Postmodern

It occurred to me today that a person is born into or grows into a worldview—it’s not simply a choice someone makes. In other words, I have strong postmodern tendencies not because I thought that postmodernism is cool and I’m going to join the club, but because that particular worldview makes sense of the questions and concerns I already have for whatever reason.  I grew into it through reading and interaction (relationship), not through a specific moment of conversion.

In my experience, it’s difficult to make the choice to change one’s view in this regard. Someone with modern tendencies isn’t likely to make a conscious choice to jump ship to postmodernism. And someone who is largely postmodern would have great difficulty reverting to a modern view of things.

Why is this important? Because while disagreement with a certain worldview is certainly acceptable, the call to “not be” modern or postmodern (that call is usually strongest against postmodernism) because of this reason or that reason may not be realistic. It may simply not be possible to make that choice.

That said, one could extend that line of reasoning into other areas which we may be uncomfortable with. But discomfort does not necessarily mean what makes us uncomfortable is untrue (but I’m not saying it’s true, either! There’s the postmodern, for you.)

15 thoughts on “Postmodern

  1. Toni

    While I would agree with your statement for a child, I would hope and expect a reasoning adult to move beyond simply adopting the world view of those surrounding them unless they were particularly blinkered in their interaction with the world.

    Tis isn’t intended to be rude – merely my perception – you have the worldview you do because it suits your personality and makes you feel comfortable. I allows you to be intellectual, tolerant, indecisive, loving, interactive. A modern worldview would require you to make some hard choices, be less tolerant and more black and white. It would run counter to your sense of equality, make you less conversational and much more definitive. That doesn’t make your PM worldview right, but it does mean that it’s one you can feel comfortable with. Of course your personality was shaped by both nature and nurture, so in a sense your present worldview has been shaped by your surroundings and history.

    Do we choose our worldviews? Partly – I analyse what shapes the world around me and come up with certain answers that are frequently different from those you might arrive at from similar data. I filter those answers through what I know to be true and accept or reject them from that. I want to have a genuine understanding of reality, rather than just carry a set of assumptions that make me feel comfortable. In that respect I AM trying to change my worldview, and not merely accept an inherited one.

    Now I have a headache.

    😉

  2. Toni

    Just re-read that post. It comes off as hideously arrogant and rude. Sorry – that wasn’t the intention, and I really DO have a headache.

  3. Marc

    Toni,

    Believe it or not, I agree with you for the most part!

    To a certain extent all of us, modern and postmodern alike, go with what makes us comfortable and we are all very much products of our environments (nature, nurture, culture, etc.)

    That’s partially what postmodernism is growing out of. Postmodernism rejects modernism’s belief that it is possible for a person, by way of his or her reason, to step outside of those environmental influences to achieve an impartial and objective perspective.

    “I filter those answers through what I know to be true and accept or reject them from that. I want to have a genuine understanding of reality, rather than just carry a set of assumptions that make me feel comfortable.”

    It’s no different for a postmodern person.

    People with a postmodern bent also want to have a “genuine understanding of reality”, but would argue that such an understanding includes the recognition that as humans we can only have a limited understanding of that reality.

  4. Marc

    …and I guess the point of the post was not the relative merits of modernism vs. postmodernism, but this question: Could you drop your basic worldview (how we know and what we can know) if someone told you it was wrong or immoral?

  5. Toni

    I would not drop my worldview because someone told me it was wrong, but I might (as I have in fact) change it according to what appeared to be reality and correct.

    This will sound odd, but I think I probably did have a moderately postmodern worldview when I was in my late teens/early 20s. I’d already tried the modern approach (if I provide you with the logical answers then you’ll HAVE to become a Christian) and found it to mis-represent reality.

  6. Marc

    Hmmm…Your original comment seemed to disagree with my post, but after this last one, I’m no longer sure about that.

    How is what you’re saying different than what I said in my post? Or is it?

    “I might (as I have in fact) change it according to what appeared to be reality and correct”

    I think most people operate this way. But it’s a loaded statement: what we think is reality and correct is distorted by our wants, our fears, our misconceptions, our sin, our environment, etc.

