Whew… been a while.
Oh. he’s some material I wrote about Stanley Grenz’ “A Primer on Postmodernism” it’s relevant, I promise. 🙂
Stanley Grenz, “A Primer on Post Modernism”
Grenz opens this book with a phenomenal illustration of the differences between modernism and postmodernism: Star Trek vs. Star Trek TNG.
In the original series, the enterprise’
s goal was to seek out and to a certain extent subdue the world around the ship. Decisions were made by a forceful and daring captain, and his literary foil, Dr. Spock.
“Spock was the ideal Enlightenment man, completely rational and without emotion…”
Compare that with The Next Generation, whose Captain is a poet/philosopher, and a cast arrangement that is a subtle critique of the modernist views of its predecessor.
The TNG Enterprise more frequently sought to understand its surroundings.
Captain Riker, is a model of the old world captain :brash, romantic, sometimes thoughtless…
Data is the updated Spock, but rather than “super” human in his perfection, he’s often seen as “sub”
human, limited because he can only be rational.. a frequent plot device.
The character Counselor Troi is added, solely concerned with the feelings and well being of the crew, a formal acknowledgement of post-modernity’
s acceptance and exploration of perception, feeling and mysticism.
Theology is openly considered, by the addition of the character “Q”
, an omniscient, omnipresent entity, who is both morally ambiguous and somewhat self-centered.
“Postmodernism represents a rejection of the Enlightenment project and the foundational assumptions on which it was built.”
The enlightenment assumes that the goal of a “utopian society”
can be attained through the scientific method and careful and thorough system building. That all things can be eventually known and manipulated for the good of mankind.
“The postmodern mind refuses to limit truth to is rational dimension and thus dethrones the human intellect as the arbiter of truth. There are other valid paths to knowledge besides reason, say the postmoderns, including the emotions and intuition (Counselor Troi, anyone?-kjb)”
“Knowledge cannot be merely objective, say the postmoderns, because the universe is not mechanistic and dualistic, but rather historical, relational, and personal.”
“Technology transforms the intimacy of a ‘live performance’ into a mass gathering of fans who watch “live” videos together while being bombarded by special effects.”
Grenz on how technology mediates, exacerbates and manipulates postmodern relationships.
Postmoderns..”live in a world in which the distinction between truth and fiction has evaporated. Consequently they become collectors of experiences, repositories of transitory, fleeting images produced and fostered by the diversity of media forms endemic in postmodern society.”
The concept of postmoderns as “collectors of experiences” has a direct impact on church, especially as one considers churches who “produce”
“The postmodern era spells the end of the ‘universe’– the end of the all encompassing worldview… By replacing the modern worldview with a multiplicity of views and worlds, the post modern era has in effect replaced knowledge with interpretation.”
“[The Enlightenment realists]…assert at least in theory that the human mind can grasp reality as a whole and hence that we can devise a true and complete description of the world the way it actually is. They maintain that we can attain sure knowledge…p. 41”
“Moderns simply assumed that all of humankind would eventually come to appreciate and strive to attain the benefits of the western ideal.”
“The postmodern understanding of knowledge, therefore, is built on two foundational assumptions: (1) postmoderns view all explanations of reality as constructions that are useful but not objectively true, and (2) postmoderns deny that we have the ability to step outside our constructions of reality.”
“The moderns believed that they were able to see the world as it really is. The postmoderns say this was an illusion.”
This has a profound impact on teaching and persuasion across the board. In churches, in politics, in sales: everything. When we argue for something’
s necessity based on data, or surveys, or other quantified descriptions of knowledge, we are standing on a basis rooted in modernism.
“The question is no longer “is it true?” but “what use is it?”
I found Grenz’ work to be immediately helpful in explaining the bases for the postmodern view. Awareness of these differences is slowly making its way around the world, just as postmodernism makes its way. It’
s true that America in the future will be postmodern and postchristian, but this is not a shift to be fought politically.