Yesterday, I outlined a number of the basic features of modernity. Today, I pick up by looking at the shift from modernity to postmodernity.
Postmodernism’s Progenitors: Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Nietzsche
It has been said that in the history of Western thought there have been two French Revolutions that gave birth to modernism and postmodernism. In the Enlightenment, Frenchmen Rene Descartes brought about a new way of thinking when his Cogito turned Western thinking towards the subject. Instead of keeping God at the center, now all centered on man. This was the first French Revolution. The second was the rise of Jacques Derrida, who not only questioned the Author of the universe, he questioned every single author who rose in his place. Derrida has rightly been esteemed as the forefather of postmodern thought, and for good reason. Continue reading
If we are to understand Western thought, it is vital to have a handle on modernity and postmodernity. Today and for the rest of the week, I will outline a basic trajectory of Western thought from modernity to postmodernity and how Christians should engage these historically-related schools of thought. Continue reading
Postmodernism (PM) can be defined as a mood that questions authority, denies absolute truth, and locates meaning in the language of local communities. While PM is the product of twentieth century thought, its precursors go back much further in history. For instance, Friedrich Schleiermacher espoused a view of doctrine that was impermanent and always changing relative to the community in which it was experienced. While situated more than a century before the likes of Derrida, Lyotard, and other philosophers of language, Schleiermacher’s liberal theology anticipates the postmodern turn.
Still, the question of authority, truth, and community predates Schleiermacher, too. In John 18:38 Pilate, in a discussion about kingdoms, authority, and truth, asks Jesus, “What is truth?” The relativism in his question comes not from a philosophical system of Western thought; it comes from the human condition that stands outside of the Garden.
Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their offspring has sought to assert their own authority, to make up their own laws, and to live in their own cities of men. Over time, as Western Civilization once again threw off the constraints of God’s Word and church tradition, the question of the hour is that of Pilate: What is truth?
This series of blog posts aims to give an answer to the postmodern mood that undergirds our ambient culture. To answer the question about postmodernism we must first consider modernism, as post-modernism stands in direct relationship to his period of time and thought. Second, I will survey postmodernism and its major contributing voices. And third, this series will consider the effect postmodernism has had on evangelical theology, and what evangelicals must do to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernity.
As we go along, let me know what you think.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss