What is post-modernism and how should Christians respond to it?
Postmodernism is the prevailing mindset or worldview of our society today, having largely replaced the previous mindset known as “modernism”.
In the modern era, faith was placed in human reasoning as the means to discover truth. It was optimistic for the future: science and technology would lead to unlimited progress toward a better life because it was thought that people were basically good. Because everything was explained by science, religious faith was viewed as being made up of outdated myths and superstition. The theory of evolution replaced the need for God. The supernatural, the spiritual world and miracles were dismissed as they were inconsistent with science, which rejected the possibility of the supernatural.
However, people became disenchanted with reason and science, as neither was able to deliver on its promise to solve all human problems and reshape society into utopia. So modernism was replaced by postmodernism where truth and morals are assumed to be subjective, and experiences and feelings are important. Consequently, truth and morals can vary from person to person or society to society. People rely on their own ideas of what is right or wrong, true or false. They make up their own minds. Experience and feelings are more important for postmodernists than reason; they follow their feelings.
The postmodernists also believe that all values, viewpoints and religions are equally valid and equally true; this is known as pluralism. When applied to religious faith this leads to all religions being equivalent and to New Age beliefs.
Learning about postmodernism helps us to better evangelise in a postmodern culture. The pluralistic postmodernists are open to all interpretations, including Christianity (although they may say, “It’s all right for you, but not for me”). The most important factor to postmoderists, when deciding what is true, is not reason but experience. Consequently, they are less likely to be influenced by what they only read or hear. Instead they need to see and feel Christian behaviour in action so their emotions are engaged.
This means that we should make sure that people experience real Christian love, hospitality and community while they are hearing the truth about Christ. Truth demonstrated has enormous impact. Pointing out the difference Christianity makes in a one’s own life may be the best way to catch the interest of the postmodernists to whom experience and feelings are important.
The fluid, ever-changing environment of postmodernity offers little support or shelter in the face of overwhelming change and almost unlimited choice. In these circumstances, people look for safe and welcoming places where they can find a sense of togetherness and safety. Let’s model a Christianity that meets the need of postmodern seekers.
Published, January 2012
See the other article in this series:
– Living in a postmodern world