What I think about Postmodernism – Part 1

It’s often hard to tell what’s going on when you’re in the middle of it. After all, what did Gutenberg think when he printed the first page of the Bible? Did he know that simple machine would spark the Renaissance? Did he know that literacy would quadruple as people tried to get their hands on any book they could? Did he know his actions would produce Shakespeare? Or Martin Luther? Sometimes we fail to see how interconnected our lives really are, but here’s the rub–what did the person who invented the internet think? Did he foresee Google Book Search, which rivals the library of Alexandria? Did he foresee Wikipedia, the largest collection of information ever? More importantly, did he foresee the end result of all of this? Can you or I?

We’re living in an age of unspeakable change as the prophets of Modernism are taking their ball and going home, leaving us with a new epoch of history to create. At least that’s what we think. What will come after Modernism? Well, Post-Modernism, obviously. (The naming is terribly unfortunate.)

There are at least two definitions of postmodernism. Wikipedia tells us, “If used in other contexts, it is a concept without a universally accepted, short and simple definition; in a variety of contexts it is used to describe social conditions, movements in the arts, economic and social conditions and scholarship in reaction to modernism, not ‘post’ in the purely temporal sense of ‘after.'” That’s one way of looking at it, and one commonly used by older scholars.

The second way is referring to the term in reference to the mindset shift that came about with the advent of the information explosion. (Some people even call this post-postmodernism, to confuse the matter further.) This mindset shift occurred somewhere ’round about Generation Y (Another horrible name. Who’s naming our epochs anyway?).This is the definition I’ll be using, mostly because I believe this movement will stick around for a while. To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to this as the New Epoch.

We’ve had many epochs in Western history. Here’s my own take on the whole thing:

Over the next few days and weeks, I’d like to walk though some of the trends I see in the New Epoch. I’ll cite how I see them especially in popular media and also my thoughts on how the church can address them.

There are many churches out there who see postmodernism as the enemy, when really it’s nothing of the kind. There’s nothing less inherently Christian in the post-modern way of thinking than in the modern way; it’s just a cultural adjustment that everyone, including the church has to get through. In many ways the movement means people are more open to hearing the gospel than anytime in recent memory. The church needs to look for ways to minister to people in the middle of the transition.

Much of what I describe in the next few weeks is what I see for the church of tomorrow, but here’s a word of warning: being the church of tomorrow is often as silly as being the church of yesterday. Genesis needs to be the church of today in Eureka, and I believe we are headed there. Still, I think we have to constantly be vigilant for adapting and growing with the world around us, being mindful of church history, the future of the church, and the world around us. I hope these blogs will provide some food for thought. Feel free to comment about any social trends you see going on in the world around us.

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