Jonal entry 1124 | August 25 2010
I wrote three articles here on postmodernism in
2004 (links: first,
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
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' successsorsfrom Hume
to Hegel, Nietzsche, and beyondgenerally 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 wroughtnot the least Stalin's gulags, the Marxists'
starving to death of millions in the Ukraine, and Hitler's holocaustsaid,
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;
The three-century reign of modernism is dead or
at least in its death throes. Long live postmodernism!
Webmaster Jon Kennedy