Because of another book I’ve been reading, I’ve done more investigation on post-modernism. The book, Postmodernism 101 by Heath White, is a really good introduction to the concepts and thoughts flowing around out there today. If most of what you’ve heard is the traditional arguments against postmodernism, I’d suggest you read it to get a better understanding of the mindset. I don’t agree with all the concepts, but some of it does have merit in today’s world.

It’s funny, I think we all have various aspects of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern thinking. Sort of a buffet approach to the concepts and thoughts that fit your mental assessment of who you are, society at large, other people, and how things work. While I was raised in more of the modern era and thinking, I found that most of my religious thoughts are probably more pre-modern than anything. I own a systematic theology and other research tools, but I do not think that pure thought and reason can bring me closer to God. One of my favorite phrases that I use when people are struggling to understand God is, “If we could understand God, we would be Him.” An ant can anymore understand us than we can understand God, and He is infinitely higher than us than we are higher than the ant. His Spirit will reveal Himself to me when and how He wants. Pure logic just won’t cut it. That’s not to say that the Holy Spirit won’t reveal some of who God is by researching, but it’s a “spiritual” approach also. He works with us where we are, not by formula.

One of the chapters I enjoyed the most was on language and thought, and how the postmodern mind looks at these concepts differently, even playfully, where the modern mind considered the precise use of a phrase or word. We all have frames of reference through which we view the world, and language is one of them. A metaphor I might use would seem totally out of place to someone else. There is no right or wrong metaphor. And the more you have interacted with people of different cultures or countries, the more you realize that.

In my opinion, one of the frictions in the modern/postmodern debate is how each culture views themselves as being right, especially if you’re old enough to remember 8-track tape players, 45’s, and rabbit ears on TV’s. But for the younger crowd, they have grown up in a world immersed in different cultures and new technologies. For them, their home culture may not be viewed as always being right. Witness the explosion of Starbucks in China, a country “steeped” in tea. Because of that, language, morals, authority, all might be a mix of different aspects of different cultures. This “divorce” from your home culture has probably caused a lot of consternation in older folks…such as myself, and probably why I fought it without trying to understand it…at first.

There is a lot to postmodernism I don’t agree with, especially being a follower of Jesus. And there is a lot of postmodernism that I don’t think even adherents agree with. Afterall, if there truly was no moral authority or moral absolutes, why would Amnesty International exist? Why would the world have put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid. Isn’t a culture supposed to define their own morals? Why would PETA care if I kick my cat (which I down have one by the way, and I wouldn’t kick if I did have one) since the cat lives in my world and I’m allowed to build the morals in my own world. So the idea of no moral absolutes isn’t really the case, I think the real situation is they don’t want to have to admit that maybe they are on the wrong side of a moral debate. Maybe deep down they know that living a life wholly dedicated to self-pleasure isn’t fulfilling. And it is through our own actions, the involvement of Christians in the community, truly living out the life of Jesus, we can show them that true happiness does exist, and where the source of that true happiness comes from.

Need a good reason to study postmodernism? I think Francis Schaeffer said it best with this quote:

Every generation of Christians has this problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the changing existential situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the Christian faith effectively, therefore, we must know and understand the thought-forms of our own generation” (Schaeffer, 1968, pp. 11-12).

— White, Heath. (2006). Postmodernism 101. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

— Schaeffer, Francis A. (1968). Escape from Reason. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.