Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion.
Christians have often been faced with the choice of joining in with the meaningless applause of the crowd or quietly withdrawing. From the recent applause for Princess Diana, in the wake of her tragic death, I will have to withdraw. And yet the applause itself, gushing from an otherwise apathetic world, is in itself amazing. Actually, it is all too typical of a postmodern age.
A half century ago, Britisher C.S. Lewis wrote, “We Britons should rejoice that we have contrived to reach much legal democracy without losing our ceremonial Monarchy. . . Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”1
Just as the Christians in Ephesus had to endure two hours of incessant truckle to an earlier Diana, we have been subjected to the same and not for far different reasons. An honest and frank look at Diana of the Ephesians would not only have exploded a lot of selfish philosophy, it just plain would have cost too much! Never mind that Diana of the Britons was on the one hand a princess and on the other an adulteress; on the one hand a Brit and on the other ready to marry a Muslim; on the one hand a mother and on the other hand absent; with the one hand holding a starving baby and with the other a Hotel Ritz wine glass. The amazing thing to observe is how the world not only accepts the apparent contradiction but lauds it rather than the death of more consistent servants.
We no longer fight modernism as a society nor as Christians. The generation before us is a postmodern generation, disliking modernism in society as much as the Christian disliked it in theology. If Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher represented the rugged individualism of a modern era, Bill Clinton and Princess Diana represent the “group think” (to use Orwell’s term) of a postmodern era. At least with our liberal friends we could reason on the basis of truth and lie, history and make-believe, manners and profanity. But there is no truth, no deportment, no morality to a postmodern. To him, there is absolutely no contradiction between being an adulterer and being a humanitarian. In fact, to criticize is far worse because the accuser has arrogantly imposed his out-dated morality on someone else and has injured the accused by implying he is inferior in knowledge. In this system the only absolute is that there are no absolutes.
Ironically, the more one would criticize Diana for her moral inconsistencies, the more he would become guilty himself and deify Diana. Gene Veith, Jr. writes, that to a postmodernist, “Such concepts as moral responsibility and individual freedom are thus also illusions, shaped by our Western bourgeois culture.”2 For example, in education we now have “facilitators” who help us find our truth rather than “educators” who tell us truth; in philosophy we do not speak of “morals” which would be black and white but rather of “values” which can change from person to person.
The postmodern person lives in virtual reality (a world in which we live without blame or responsibility). Douglas Groothuis notes, “In the decentered self of assumed, online identities, the artificial is offered as the only option for the postmodern soul. There is no ‘real me,’ no trustworthy pattern for moral and spiritual improvement. All is negotiable, exchangeable, and multiple. Integrity becomes impossible; the ideal of virtuous character recedes even as the heart yearns for a self to call its own.”3 To live a double life becomes a mere, hollow anachronism.
A look at the ancient Diana of the Ephesians brings startling comparisons. The Greeks knew Diana as Artemis, while Diana was a Roman name. She was armed with bow and arrow and yet as a virgin goddess was the protector of young girls. Unger, however, says that Diana “of the Ephesians” was actually an Asiatic goddess who was a counter-part to the Phoenician Ashtoreth.4 She was the “image which fell down from Jupiter” (Ac 19:35). She had the image of the Greek Diana but the private life of Ashtoreth. She had the image of being a helper of the poor, but “brought no small gain unto the craftsmen” (Ac 19:24). She had the image of being a Greek, but sold her soul to the Asian Mother-Son worship. Diana of the Ephesians was not the classical Greek goddess, but the new era goddess for Ephesians of the age.
I contend that Diana of the Britons was not the Princess of modernism, but the princess of postmodernism. She was a walking contradiction to the manners of an older age and yet she was the champion and hero of the newer age, an age that has long ago eliminated the possibility of being contradictory. The postmodern age loves what was once considered hypocritical. It has found a way to feed the flesh, the pocket-book and the ego; to have its cake and eat it too.
Albert Mohler has written, “Postmodernism is, in reality, modernity in its updated costume, a hypermodernity made all the more seductive by its sophisticated dress.”5 The danger lies in the beauty and charisma of a Diana as opposed to the stodginess of the Monarchy. The world will always stand and cheer for a person like that.
Notes: 1. C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986) 20. 2. Gene Veith, Jr., Postmodern Times (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994) 76. 3. Douglas Groothuis, The Soul In Cyber-Space (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997) 75. 4. Merrill Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary,”Gods, False” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966) 415. 5. Albert Mohler, “Evangelical, What’s In A Name?” The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996) 39.