Summary of Truth and Worldviews
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
POSTMODERN, MODERN, AND CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEWS
Description: One of the few things that can be said with certainty about postmodernism is that there seems to be varied opinions as to what it is and isn’t. Keeping this in mind, it should also be noted that not all postmodernists share the same beliefs, just as individual modernists and Christians may have differing opinions within their worldviews. The main point to be made about postmodern philosophy is that it is a dangerous philosophy, as will be shown.
There are several ways to examine postmodernism. One way is in relation to modernism. Simply put, postmodernism is the idea that the historical period thought of as “modern” has passed. Some would say that postmodernism is actually a reaction against modernism, just as modernism was a reaction against the Victorian and traditional forms (especially artistic forms) of the early 1900s. University of Colorado English professor Dr. Mary Klages tells us “postmodernism is, in general, whatever resists or destabilizes the Enlightenment mode of thought, knowledge, or action.” On the other hand, it could be said that rather than being a reaction, postmodernism is an extension of modernism, or the next step in modernism. To confuse matters further, there are those, such as author Tom Turner, who would say that postmodernism has ended and that we have now entered a post-postmodern era.
Opinions as to the purported start of modernism vary, but Mary Klages picks the mid-eighteenth century (which coincides with Enlightenment thinking), or even earlier with the Renaissance. Not surprisingly then, postmodernism is considered “counter-Enlightenment” according to essayist Isaiah Berlin and others.
It’s helpful to realize that postmodernism and modernism refer more to artistic forms (art, music, poetry, architecture), while purists use the terms postmodernity and modernity to refer to societies, philosophy, governments, etc. In an effort to avoid confusion, I will use the terms postmodernism and modernism exclusively, despite their impreciseness.
I believe a sensible approach to understanding postmodernism’s significance (notice I didn’t say “understanding it”) is to examine it in light of other worldviews, especially the Christian worldview. In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell quotes Gene Veith: “Postmodernism is a worldview that denies all worldviews”. Given this, it is important to recognize that it is in opposition to Christian and Western belief systems.
When examining other worldviews in the context of time, we see that the Christian worldview started losing its dominance around the advent of modernism, which also coincided with the growth of humanism. Postmodernism then reared its head somewhere between 1960-1990, eroding the dominance of Christianity further. This period was a time of greater social freedom, along with liberation from traditional roles; however, this widespread, rapid social change threw Western and European societies into a whirlpool of social experimentation that is clearly still unraveling the fabric of these societies.
Unfortunately, there are those who embrace the unraveling, not noticing, or perhaps choosing not to notice, the widening holes in the fabric. These are the social experimenters who can’t or won’t see the detrimental effects of their actions on real people. Those who believe the postmodern promises of liberation from everything (from boredom to hell), seem to suffer from an empty, rather disconnected malaise – something is missing. A certain degree of freedom is good, but there is a point where freedom becomes narcissistic and isolating. Could it be that when too many ties are cut, we find ourselves adrift, lonely, and self-absorbed? As singer, Janis Joplin observed in the song “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Truth: When comparing worldviews, we see that the Christian worldview derives truth from God’s revelation – in fact; there are over 200 references to truth in the Bible. As will be seen, all aspects of the Christian worldview relate to God. Modernism’s worldview on the other hand derives truth from science, reason and logic. Although the source of truth appears to be different for Christianity and modernism, it must be noted that Christianity also uses logic and reason to obtain truth. The Bible reveals God’s truth, but it is revealed in a logical and reasonable fashion. For example, we believe that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be not only because God‘s inspired word tells us this, but also because of the overwhelming validation of manuscript, archeological, prophetic, and statistical evidence. Postmodernism, on the other hand, links truth to subjective experience and maintains that truth does not objectively exist.
