Modern pride and postmodern sloth

In his chapter, “Theology and the Condition of Postmodernity,” from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, evangelical theologian Kevin Vanhoozer writes:

Modernity cultivated autonomous knowing subjects and so cultivated shapes of life for which neither tradition nor community was a priority. If one had to associate the spirit of modernity with one of the seven deadly sins, surely it would be pride: pride in human reason, pride in human goodness, pride in human accomplishments. It is precisely at the prideful constructions of modernity – buildings, conceptual systems, political regimes, theologies – that postmoderns direct their iconoclasm and ideology critique. Postmodernists aim to situate reason, reminding modern pretenders to a God’s-eye point of view that they are in fact historically conditioned, culturally conditioned, and sexually gendered finite beings. 

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Are there idols peculiar to postmodernity? The preference for the creature over the Creator no doubt takes many forms. Human reason can lord it over divine revelation; human creativity can displace divine command.  Yet the besetting temptation of the postmodern condition is not pride, I submit, but sloth. According to Dorothy Sayers, sloth is the sin “that believes in nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” The question is whether certain forms of postmodernity act as corrosives to the conditions for the possibility of commitment, poisoning the will by depriving it of anything in which to believe ultimately. 


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