Postmodernism

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This examines the postmodern worldview from a Christian perspective. This is the twentieth presentation in the Christian Mind series.

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Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Postmodernism Adapted from James Sire’s The Universe Next Door.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Joke: Three Umpires are discussing which is better at his job... The first one says, “I call it like I see it.” The second, wanting to outdo his friend, says, “I call it like it really was.” The third, full of arrogance, growls, “It ain’t nothing until I call it.”

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Definition and Background Pre-modern, Modern and Postmodern Pre-modern was an understanding that who we are is based on God. This thought prevailed, really until the 1600’s when Descarte showed up, along with the prominence of rationale thought.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind In pre-modernism, the theme was being. Our doing and knowing flowed from our being, which we understood to be the same as our character. We understood everything from a theistic viewpoint. Descarte

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind In modern times, everything was based on knowing, not so much being. Information became king, and with the invention of the printing press, public education, etc., knowledge was everything.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Which led to the information age—at the very end of the modern era. There comes a point when a person can have access to all the information they could ever want. Mystery gave way to certainty, but then quickly gave way to importance.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Social Theory In pre-modern times, a “just” society was longed for, one that was based on the revelation of a just God. The people understood humanity’s depravity quite well, and were happy to submit to a law governed by a medieval monarchy.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind The modern era tries to use universal reason to shape the justice system. Then came the enlightenment, entering into modernity, and with it came universal democracy. Post-modernism asserts that there is no universal standard for justice at all.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Then to postmodernity and self-defining privilege of individuals and communities. This is a recipe for anarchy. The pre-modern Christian had too strong a view of human depravity, and the postmodern has too dim a view of universal truth.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Our Thought Life In the pre-modern era, all our thoughts were subject to God. Even the order of the worldview questions presupposes that you determine the most important thing first, and everything else flows from that. For pre-moderns, that was dictated by revelation of God.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind But in the modern era, we didn’t start with God, we started with ourselves. The modern era philosophy really came with Descarte , who said he wanted to be very certain that what he thought he knew was actually true. He asked himself, “what can I doubt?”

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind As it turns out, he realized, he could doubt everything except that he was doubting. Since doubting is a form of thought, he concluded, “I think, therefore I am.”

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind In the postmodern era, we toss truth out. We see relativism, or pluralism take root, and at least make truth undependable and shaky, if not altogether dismissible.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Worship Pre-modern Most songs were set to familiar tunes, so that the uneducated could memorize them, and therefore memorize Scripture and theology. Remember that most could not read, and were dependent on clergy to read, digest and instruct the masses.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind The church held a lot of authority, and at that time controlled social justice causes (penance to the poor, orphanages, etc), and civil rights (marriage, death, etc.). Unfortunately, that authority was subject to corruption. Most of the services were focused on helping people respond to truth.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Modern Most people could read, and singing was no longer required for learning theology. Most had a Bible of their own and could discover God’s truth for themselves. This led to denominationalism, since interpretation was subject to the whims of opinion. Most of the services were focused on helping people discover and hold on to truths.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Postmodern Most people got tired of the arguments that the church was having, and decided that there is no such thing as universal truth. Religious tolerance was permeating and distinctions were being lost. Most of the services were focusing on helping people have an experience which could be interpreted as truth.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Worldview Diagnostic Questions Why is it possible to know anything at all? The truth about the reality itself is forever hidden from us. All we can do is tell stories. Language is becoming much more ego-centric.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind We see this is the change in Christian music in the past 20 years. Think of the old hymns that declare God’s majesty, and perhaps at the end there might be a stanza about our intent to live a certain way. When Bill Gaither finally showed up, we started to see our lyrics change to include more response, and finally what we have now as mostly response, and hardly any theology.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind We also now in post modern times feel it is necessary to lie by obligation, as a fixed social custom, “How are you?” always requires the response, “fine” or “good.” Most of our language has become obligatory metaphors, and the socially elite know how to weave them into compelling stories that are “me centered,” that may even claim much, but are merely metaphors for what we would like to do or be.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind No one takes it seriously. “How’s life?” Have you ever had someone not say, “busy”? Doing what? “Nothing.”

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Language is very important, because it conveys truth, but, the only truth that has any value is pragmatic truth, not any other kind. Take this and consider why pastors (who speak God’s words) are looked at less with dignity than they were 25 years ago. Their words of a promise of heaven and a better life are merely words; ones they are obligated to say which voids them of meaning.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Every sermon is merely a social convention, holding the same value as “I’m fine.” Nobody is obligated to take it seriously. This is where relativism creeps in: story is all we have, but one story is as good as another. Every story is equally true, and their meaning is as important as the next one.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind What does it mean to be human? Stories give communities their cohesive character. If I can tell a compelling story that makes you feel or act a certain way, this story has meaning for you. If we have a whole community believing the same basic thing, we can have a community that is bonded together.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind This is called a metanarrative . Literally, “the story beyond our own”. It means I can find meaning as a member of the community when I can place my story in the communities story.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Why is it possible to know anything at all? What is the basis for morality? All narratives mask a play for power. Any one narrative used as a metanarrative is oppressive. Complete distrust for anyone telling them how to fit the whole thing together.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind After all, when people believed in absolute truth, horrible events occurred. When we hold truth strongly, we are caused to do stupid things, genocide, crusades, two world wars, ecological destruction, etc. Therefore, absolute truth is to be avoided, and is probably evil.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind It used to be that knowledge was power. This is a modern notion. Now there is no objective knowledge, only story, and the good story-teller has more power than anyone else.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind What does it mean to be human? There is no substantial self. Human beings make themselves who they are by the language they use to describe themselves. If you doubt this, you don’t understand facebook , twitter or anything else you can do in non-reality.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind All those things are is words we use to describe what we want others to know about ourselves. If people perceive me a certain way, then I am that way.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind The four views of self- Objective view - who I really am. Subjective view - how I view me. Social self - how others view me. Ideal self - who I’d like to be.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind What is the basis for morality? Ethics, like knowledge, is a linguistic construct. Social good is whatever it takes it to be.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind What is the meaning of human history? What response does this worldview invoke? Postmodernism is in flux, as is postmodern’s view on the significance of human history, including its own history. This means that the core commitments are in flux as well.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind Postmoderns are committed to an endless, shifting stream of “Whatever” Deconstructionism is all about making the story less “black and white,” less “either/or.” It is trying to make everything more shades of grey.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind This is especially true in literary works. It is an assertion that the people who wrote in yes/no, black/white terms didn’t really understand the content. They forced a hierarchy, which is almost never necessary, and almost always violent.

Christian Mind:

Christian Mind But when a thing is fully understood, seemingly opposing ideas will be found to be comfortably co-existent, in a give and take “sometimes.”

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