Solomon Among the Postmoderns by Peter J Leithart. A Review and Critique by Douglas W Jerving

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Solomon Among the Postmoderns by Peter J Leithart. A Review and Critique by Douglas W Jerving

Copyright © June 5, 2011 Douglas W. Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

Solomon Among the Postmoderns by Peter J. Leithart compares and contrasts the thinking of Solomon, the son of David and king of Israel, as found in Ecclesiastes (in the Old Testament of the Bible) with the philosophy of the so-called postmodernists of our times.

Solomon was not a postmodern thinker.

So called postmodernists are not postmodern thinkers. We can call them that, but the further we move away from their thought, the better perspective we have of them. They are not the front runners in a philosophical paradigm shift. Modernism has not passed away and the postmodernists are a mere appendage. Postmodernism/ postmodernity is not among the postmodern thinkers. Its ability to mass mediate its sophistry into the minds of a generation of philosophers and politicians, masquerading as erudition is because of its apostles’ abilities to fool many of the people all the time. Postmodernism is not post-any thinking, unless of course we can somehow pull higher intelligence out of the postordial (as opposed to primordial) soup that they try passing off as brilliance. Solomon was certainly not among them.

There is nothing new about postmodernism. Nothing is new among them. Solomon would have said “there is nothing new under the sun”. (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Nothing that postmodernism offers enlightens our world. It merely rearranges the furniture in the old temple of humanistic thought. When it is criticized as inadequately performed philosophy it hides itself in other professions, such as literature, becoming a not-philosophy. Postmodernists hide a fear that they may really have nothing to say, and at least here they are correct. Postmodern is a name for nothing.

Bear with me in my folly:

Alright, postmodern is a name for Something as indefinable as Nothing. It resides in that epistemological (the study of how and what we know) realm of philosophy known as “Being and Becoming”. Nothing is something only because we need a way to define something that is the negation of something. If we call nothing something it becomes something by our calling it Nothing. So nothing becomes something because we call it nothing, thereby negating its nothingness. To be nothing is to be what cannot be named or even known. Nothing is therefore a something unnamed and unknown. The fact that we can discuss nothing proves that nothing exists, and is therefore something. There is no such thing as nothing except as it relates to our concept of things that exist. As the negative of existence, it is existing as nothing. Existing as nothing is to not exist. But not existing is to exist as nothing. Being is Becoming. Or in the case of nothing, not-Being is Unbecoming (pun intended).

That’s pretty much the way most postmodern philosophers think and write. Actually, it is typical of most any philosophical writings since the beginning of the modern era, which beginning is probably not historical so much as noumenal, Kantian, and nonsensical. But modern philosophy, from which this nonsense derives, starts, not with Kant’s precursor Plato, so much as with Descartes. “I think, therefore I am” finally separated philosophy from theology and began the modern age.

Postmodernism exists as a philosophical opportunism. It is based upon the premise that nothing exists outside of the constructs of the society that recognizes those constructs. Postmodernism has no existence outside of the modernist world that created it. The idiot thinkers that invented postmodernism then turned around and denied it. Create a god, or a world, or anything else, then kill or destroy it. Then tell the world that God or that World does not exist except as a social convention. Recreate it as a social construct that you can deconstruct and reconstruct in your own image. The old phantom god or world is dead, so now we replace it with a new phantom god or world. Use language, art, science, and philosophy in new ways that are meaningless to create meaning for the things or nothings you value or devalue. Never mind the fact that nothing has meaning outside of the true existence of things in a created world. The convolution of creation to chaos is the only true meaning of anything. That nothing is everything and therefore everything means nothing is both the strength and weakness of postmodernism. Nothing is everything. Chaos is king. The Deconstruction of creation is the primordial ooze of all things.

I’ve wasted enough of my time on the so-called prophets of postmodernism, having read my required share of snippets from Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, et absurdium. I could stick my finger down my throat in homage to them, but regurgitation is too refined a response to their scatology. I’ve read their stuff enough to honestly say I’m not talking out of my [explitive deleted], but they are. At least in the Bible when a donkey speaks, it has something useful to say.

