THE CHALLENGE OF POST-MODERNISM TO THE GOSPEL
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
God’s word through Jeremiah reminds us that it is the ceaseless desire of the heart to make sense of the world, but that the human heart is in rebellion against God. We construct false religions (Hindu monism/polytheism, Islam, New Age, etc.) and philosophies (deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, monism) to try to make sense of the world. Post-modernism is the most recent, but is not widely understood.
WHAT IS POST-MODERNISM?
The modern assumptions were that progress is inevitable and that truth can be determined by rational thought. Modernism is post-Christian, because we believe that history is headed to the return of Christ and that truth is determined by the revelation of God.
Post-modernism (PM) rejects both the ideas of progress and rationality.
PM is pessimistic about the future and tends to see ecological problems as the number one failure of modernism, and forecasts a major ecological disaster in the undetermined future.
PM rejects the idea of a coherent worldview—even the bleak coherence of nihilism.
PM does not so much reject the Christian idea of God and the Christian-theist worldview as much as it denies that any worldview (often called a “metanarrative” in PM) is more than a story. Real truth is forever beyond our grasp. All we can do is “tell stories.”
The purpose of the stories we tell is to play for power. (This is the Marxist hint within PM, but PM rejects Marxism as just another story.)
q Human beings make themselves who they are by their languages and stories. (This is the existentialist hint within PM: “Existence precedes essence.”)
q “Good” in PM is that which “pleases” our story. If you follow a Christian story, then good is Christian morality. If you follow a hedonistic story, then pleasure is your highest good. There is no such thing as universal good and evil.
POST-MODERNISM AND HIGHER EDUCATION
PM has come to power in many universities. Here are some of the areas of impact:
Literary theory, not philosophy, is the main home of PM, with its emphasis on “story.”
History is no longer viewed by PM scholars as a search for fixed truth but a reflection on the past from the vantage of the present “story.”
Science has not been significantly affected by PM. (The Lingua Franca hoax was an effort by a scientist to show the absurdity of PM.)
EXAMPLES OF POST-MODERNISM IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
The movie “XXX”
Seinfeld, the “show about nothing” (no “metanarrative”)
Leftist attitudes about the war on terrorism and disdain for Pres. Bush’s use of the term “evil ones”
Irrationality in reasoning: the ability to believe in A and non-A as “true for you” at the same time
Return to the “supernatural” without a worldview to explain it (e.g., the works of Anne Rice)
PM is right to target modernism/naturalism’s attempt to fashion a worldview without God.
But PM (like existentialism) is largely a variant of nihilism: the philosophy that says that life has no meaning because we are part of an indifferent creation (no God).
Despite PM’s claim, to reject all worldviews is a worldview, and PM’s worldview is essentially nihilistic.
PM also agrees with modernism on (1) atheism, (2) human autonomy. It just isn’t as arrogant as modernism.
THE GOSPEL TO THE POST-MODERN
The beginning points are the failures of modernism.
The Christian “story” can be present as story first, then truth.
Genesis 1:1, Exodus 3:14, Proverbs 1:7 and John 1:1-2, 14 are the beginning points in Christian truth that counters all false philosophies.
To the modern, we share the gospel and truth that also produces a profound experience; to the post-modern, we have to share the gospel as a profound experience that they then grasp as truth.