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Postmodern Children And 'In The Beginning'

February 05, 1989

I would like to respond to the Endpapers by Jack Miles on Barry Moser/Virginia Hamilton, "In the Beginning" (Book Review, Jan. 8) as well as to the article by William Pfaff cited by Miles (Times, Dec. 30). Despite differences, both writers appear to regard the current critical and philosophical "postmodernist" vogue as, a particularly pernicious relativism. In this light, Miles seems to wonder whether children of tender years ought to be exposed to such a shocking fact as that there are a number of different creation myths abroad in the world.

What postmodernism has tried to do is unmask those "moderns" who claimed a uniquely privileged position to survey and judge all such myths and values from the standpoint of reason, science, and "general truths" to which we today are especially privy. Aided by deconstructionism, postmodernism says that all language is metaphor and "mythical," that is, works out of a presupposed value-laden worldview.

Does this mean nothing but know-nothing relativism? Not at all. Postmodernism does not say traditional beliefs are right or wrong, or true on one level and not on others, only that we are human beings no different from those in other times and places who have affirmed them, that we are myth-makers and myth-thinkers like them.

The thing to do, then, is to discover (note I did not say choose ) your own myth and live it wisely. In this journey of discovery, it seems to me that a book like "In the Beginning"--and comparative mythology generally--can be nothing but a help.

ROBERT ELLWOOD

DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF RELIGION

USC, LOS ANGELES

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