  7. Phil L

    From my limited understanding of Modernism and Postmodernism, it seems to me that both differ from a Christian worldview. For example the way I conceive of “Truth” is largely shaped by scripture, so I’m not comfortable with Postmodernism. Likewise I have faith in a God who can’t be proved by the scientific method, and I believe in miracles, so I’m not comfortable with Modernism.
    I regard them as just two competing “isms” among many.

  8. Marc

    My understanding is also limited, so I don’t speak as an expert, but it seems to me that as an understanding of how & what we can know, we all fall in one camp or the other (or partly in both and others).

    I would certainly agree that neither “ism” is something we should believe in, but I think it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to not operate in either mode in practice. One can disagree with postmodernism in general while still showing elements of postmodernism in belief.

    The apostle Paul, for example, was not a postmodernist or modernist (how could he be?), but some of the things he said could have been said by a postmodernist—“seeing through a glass darkly” and his definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 seem to me to be epistemologically postmodern. That doesn’t make Paul a postmodernist and neither does it validate that “ism”.

    I’ve lost my train of thought here…

    Anyway…all that to say that while a Christian doesn’t believe in “isms”, we do operate within those modes on a day-to-day business. Even our reading and interpretation of scripture is affected by our understanding of how and what we can know, which is an issue which these “isms” try to answer.

  9. Toni

    Marc – I read your post to mean that one’s worldview is typically inherited or forced on you by your peers. I can see that there is an alternative way to read it….. now.

    🙂

    Phil – yes, you seem to have summed up nicely what I failed to do in too many words. I’d say both worldviews are inherently anti – not merely non – Christian, and that holding that any one of these ‘isms’ as correct is a sign of immaturity in the Christian faith.

  10. Toni

    Marc – you must have posted while I was reading.

    I’m absolutely no expert either – you probably know far more about this than me.

    I think Paul is neither because in those times no-one had considered things that way and the current desire to polarise EVERYTHING into a single narrow outlook had not overtaken society. I’d consider that although both modern and post modern views occasionally happen to coincide with reality, in no way does that make them fundamentally correct.

  11. Dixie

    I think modern and post-modern mindsets are simply a viewpoint with which we approach Scripture/reality. Like me and political parties, I’m uncomfortable seeing that I am “this” or “that” b/c I have know that none of them have a complete handle on the truth.

    I know that aspects of modernism and post-modernism are probably anti-Christian, but I think as a way of thinking they are neither for or against Christianity — it’s just a way of thinking.

    Anyway, this may not make any sense, and now Olivia is crying and I can’t even go back and proof-read. Do with this what you will…

  12. Marc

    Hmmm…this is one of the reasons I find online discussion and debate frustrating: it’s so easy to misread or misunderstand.

    I don’t think Paul was a modernist or postmodernist, so we agree there. I’m just saying that those statements have a postmodern element to them.

    I’m very reluctant to say that postmodernism (or modernism) as a way of understanding how we know what we know and how we interpret what we see is anti-Christian. I have found that many of the books I’ve read written by Christians from a postmodern point-of-view have greatly enriched my faith.

    To say that some elements of postmodernism have something to say regarding truth and faith and practice is not the same as believing in that particular “ism”.

    Of course, no one that I know is walking around saying, “Well, I’m postmodern, so this is how I will respond to this and this is how I will interpret that”. We are who we are and we respond and interpret the way we do. Sometimes we can see an element of one or more of the “isms” in that action. Sometimes it’s something else entirely.

    I think we need to be careful not to think of *P*ostmodernism or *M*odernism, as I think there are probably many varieties under each of those umbrellas, and sometimes they may even overlap…

  13. Marc

    Dixie kind of expresses what I wanted to say but couldn’t put into words.

    When I think of either “ism”, I don’t think of them as a belief system to which one adheres, but a way of looking at the world, including our belief systems.

  14. Anonymous

    “For example the way I conceive of “Truth” is largely shaped by scripture, so I’m not comfortable with Postmodernism” – postmodernists (if there is such a creature) wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that – i.e., one’s notion of truth is shaped by the canons of one’s community, whether that’s scripture, or myths and legends, or pop culture, etc. Of course, the tricky bit is, if truth is shaped by scripture, how do we read scripture? If history shows us anything, scripture can be read and (mis)used in innumerable ways…

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