I’ve had a few requests to write about something on here, so I thought I’d meet them. If you know me then you have probably heard me talk about post-modernism. If you go to Tyndale then you probably know that Darryl and I are running a small group on post-modernism. If you look at my bookshelf you will notice that all the books I’ve bought in the past year are related to post-modernism in some way. If you look at my web history you will notice a disturbing trend of resource websites for, yes, post-modernism. A lot of you look at me with puzzled faces when I mention post-modernism, and a lot of you play along real well like you’re an expert. Either way, this entry will be the beginning of a whole crap-load of entries on my thoughts about the whole idea or where I think I stand on it.
So let’s begin shall we. Many of you have probably heard of modernism. Modernism is the state that the world has been for about the last 500 years. Yes, a long time. Modernism doesn’t represent the church, or the secular world; it represents the world as a whole. Think about the things that define modernism, think about the last 500 years. The following 8 definitions are ones that I took out of Bryan McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian” with a little bit of my comments involved.
1. Modernism was all about conquest and control. Columbus in 1492. Conquest of the entire world by Western European philosophy, Western European culture, Western European languages, Western European economies and Western European religions, Western European technology. Nature was conquered, natives were conquered, especially those of colour and so many problems (like diseases) were conquered. And of course, once you’ve conquered something, you have to keep it conquered which means you need to control it. Hence, the world wars we’ve seen over even the last hundred years and everyone’s desire for control.
2. Age of machine. Obviously, no need for explanation.
3. Age of analysis. By taking wholes or effects apart into smaller and smaller parts or causes, each of which becomes understandable, analysis renders the universe both knowable and controllable. We see lots of forms of thought-imagination, intuition, pattern recognition, systems thinking and so on.
4. Age of secular science.
5. Age aspiring to absolute objectivity, which we believed, would yield absolute certainty and knowledge. What was unknown was still knowable. Also assumed was the highest faith in human reason to replace all mysteries with comprehension, superstition with fact, ignorance with information, and subjective religious faith with objective truth. As a result narrative, poetry and the arts in general took a back seat. They were brought along for their entertainment value not as serious colleagues in the search for truth.
6. It was a critical age. If you believe that you absolutely, objectively know the absolute, objective truth, and you know this with absolute certainty, the of course you must debunk anyone who sees differently from you. In an age of conquest, of your ideas didn’t win, they lose. So the modern age was an age of debate, dialectic, argument and discussion. A phrase that came out of this time was the “nothing but phrase.” No room for wrong thoughts, only right ones.
7. Age of individualism. As mechanistic organizations pursued conquest and control, communities were disintegrated, leaving their smallest constituent parts-individuals-disconnected and hanging in midair. Never have individuals been so “free” on all social constraint and connection as they are in late modernity. Not surprisingly, never have they felt so alienated and isolated.
8. Age of consumerism, everyone quoted “money can’t buy happiness” but no one lived that way.
Now to quote Bryan McLaren at the end of his little history lesson, I’ll give you a tease of getting into Christianity and how postmodernism affects it.
“Can you imagine how a society could bathe in these ten hormones long enough for it to reach a state where it couldn’t continue on in its current form but would transform itself into something new? And can you imagine what happens to the church, the whole Christian enterprise, when it has so thoroughly accommodated to modernity-so much so that it has no idea of any way Christianity could exist other than a modern way?”
I know that’s a lot of history. Really until you understand the history you will not understand the present. You need to go through it and then on the next entry, I will start to get into more interesting stuff. If you want to read it for yourself, read up on McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian” and the sequel to it “The Story We Find Ourselves In.” Below I listed a few links with little blurbs to kind of get a better idea of where I will be going. I’ll try to keep these full so you don’t have to read extra, but you might want to if you are interested in it.