Solomon is not among the postmoderns. He existed long before them, and thought more deeply about life than all of them shaken together in a bag of seasoned flour and thrown onto my grill. Peter Leithart recognizes this as well as I, as well as any ten year old kid trying to explain the difference between a marble and a baseball. Differences are inherent in the things themselves, and that is enough to prove they have purpose. Purpose, as a given, is denied by postmodernism, but that does not mean it does not exist. No kid on a baseball diamond ever threatened to take his marbles and go home.

Modernism is not so much a philosophy as it is a cultural and social paradigm underpinning the way we think and act and live in Western society. It is true that modernism maintains a certain rigidity. It anticipates a world that fits patterns defined on its own terms and refuses admission of other possible modes of thought or existence. Thomas Kuhn often is included in the pantheon of postmodern thinkers, although Leithart never mentions him. His “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is possibly the most important treatise on the philosophy of science at this stage in the modern world. I find it hard to classify Kuhn’s well thought piece as postmodern. Kuhn’s research is thoroughly in line with the modern scientific method. He understands that any scientific paradigm shift must inevitably be dependent upon the research of the past.

Modernism, for all its flaws at least recognizes that the world of flux we live in is still a world of progress. Progress means change is inevitable, but also that it is measurable, and therefore it is possible to move forward. Scientific revolutions, large or small, are inherent in the scientific method of the modern world. The world we live in has been given to us by God and we are expected to utilize it, to own, to conquer, and to make the best of it. As a world of progress, it has within it a philosophical and theological demand inherent in its existence. It demands that we prove its existence by making it useful. We strive for the better, and then we die and leave what we learned for others. That is the vanity Solomon saw. Everything man does is done again. And again.

Progress is ephemeral. It is vaporous, as Solomon said, and Leithart repeated. But it is not vanity. Generation after generation of men test life to find what is good, and in the end, they die, only to have the next generation try the same things in the same or different ways. Progress is made along the path, and then we take two steps back, forgetting what we learned. But empiricism, the determination to test everything and accept what works, at least reminds us that the world of thought is linear, not circular. Solomon can certainly be classified as an empiricist. Postmodernism, contrarily, requires a return to the pagan world of circular reasoning. There is no reason to continue thinking or acting, because we never get ahead of the past.

If Solomon is among the postmoderns, he is only there to challenge their faulty thinking and to remind them that this world is not the end of existence. His challenge is extended to modern thinkers of all sorts, of which postmoderns are only an outgrowth as opposed to some new thing. Solomon encourages an empirical understanding of the world that emphasizes the observability and repeatability of all things. The world is scientifically definable, at least at a macro-level. (We know too little about the quantum particle world to say it does not act definably; that is why it is called theoretical physics). Solomon reminds us that science is not the end of things but the beginning. Ultimately, death is the finality of all men, and the end of all science individually. Yet God will bring all men into judgment. (Eccles 11:9).

If science has limits, but judgment is inevitable (per Solomon), then the best quest of man is to please God who judges all men. “Fear God and keep His commandments. This is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Ethics is more important than science, philosophy, or theology, even though it is inseparable from them. Solomon’s empiricism leads to the concept of progress. Empiricism is not the same as pragmatism. Pragmatism teaches us that might equals right. Empiricism teaches us that right equals might. Power first should be ethical.

Progress exposes the vaporousness, the vanity of life outside of the Eternal. However much we gain through scientific method, we never gain the presence of God, and must always subordinate science to faith, since even science depends upon it.

Faith in God, Joyfulness in life, and Worship towards God are the things that move us beyond the vapor of this world. This is Leithart’s commendable conclusion. The postmodern world has no Messiah, or any hope for the future. The future is always postponed by the now.

Solomon in contrast recognizes the value of the present world seeing it as empirical evidence of God’s work to redeem mankind. Because God is working in the hearts of men we have faith that goes beyond the vapor of this earthly existence. By faith we live in the joyful knowledge that He, not we, sovereignly controls the creation. Because we know that God is in control, we are called upon to worship Him, knowing that He is working all things to the glory of His grace exemplified in us.

Solomon stands amidst the philosophers of all ages (not just the sophists of postmodernism), as the wisest among them. While he stands on the same ground that all of them claim, he stands head and shoulders above all of them. Solomon stands above the postmoderns.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the You may contact him at


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