We live in times of incredibly rapid and prolific changes. People, products, ideas and cultures meet, mingle and mutate at dazzling speed. (Clapp, 17)
In the first chapter of Clapp’s book, he highlights an aspect of our postmodern world not actually mentioned. Part of the reason we are in a postmodern age is because technological change, communication advances, speed, and globalization have made made it difficult to slow down, difficult to be isolated. We are confronted with ideas and points of view from all over the place.
The modern world, profoundly shaped by the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, was based on a deep faith in unaided human reason. Weary of religious wars, modernist assumed that reason – apart from any particular religious tradition – could provide a universal human basis for morality. From this womb liberal democracy and the modern nation-state were born….Religion could be relegated harmlessly to private, individual life; the democratic state, supposedly resting on truths available to all reasonable people, would tend to public life…Reason would show the way. But the twentieth century shattered that dream. (Clapp, 21-22)
We have had war after war, mass destruction, and seen the limitations of science, among other things. Progress and efficiency came at a cost. Mass media as splintered in the age of the Internet to accomodate many voices. Clapp mentions three points relating to Postmodernism:
1. The postmodern world is a world which has lost its supposed universals and common goods.
2. The postmodern world is a fragmented world, more and more populated with isolated and drifting individuals.
3. The postmodern world is a world acutely aware of the “other” or stranger.
Relating to 1, Clapp points out that this actually frees us, as Christians, to be Christians, as we don’t have to make all aspects of Christianity fit into a framework of reason. We can ask deeper questions. For 2, Clapp says that Christianity, with it’s focus on community, has an answer to give here. With 3, postmodernists are suspicious of universal truths apart from culture, as people are very different. How do we relate to those that are different…and what does the Bible say about this?
My commentary is simply this. The focus on reason in the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution that followed has been good things in many, many ways. BUT, for a Christian, reason alone will not show the way. We believe in a world kingdom beyond the kingdom’s of this world. By aligning our beliefs so heavily with modernism, we have also made it easier for our beliefs to be thrown out along with modernism. Modernism is a FALSE worldview. It is NOT Biblical. The same can be said of Postmodernism. It’s not a matter of whether we agree or disagree with postmodernism. We live in a postmodern world in many respects. There are both dangers and opportunities that go with it. Recognize the dangers. Take advantage of the opportunities. We can lament how bad the world is, or do something to make it better. I choose the latter.