So What Is Postmodernism?Posted: July 23, 2012
Postmodernism is not an easily contained idea, and there is no sufficient single definition for it (postmodernists would approve of that). But we have to start somewhere. I’ll do my best to describe a postmodern worldview in the next two paragraphs. And just a heads up, our culture is saturated by what I’m about to describe – even in the Bible belt.
Postmodernism’s central belief is that there is no absolute truth – that is, there are no everlasting, abiding facts that are true for all people at all times. A postmodernist doesn’t care about what is actually true, because there is no truth to be discovered; there is only “truth” to be created. Life is more about what you think it means than what it actually means. It’s all about an individual’s interpretation of an object, event, or text. An object, event, or text (or whatever) carries no significance except what a person gives it by interpretation. It doesn’t matter what life means, it’s more about what the individual thinks it means. It doesn’t matter what a text says, it’s more about what the individual thinks it says. There is no independent, trustworthy and truthful meaning to anything - the meaning is relative to whoever is doing the interpreting or experiencing. There is no universal truth; each individual makes up their own “truth” and constructs their own reality. Everything is relative. What your own personal “truth” is depends on what your circumstances are and what you decide upon. (If this sounds similar to the existentialism of the 60s, you’re right on. There is nothing new under the sun, only endless re-packagings.)
In this line of thinking, even morality is considered to be relative – a cultural development that is different for everyone, having evolved over time. A postmodern view of morality is that there is no such thing as universal, absolute right and wrong – just things that are considered to be right and wrong by our evolved moral conscience. Therefore, each individual culture (and even each individual person) constructs their own morality according to their preferences. What is right and wrong simply depends on what you want. It’s all relative, and it’s all about the individual (…To say that I’m opposed to this worldview is like saying Michael Jordan has held a basketball once before).
Therefore to a postmodernist, for anyone to claim that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong is viewed as trying to govern someone else’s life. Trying to stop diversity. Trying to elevate your worldview over everyone else’s. Trying to make everyone like you, and hating anyone who isn’t. Saying your way is better.
That is why postmodernism (and a postmodern worldview is the default worldview, I assure you) hates Christianity. Christianity claims that there is absolute truth – established by God himself. There is absolute right and wrong, written on the hearts of all people and evidenced in their general behavior (Romans 2:15). Jesus did not say that he is a truth; he said that he is the truth (John 14:6). Claims to supremacy like the ones Jesus made drive a postmodernist insane. They cannot fathom that there is a Name above all other names. You see, with the postmodern relativist movement, tolerance has moved from believing that all people are created equal to believing that all ideas are created equal. Thinking your ideas, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. are correct and others’ are not is considered bigotry. As postmodernists would have it, it is necessary not only to believe that all people are created equal, but you must also believe others’ ideas to be equal to your own (never mind that they are often mutually exclusive). To say that you have correct knowledge is to, in effect, say that people who disagree with you do not, which is unallowable in this way of thinking. Claiming that the Bible contains absolute truth and authority over all people is unthinkable. In a postmodern worldview, tolerance/diversity is God. In a Christian worldview, God is God.
All that being said, let’s be clear. Tolerance and diversity are blessings directly from God. They should be celebrated! The fact that we are different from one another in skin color, language, and many other ways displays the creativity of God. While the paragraphs above are pretty severe toward postmodern thinking, they are meant only to equip Western-hemisphere Christians to spot the slippery subject that they are swimming in daily (postmodernism, of course). None of this knowledge should spark arrogance. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Christians are directed to love non-Christians just as God himself does – with equal intensity for all.
So why go on offense against postmodernism in the first place? Ah, here’s that distinction again – there is a difference between people and ideas. I don’t love postmodernISM, in fact I hate it. I think that it is deceitful and a humanistic, arrogant ideal. But postmodernISTS, on the other hand, I do love because they are people who are loved by God. An ‘ism’ is an idea which one can either ally himself with or set himself against; an ‘ist’ is a person, a priceless creation of God for whom he sent his Son to die (John 3:16).
The fact remains: it is of the utmost importance that the church set itself against empty ideas/false teachings (2 Peter 2:1). But never should it ever set itself against people. The church is not anti-gay, anti-postmodernist, anti-alcoholic, anti-drug addict, or anything of the sort. The church of Jesus Christ is not anti-anybody. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, after all (Matthew 9:12).
If you are a Christian, love people who have a different worldview than you, even as you seek to portray that Christ is the absolute truth of the universe. Oppose ideas without opposing people. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Disagree without being disagreeable, and hold to building on a firm foundation (Matthew 7:25). If you are a postmodernist (and maybe you didn’t realize you were), then without the slightest hint of condescension I tell you that I hope you see the emptiness and self-centeredness of trying to create or interpret your own personal reality. Deep down, there is a longing for truth – real, concrete truth. The good news is that it exists in a person – King Jesus, who loves you and is patient with both you and I. And when we know him, we will know the truth…
…and the truth shall set us free (John 8:32).