The term “postmodernism” can literally be translated as “after the modern movement”. This term’s use can be traced back to the 1870’s, and was commonly used to describe a change in art, music and architecture. It describes a movement from modern thinking and attitudes to a new set of beliefs.
Although the actual beginning of the post modern era is unknown, it is best believed to have started in the mid – 1900’s. There have been many influences driving the postmodern way of thinking, some of the more influential of these potentially being Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson.
Of course, this is left to interpretation. Postmodern thinkers believe that there is no absolute truth. They believe that what is true for one person can be false for another. So what is false one day could be truth the next. They do not see one complete and grand narrative in the world in which everyone can believe in. Rather they believe that there are different truths for different people. Whatever a person believes to be true is truth for them, but not necessarily to another person. The postmodern view heavily relies on the view of self-conceptualization and rationalization.
They put science aside and depend on personal opinions and thoughts. Postmodern thinkers believe that morals and ethics are based on personal opinions. They believe that our cultures general morals can be disregarded, what matters is what we personally believe is moral and true. Globalization is another issue that postmodernists commonly raise, saying that separation, and having individual countries is what causes war in our world. They believe that separate countries should be united. As far as religion goes, postmodern thinkers believe that there is not one true religion. Any religion can be true, it doesn’t matter what you believe.
As long as you believe in something you will go to heaven. Postmodernists denounce the idea that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and that Christianity is the only one true religion. Postmodernism reacts against modern principles, and changes the modern way of architecture, music, beliefs etc. Recent postmodern architecture and art, are meant to look like they have no structure, which feeds off of the un-structuralized postmodern way of thinking. Postmodern thinkers want to implement the idea of pluralism in every aspect of life, saying that there is more than one way of looking at things.
There is not only one truth, instead there are many and anybody can believe whatever they want. The idea of postmodernism is very easy to criticize especially as a Christian. The postmodern view says that there are no absolute truths and that everyone needs to come up with their own truths and opinions of reality. This postmodern view does not allow for Christianity, as Christians believe that the fact that Jesus was God’s son and came to earth, died and rose again in three days is an absolute truth. We also believe God exists and created the world around us to be truth.
Without these absolute truths, Christianity would not exist. In our postmodern world people are given the ability to come up with their own truths, and their own views on reality. Instead of allowing God to show us truth, we are basing truth on our feelings. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ”, and Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ”.
God warns us about depending on ourselves for truth, by doing this we do not allow ourselves to abide by the higher law God has laid out for us, and depend on him to show us truth. Our postmodern world says that what we see as truth may not be truth to someone else. They believe that as long as we each have a truth and we live by it, we are doing the right thing. As Christians we do not agree with this as we know that we cannot depend on ourselves to find what is real and true in this world. God warns us against this many times in the bible. We need to depend on what he tells us is moral and true.
Post modernity has made religion into something that people just come and see what they like and take from it what they want. Postmodernism also contradicts itself in the fact that if everything is true, then nothing is true. It takes away the meaning from everything. Postmodern thinkers have a weak argument in saying that there are no universal morals. It would be wrong for people to kill, and this does not go unpunished in our country. With a postmodern worldview, it would be up to the person if it is morally alright for them to do it, and if it is there would be nothing we could do against it, as this was true for him.
It is often hard to come up with positives for postmodernism as a Christian; however pluralism can be a positive to a certain degree. It is good to respect other people’s decisions and hear their opinions. When we get different views on a certain subject, we can often come up with a better and more complete answer or decision. It helps when analyzing scriptures as well, by getting other opinions on the meaning of a scripture we hear opinions that may be influenced by a different culture or background.
This causes us to look at scripture from a different angle and come to a better understanding of it. Although we shouldn’t persecute people for their beliefs, we shouldn’t just accept others beliefs as truth right away before looking into it ourselves. Jean-Francois Lyotard, is arguably one of the most important figures in the development of Postmodern thinking. Born in France in 1924, Lyotard grew up studying philosophy, and later became a teacher of the subject. By the 1970’s Lyotard’s ideas for postmodernism began to form, specifically in the areas of meta-narratives.
Meta-narratives, which are described as grand truths, things that are believed to be universally accepted as truths, do not exist. Lyotard tried to simplify everything in life saying, “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives”. Lyotard was the first to introduce this type of thinking that says everything needs to be destructuralized, there is no structure or metanarratives in our world. This idea of removing structure has been implemented in many things in our postmodern world today, we see it in art, music and architecture.
Destructuralization is dangerous as without structure in our world, people will be confused and there will be no rules, rather everyone will do as they see fit. This idea makes it hard to evangelize to people as our Christian views are structuralized, and we believe in an overarching truth. Lyotard introduced ideas of pluralism, saying that there is not just one truth, rather there are different truths for different purposes. He argued that Rome’s religious views had an advantage over monotheistic religions, because they had different god’s each pertaining to a different area of life.
He explains that this helps show that each of our human experiences are not all connected necessarily, and cannot all be grouped together into one overarching classification. This postmodern view is a direct contradiction to Christianity, in that Christians believe in one God and one way to heaven. This statement allows everyone to believe what they want without any guilt or accountability. This mindset does not leave room for anyone to be corrected as no one has experienced exactly what another has, and therefore your opinions would not be relevant to another person.
Lyotard also dealt with issues of technology, saying that with the advancements of technology we are provided with an infinite amount of information, and believes that eventually wars will be fought over control of information. Lyotard suggests that information in our postmodern age is becoming more of a business, people are producing it in order for it to be sold to a select group of people. Lyotard says that information is no longer being used for the purpose of inspiration in order to come up with truths.
He wants the information to be used for people to find their own truths, and understand different ideas, rather than just believing what they are told. There are some very real truths to this analysis, in that information is very powerful and can help form our opinions. By leaving information to one person or a select group of people the information is left to only one interpretation. The scriptures require many different interpretations in order for us to grasp a complete meaning of it, and we shouldn’t just take the first interpretation we hear as truth, we need to analyze it ourselves.
However, we shouldn’t take this principle too far. Lyotard is implying that by having all this information accessible to us, we can pick and choose what we want to believe, and what we find as truth. Nevertheless, as Christians we need to match what we read to the scriptures to see if they line up, and if they don’t, we shouldn’t take them to be truth. All of Lyotard’s writings and ideas regarding postmodernism, strongly influenced it into what it is today. However, postmodernism’s ideas are dangerous for us as Christians to follow.
We need to look at what is going on around us in the world, and what people are thinking, and compare that to how God has told us to live in his word. Postmodern ideas are finding themselves into more and more aspects of our world. These ideas do not suggest Christianity to be truth, and go against the structure of Christianity. Though there are a few things we can take from Lyotard’s writings and other postmodern ideas, there is a vast majority of these ideas that are very false and non-conducive to a Christian life.
Bibliography Bertens, Johannes Willem, Bertens Hans, Natoli Joseph P. Postmodernism. Malden, Massachusettes: Wiley Blackwell, 2002. Simons, Herbert W. and Billig, Michael. After Postmodernism. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994. Connor, Steven. Postmodernist Culture. Cambridge, Massachusettes: Blackwell Publishers, 1989. Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996. Eagleton, Terry. The Illusions of Postmodernism. Malden, Massachusettes: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.