Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


 

      Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
  the Nanty Glo in My Mind'
                                                           
   
  Postmodernism


Jonal entry 1124 | August 25 2010

I wrote three articles here on postmodernism in 2004 (links: first, second, third) in which I discussed the then-current allegations of U.S. military "abuse" of some prisoners of the war in Iraq, the double mindedness and double messages of Britney Spears (also then current), the cult movie Pulp Fiction, and some uses of the term "postmodernism" in the then-current media (especially an episode of Law and Order). And though I don't have to correct any misstatements I might have made then (finding that I was surprisingly on target), I have recently been studying postmodernism more deeply and hope my understanding of it has been deepened.

Postmodern thinking and writing seems to have begun in the 1970s, and though some academic philosophers think it is already passe, others still think of it as the rising edge in pop philosophy. I tend to support the latter "school" and am now convinced that anyone who wants Christianity to prosper should do likewise. Writers back in the '70s were also referring to American society generally then as "post-Christian," and even though postmodernism is not the invention of Christian thinkers, it may have been promoted by thinkers astute enough to be observing that rather than this being the beginning of the post-Christian era, it's more accurate to call it the end of the "modern" era and the beginning of what is more accurately seen as the postmodern era. And "modern," in philosophy, means anti-Christian in any traditional creedal or orthodox sense. Of course before the end of the '70s, Jimmy Carter ran for President of the United States on a claim to be a "born-again" Christian, and no campaign for U.S. President has been the same since, so "post-Christian" did not have much currency for long.

The "modern mind" is generally pegged to the philosophical contributions of Rene Descartes, 1596-1650 (pronounced "daycart"), often called the "father of modern philosophy." Though he did not intend to break with his Catholic faith, the catch phrase for his philosophy, "I think, therefore I am," was a break from the older catch phrase for philosophy from early-church theologian Augustine of Hippo, "I believe, therefore I understand." Descartes also broke more intentionally from the philosophy of Aristotle who, though he preceded Jesus Christ historically, was considered the keystone thinker of Roman Catholic philosophical theory for centuries before Descartes. Descartes' successsors—from Hume to Hegel, Nietzsche, and beyond—generally made a clean break from Christian (and other religions') orthodoxy, giving the world the theology called "modernism" described here in last week's Jonal which regarded miracles and anything beyond the grasp of science supersititious hold overs from the middle ages.

Postmodern philosophers, looking at all that modernism had wrought—not the least Stalin's gulags, the Marxists' starving to death of millions in the Ukraine, and Hitler's holocaust—said, in effect, "you moderns haven't done such a good job." Sure there were wars in the medieval period, where Christianity went virtually unchallenged in Europe for more than a millennium, there were plagues and natural disasters, but none of them compare with the "secular humanists'" disasters visited on human civilization in the Twentieth Century. Furthermore, the quest of secular humanism (which can be called the replacement "religion" for Christianity in modernism) had utterly failed to provide a moral framework for ethical human behavior surperior to or even able to challenge that given by Jesus.

So now postmodern philosophers who are also Christians, like Diogenes Allan at Princeton Theological Seminary, are replacing modernists who held their chairs for generations before the current era. Scientists like famed evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould have been saying that science had unfairly dismissed religion and are arguing that religious explanations for reality be given more validity in society, to paraphrase Crystal Downing in How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (Inter-Varsity Press, 2006; page 214).

The three-century reign of modernism is dead or at least in its death throes. Long live postmodernism!

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 

 


 

 
 
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Today's chuckle

Somebody complimented my driving today. They left a little note on the windshield that said "Parking Fine."


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I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time—waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God—it changes me.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.

 


 

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