I’ve been thinking lately about postmodernism. Which is odd because I live in Tanzania — which has not been influenced greatly by this worldview. All the same, it’s been on my mind. And here is my poor attempt at defining postmodernity — which, by the way, I believe is an impossible task. How do you define something that denies to a large extent the ability to define things?
Postmodernism is a reaction to our modern worldview. Modernism claims that there exists an objective truth which can explain all reality. Postmodernity, then, denies the existence of a single truth which informs all other existence. It allows for each individual or group to possess different interpretations of reality, all of which can be true — or at least none of which possess any more truth than any other. So postmodernism is quite skeptical of any theory which claims to be absolute in its truth or in its ability to inform all areas of life. There is much value, then, placed on tolerance and inclusion; while certainty and conviction are frowned upon.
[Sidenote: It’s only fair that postmodernism allow room for its own conclusions to be questioned — as how can there exist an absolute claim that there can be no absolute claims?] But here’s the question that’s been on my mind, partly because it was asked recently by Charles Spurgeon:
Do we have to adopt postmodern thinking in order to minister to the postmodern mind?
I feel we should be careful not to compromise Biblical truth in attempts to reach the world around us. At the same time, though, if I understand the shift that is currently taking place, postmodernism is not something a society “chooses to adopt.” Rather it acts behind the scenes, shaping the way we actually view the world. And the shift will occur (to some extent) in western society as a whole — not only in a few who DESIRE to buy in, while others are simply able to avoid any postmodern tint to their own thinking.
No, postmodernism won’t be avoided any more than was modernism. Americans haven’t been actively deciding to glorify the individual, to value science and reason above spirituality, or to bow down to technology. There is not required a commitment or decision in order for this to be the case. Rather the commitment or decision required is that of rejecting the above worldview, or parts of it. Modernity has simply been the default in our world. And that default is now changing.
I’m not arguing that we should simply give in to the newest bully worldview on the block. Rather I’m suggesting that postmodernity is going to shape (to a large extent) the minds in (and the mind of) our culture. I wholeheartedly believe there exists a kingdom worldview outside of both modernism and postmodernism (or inside of both). And I pray that the Spirit can help it to infiltrate our minds.
I personally don’t like apologetics. I don’t like the fact that we believe we can prove with logic the existence of a God who exists above and outside that very logic. But that is what modernity has done in Christianity. However, as much as I personally dislike apologetics, I can’t claim it’s not a valid way for some to come to know Christ. Nor can I claim modernity hasn’t colored my own view of the world.
I assume anyone drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit is coming from within their own worldview and capacity for thought. So the church’s task is to find a way to appeal to a postmodern world, without compromising the truth of the gospel. But we mustn’t confuse truth with modernity’s claims on it.
I’m guessing this is going to require a great deal of humility and the ability to question a number of our own ideas — and allow them to be questioned by others. Ideas we once held as absolute truths, and possibly even used as a foundation for faith. We need to examine what modernity has done to Christianity, and allow for some of that to be undone. The answer is for Jesus Christ to stand as the foundation of our faith, and nothing else.
May we see our world through Jesus’ eyes. And may we have the very mind of Christ. Amen.