In my last post I brought up what many feel is the spirit of our age…Postmodernism. In my book, Fatal Drift…Is the Church Losing its Anchor? I cited the following definition of Postmodernism:
What does postmodern mean anyway? I came across this insightful description of the term.
A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.
For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.
In order to contend for the faith once for all delivered (another translation uses the word ‘entrusted’) we would do well to understand what we’re up against. That Postmodernism requires some serious inquiry is putting it lightly. Whole curricula in seminaries have reflected the sea change occurring in both academia and in the parish. One presupposition that has gained traction goes something like this. Post Moderns are different. It just won’t do anymore to approach them with propositional truth or moral absolutes.
I was stunned when the current Pope answered a question about homosexuality with this ambiguous remark. “Who am I to judge?” Mind you there is still a dogma in the Catholic faith that says that the Pope is infallible on matters of doctrine when he is seated on the throne (Chair) of St Peter (Ex cathedra) Who are you to judge? The head of over a billion Catholics looking for answers.
Let’s go back to our definition of Postmodernism.
Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.
Reality is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.
Is there such a thing as the ’law’ of gravity?’ What if I say “no”? What if I want to start Postmodern Airlines? We’ll do some focus groups to find out how to fly. We’ll hold a few town halls to decide on a design. We’ll get out the duct tape and bailing wire, and perhaps some chewing gum. My personal reality demands that I be the pilot. After all I am one of the smartest people in the room in that I have ‘conversations’ rather than insistence on absolutes.
My experience with a balsa wood toy plane when I was five ‘felt good.’ Any takers for seats on the maiden flight? What? You say that won’t fly? My mind in ‘trying to understand the reality’ of flight has led me to believe that my Postmodern design will succeed.
You mean to say that you have your own ideas on how flight works? Well then—Who is to say what is the right way? Who decides?
One of the founders of Postmodernism, Francois Lyotard, was a revolutionary who almost brought down the French government during a general strike. Anarchists are fond of pointing out that they have no restraints. I had to laugh when I saw the Anarchists Convention announced in Oregon a few years ago. I asked myself, ‘Who sets the agenda?’
No, Postmodernism for all its claims to individual autonomy has a whole set of agreed upon constructs. If you don’t think that’s true, just speak up against some of its theological conclusions and watch the fur fly. They will and do treat their own presuppositions as universally true.
One of my favorite professors in seminary, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, once quipped “A universe in which Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism could both be universally true would be a madhouse.” Is there one truth that is absolute? Is there one way to salvation? Is there a reliable book from God that tells us the answers?
It’s worth the uncomfortable work of seeking an answer to these important questions. The answers will not be the result of ‘group think’ or subjective surmising. They will be found in God’s Word