Postmodernism is a relativistic system of observation and thought that denies absolutes and objectivity. While no consensus exists on a precise definition, postmodernism nevertheless signals a dissatisfaction with one or more aspects of modernity. Its origins are found in the philosophies of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marx and Freud. On some points, particularly its attitude to truth, it is similar to New Age thinking.

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Terminology

There are various terms used to describe this cultural phenomenon, and they each have technical and more popular definitions.

Postmodern Era

The Postmodern Era refers to this modern context that we find ourselves in. Regardless of whether one is a postmodernist, one does live in the time period of postmodernism and is affected by it on every level whether they give into its demands or not. Everyone living in the twenty-first century is living in the Postmodern Era.

In a general sense, "this new era has been characterised by a rejection of absolute truths and grand narratives explaining the progressive evolution of society. At the same time it has brought to the surface a multitude of different perspectives on society and an appreciation of different cultures. It has highlighted globalisation on the one hand and localisation on the other, the celebration of difference and the search for commonality."^[1]^

Postmodernism

  • "Postmodernism is post because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characterisitic of the so-called modern mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning." [1]
  • A movement undertaken by those who seek various means of escape from the classic criticisms of modernism.
  • A reaction against modernism.

Postmodernity

Although there is a technical difference between Postmodernity and Postmodernism, they are often used interchangeably.

Reactions to the Postmodern Era

Evangelical reactions

There seem to be two extremes as far as evangelical reactions to the Postmodern Era. One is full or significant embracing of it as we see in the Emerging Church, and another is full rejection of it in a desire to bring back the glory days of a previous era.

The Emerging Church

The Emerging Church movement seeks to revitalize the Christian church beyond what it sees as the confines of modernity, so that it can effectively engage people in a postmodern age. Critics allege, however, that this movement's relativizing of faith has led many of its adherents outside of the bounds of orthodoxy. Brian McLaren is a prominent author and spokesperson for this movement.

A Desire to Return to the Premodern or Modern Eras

Some that grew up in the Premodern or Modern Eras may see the limitations of the Postmodern Era and feel a desire to go back to that way of thinking. The only problem with this is that each era has problems of its own, and in the Modern Era is when communism and Marxism arose. The goal should not simply be to return to particular ism, but to return to a Biblical worldview.

Other reactions

Criticisms

"Faced with such opposition and the pressure it brings, postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism that, at the end of the day, recommends backgammon while the barbarians are at the gate. It is the easy, cowardly way out that removes the pressure to engage alternative conceptual schemes, to be different, to risk ridicule, to take a stand outside the gate. But it is precisely as disciples of Christ, even more, as officers in his army, that the pacifist way out is simply not an option. However comforting it may be, postmodernism is the cure that kills the patient, the military strategy that concedes defeat before the first shot is fired, the ideology that undermines its own claim to allegiance. And it is an immoral, coward's way out that is not worthy of a movement born out of the martyrs' blood," (J.P. Moreland, "Truth, Contemporary Philosophy and the Postmodern Turn", p. 88, JETS, March 2005, 48:1)

Notes

  1. ? Post-modernism and post-modernity, by Barry Burke.

Resources

  • Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay, Defending Christianity against the Challenges of Postmodernism, IVP, 2000.
  • Kevin Vanhoozer, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism. Cambridge, 2003. ISBN 0521793955
  • John Piper and Justin Taylor, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Crossway, 2007. ISBN 158134922X
  • Millard Erickson, editor, Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times. Good News Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1581345682
  • Millard Erickson, The Postmodern World. Good News Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1581343426
  • Millard Erickson, Truth or Consequences: The Promise & Perils of Postmodernism. IVP, 2001. ISBN 0830826572
  • John D. Hannah, Charts of Modern and Postmodern Church History, Zondervan; Book & CD-Rom edition, 2004. ISBN 0310235308

See also

External links