Defining Postmodernity in a Postmodern World

October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Postmodernity is the period of time after the enlightenment which describes a new way of thinking about, looking at, and interpreting the world. 1

Defining Postmodernity in a Postmodern World

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Postmodernists (I use the word “postmodernist” as a way to describe a person adhering to and living in the time of postmodernity) believe there is no external 2 source of authority because truth, logic, and reason are subjective,[4] not objective. On the topic of subjectivity, Stanley Grenz writes in his book, A Primer on Postmodernism, “The postmodern mind no longer accepts the Enlightenment belief that knowledge is objective. Knowledge cannot be merely objective . . . because the universe is not mechanistic and dualistic but rather historical, relational, and personal” (p. 5). Furthermore, Dan Kimball in his book, The Emergent Church, further explains postmodernists’ lack of belief in objective reasoning by writing,

“Postmodernism . . . holds there is no single universal worldview. All truth is not absolute, community is valued over individualism, and thinking, learning, and beliefs can be determined” (p. 49).

Postmodernists place an emphasis on the community’s ability to discover and develop what truth is. Grenz again explains that,

“The postmodern worldview operates with a community-based understanding of truth. It affirms that whatever we accept as truth and even the way we envision truth are dependent on the community in which we participate. . . . The postmodern worldview affirms that . . . there is no absolute truth; rather, truth is relative to the community in which we participate” (p. 5).

On this point of the community’s emphasis on community as the developer and distinguisher of truth, it is important to note that some people argue that “postmodernism affirms community, tradition, and the subjectivity and situatedness of human knowing, but often does so in unbiblical ways.” 3

Unanswered questions are not a serious issue for postmodernists because they believe that there is no absolute truth. 4  In fact, there is an “inbuilt” pre-commitment within postmodernism and this means postmodernist take delight in differences. Kimball writes that “in a postmodern world, the dichotomy is celebrated and the fashion lines are all blurred” (p. 53).

Because of a lack of belief in objective, logical reason and a focus on community, postmodernists look cautiously, pessimistically, and suspiciously when a specific Christian truth about a biblical text is given (whether by a church or academic group). 5.

Question: How do you define postmodernity in a postmodern world?

Notes:

  1. Glenn Kreider, “Historical Overview of Christian Theology: The Modern Period, c. 1700-The Present” (lecture, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX, 2004).
  2. Kreider, “Historical Overview of Christian Theology.”
  3. Stephen Spencer, “Evangelical Modernists or Evangelical Postmodernists? Evangelical Responses to Postmodernism and Postliberalism” (2003).
  4. Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5 ed. (West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001), 73-74.
  5. McGrath, Christian Theology, 75.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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