Modernism and Postmodernism

Soon I will be posting a lengthy article about postmodernism. For now, let me say this. Both modernism and postmodernism have provided tremendous unique opportunities and, taken to an extreme, significant problems. Secular modernism announced the death of God and the superiority of human reason. Christian moderns tend to be fundamentalist in their beliefs, relying on human reason through evidence and argumentation to refute theological error. This was and is a reaction to the blatant theological attacks on the Bible and God. Also, this is true of modernist liberals and conservatives for different reasons.

Postmodernism ushered in a greater degree of tolerance,  for good or for bad. This is nothing new historically. Consider the Greeks and their pantheon of gods. Also, postmodernism, taken to an extreme, diverts to nihilism and despair. However, there are helpful aspects which paint parts of postmodernity. Reacting against the anti-phenomenology of moderns (consider denominations which argue against charismatic giftings of 1 Corinthians and state that the gifts ceased with the death of the apostles), postmoderns are open to anything spiritual. They are willing to consider the gospel, but not in the confrontive way most Christians in fundamentalist groups have been taught to wield. Emergent folks get a bad rap for not proclaiming the gospel. Yet people come to faith daily through their ministries. Why is that? Maybe it is because many of them live the gospel and over time the lost meet Jesus. Yet their modernist counterparts have a valid point. How will people know the gospel unless they are told? Still, arguing with postmoderns is not helpful. Conversing with them as friends is a better course to take.

Modern, postmodern and premodern worldviews co-exist in the West today. I believe there will come a day when all three exist in a state of growing irrelevance. Just as postmodernism has faded in importance in the UK for the last fifteen years, so also will it fade in the USA. Futurists and publishers would be wise to consider the possibility of an event horizon we cannot yet see, one which strips away unnecessary labels denoting tertiary theological differences, and causes believers to love one another and their enemies despite those differences.

Also, it is important to realize that painting all of postmodernism as evil is inaccurate and uncharitable. Nor is it helpful to ascribe only positive attributes to modernism without acknowledging its pitfalls. The sins of the moderns, to a great degree, unleashed the rise of the postmodern response. Both worldviews have serious risks and present wonderful opportunities. One is not inherently better than the other. They both represent the fallen efforts of humans to make sense of a troubling world.


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