The biggest problem with the postmodern view of truth is the belief that it is “relative“, or changing; not fixed. This assertion is illogical: If the postmodernist insists that we can’t know truth, then how can we know that what postmodernism teaches is true? To embrace the idea that truth is relative is a schizophrenic viewpoint. If an individual can’t perceive truth (reality), it’s impossible to function perceptually and morally even within the immediate environment. Likewise, a society or nation that can’t perceive truth will find it impossible to function properly.
The relativist postmodern position is closely related to the concept of cultural relativism, or the belief that when it comes to right and wrong, there are no absolutes. Furthermore, disagreement with the postmodern viewpoint on any topic, but especially morality, may be viewed as intolerance, despite convincing evidence to the contrary.
According to postmodern thought, the dominant, majority culture of the time decides what is “good” or “bad”, which renders these concepts relative. This rejection of absolute truth, with a preference for subjective experience over objective observation is an extension of existentialist thought as taught by philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzche. The obvious problem with the majority morality of cultural relativism is that the majority can be fickle, rejecting tomorrow what was embraced today. For examples, think of slavery, abortion, and Hitler’s Nazism.
The remaining problems with postmodernism are related to its distortion of truth. Since the postmodern concept of truth is that it can’t be known, then what passes for truth in this conceptual framework is distorted. The related components of this worldview are equally warped, as will be seen.
Summary of Truth and Worldviews
- Related to God and His revelation
- Absolute and universal
- Related to science, reason, and logic
- Can be discovered by human reasoning
- Can’t be known
Humanity: The concept of humanity or humanness is also different in the three worldviews: Christianity views humanity as worldly (physical, tempted by sin) and spiritual (in relationship to God). Modernism denies the spiritual component of humanity, exalts the rational aspect, and sees humans as masters of their own fate and that of the world. Additionally, the view that we are a superior type of animal, rather than distinct from animals, tends to diminish the sense of worth with which humanity regards itself. Disturbingly, postmodernism descends even further, viewing human beings as “subjects” who offer nothing unique, being mere products of their environment.
Summary of Humanness and Worldviews
- Spiritual beings
- Physical beings
- Made by God in His image
- Marred by sin
- Redeemed by God’s grace
- Physical beings
- Rational beings
- Not spiritual beings
- Self-determinate through science
- We are evolving, sophisticated animals
- People are “subjects” – loss of individuality
- Humans are a dominant species
- Products of culture and environment
The Universe: In regards to the Earth, the Christian view is again God-centered, while modernism’s view is man/science-centered. Postmodernism’s view has become self-centered (experiential) and Earth-centered. At first glance, postmodernism’s mission to preserve the Earth seems commendable, but again, there are disturbing qualities to the postmodern view: Mother Earth is seen by many as a living organism that actually has a name (Gaia); so we have a universe where planet Earth is elevated to the status of a living being, while people are dehumanized as “subjects“. If dehumanization doesn’t seem alarming to you, keep in mind that it is a necessary step in the continuum that justifies killing. Dehumanization is used when training soldiers for war; prior to genocide; as an excuse to euthanize the imperfect; and before abortions are performed.
The belief that our planet is alive reinforces New Age, pantheistic, and animist beliefs even among educated populations. As an example, in the U.K., there is now what is called the “New Age traveler“, which, according to Encarta Dictionary, is someone “who belongs to the New Age cultural movement and lives a nomadic life, traveling the country, often as a member of a group, to gather at places believed to be spiritually significant.” Again, it should be noted that not all postmodernists share exactly the same beliefs.
Summary of the Earth and Worldviews
- Created and controlled by God
- Humans to subdue and care for the Earth
- Can understand and conquer through science
- We are destroying Mother Earth
- Must cooperate with her to survive
- Experienced subjectively
The three worldviews about the Universe are similar to those about the Earth. Again, we see a postmodern reluctance to comprehend the reality of the universe. Perhaps this reluctance is directly related to the rejection of objective reality – if truth can’t be known, and morality and God don’t exist, there’s really no process or reason to understand anything.
Summary of the Universe and Worldviews
- Created and controlled by God
- Testament to His glory
- Must understand and explore through science
The universe can never be truly understood