism in significant ways.
Honeysett's treatment of Jean Baudrillard (who is something like an updated French nihilistic version of Marshall McLuhan) is, to my knowledge, the only Christian critique of this important thinker who challenges the very notion of objective reality in our media-saturated environment. Baudrillard has recently emitted some egregious statements about the twin towers of the World Trade Center committing suicide on September 11, 2001, which some have taken as grounds for dismissing him without reflection or critique. But despite his penchant for flamboyance and his tortuous prose, Baudrillard is a thinker with which to reckon.
Honeysett also keenly assesses key aspects of postmodern culture, which is every bit as important to understand as postmodernist philosophies. Few may read the philosophers, but all imbibe the culture. First, Honeysett investigates the postmodern ethos of the university culture-something he knows well as a thoughtful campus minister-and shows how to respond to it with integrity and intellect. I especially appreciated this advice in light of my twelve years of involvement in campus ministry. Sadly, evangelical campus ministries often fail to engage the intellects of students, leaving them prey to "arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5). This must change if Christianity is to win a fair hearing on intellectual matters.
Second, in discussing "postmodern Bible reading," Honeysett rightly argues that too many Christians have swallowed a postmodernist rejection of all objective authority, which has corrupted their understanding of the Bible as God's authoritative revelation of objective truth. The answer is to return to Scripture as the ultimate source for truth; it should not be deemed a subjective, self-help tool. This cannot be underscored too strongly. A popular and contemporary evangelical writer claims that a strong view of biblical authority is merely a modernist invention that postmodernist Christians should throw off as an aberration. This leaves the Christian in the postmodern ocean with neither an anchor nor a rudder for navigating the intellectual storms of the day. The question of biblical authority is a crucial issue at all times. Postmodernism has not rendered it a moot point.
Third, Honeysett notes that postmodern ideas have similarly undermined a biblical understanding of the church, which is too often viewed as more of a consumer item than as an institution founded by the divine Son of God for his glory (Matthew 16:13-19). Since American evangelicals are notoriously weak on ecclesiology (given their proclivity for individualism, innovation, and parachurch entrepreneurialism), this reminder comes as a needed tonic.
Fourth, Honeysett forthrightly attacks postmodern influence in culture as "immoral," because it rejects God and fills the void with the autonomous self and its God-denying principles. Although he does not quote him, Pascal's warning fits the spirit of Honeysett's critique. "When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving toward depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point"
Fifth, Honeysett observes that a leading engine of the postmodernist rejection of truth and authority is television, in both its nature and its content. Christians should, therefore, engage it critically and carefully and not be swept away with its unreality (as Baudrillard warns). Honeysett is one of the few evangelicals who understands that communication media are not neutral, but invariably shape their content according to their form. As McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." As long as evangelicals have their minds shaped by the medium of television (which favors the graphic over the textual and the titillating over the edifying), they will remain intellectually enfeebled and unable to discern and disarm the deceptions of postmodernism.
Honeysett concludes this rousing and thoughtful primer by emphasizing the need to proclaim the "authentic Jesus" in a postmodern world of pluralism, syncretism, and outright hostility to the gospel. The authentic Jesus must be presented to the watching world in terms of a fully biblical and philosophically defensible concept of truth, a concept that cuts against the grain of postmodernism. While so many evangelicals scavenge for food among postmodernist philosophies, the worldview outside of Christianity that is gaining the most adherents has no truck with postmodernism whatsoever. It wins converts and promotes a view of civilization based on the concept of authoritative, universal, absolute, and objective truth. That worldview is Islam.
My hope is that Meltdown will be read and discussed by high school seniors in preparation for college, Christian university students and campus ministers, and by anyone who wants to make sense of the postmodern world and speak to it in the name of Jesus Christ, who is nothing less than the Truth Incarnate and the only hope for erring mortals east of Eden (John 14:6).
It is a great way to gain a quick overview of contemporary culture's main philosophic drivers while also challenging the values and beliefs that Christians hold. It is a sober reality check of our world and how we live in relation to authority.
This work reads easily and is a credit to the writing which is supported by powerful intellectual foundations. It does not shy away from the examples experienced by Christian students who may have left an insulated church family and landed up in quite alarming study situations!
I recommend this to anyone who wants to gain a general understanding of our culture and the outlook of a world with diminished responsibility.
Honeysett talks at length about society's blind acceptance of homosexuality and how the deconstruction of gender allows paedophilia in by the back door (Michel Foucault, one of postmodernism's key exponents, was himself both a homosexual and a paedophile); how society has downgraded our sense of values; how we are losing our critical faculties and are addicted to worthless commodities and lowbrow entertainments; how society is now so screwed up that it regards Christianity as oppressive and not to be trusted; how television destroys all rational thought; how postmodernism is actually anti-truth; how many universities attempt to corrupt young minds; and how most people aren't even aware of the influence postmodernism has on their lives.
To sum up, Postmodernism touches everybody and "Meltdown" is a wake-up call for the church.