What the Global South Needs to Know About Postmodernism
I was asked by a fellow believer and reader of my blog about the problem of Postmodernism. As of late, Postmodernism has begun making more headway in Africa, particularly Zambia, and further into the Global South. He invited me to respond with a blog, so I wanted to include it here. Following are a handful of my thoughts on Postmodernism. Later, I will be offering a 2 hour audio course from Podcast Seminary on this issue. For now, this is a brief response.
Christianity Always Has Tension with Culture and Society
Christianity has always had a degree of tension with society. This is because of the Apostle Paul’s injunction in Romans. There, in Romans 12:2, he charged believers who were surrounded by a culture generally hostile to the values of the Christian gospel not to be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NASV).
Because of the reality that Christians live in an environment that is increasingly hostile to the gospel and to believers themselves, Christian educators must seek how to prepare believers to live in the world without being conformed by it. That critical task is made more difficult due to the onslaught of Postmodernism which is seeking to dominate the next several decades of Western thought—and that now threatens the Global South as well.
What is Postmodernism?
One might pose the questions, “What is postmodernism?” and “Why should a familiarity with it be considered important?” It has been said that “Postmodernism is a throw-away word that means everything and nothing” (Goetz, 1997). It is a word which did not secure a dictionary definition by the end of the Twentieth Century. Nevertheless, according to one of the foremost writers in postmodern thought, Jean-Francois Lyotard, postmodernism can be reduced to the simple common denominator of incredulity toward metanarratives (Knight, 1998).
Put plainly, Postmodernism (in its many forms and expressions) rejects the possibility of a cohesive worldview that explains reality. It is similar to the idea of Existentialism or, better, Nihilism, saying that life has no essential meaning, but then allows individuals to flagrantly choose their own truth, their own meaning, and their own values—as their individualized personal worldview.
The Essence of Postmodernism’s Ideological Bankruptcy
Obviously, such an approach inevitably leads to conflicts with nearly everyone else in the world about things such as meaning, truth, morality, ethics, and the nature of knowledge, language, truth, and destiny. ***Even so, Postmodern proponents wish to live in that state of constant moral and existential confusion, because the ambiguity of life, ethics, morality, and meaning promise what they seek: complete personal autonomy (Subjectivism) and the rejection of all authority except their own (Moral Relativism).***
Ah, but alas, the Bible teaches that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9), as the Postmodern way of life is nothing more than a warmed over philosophy popular during the days of the Old Testament judges when “each man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud 17:6). The ultimate result of Postmodernism is beginning to be seen in the West: the breakdown of personal ethics, rejection of law and order, resistance of justice, and personal ruin.
The Onslaught Against Christian Virtue by Postmodernism
Meanwhile, Christians continue to insist on the existence of truth, morality, and meaning—but are beginning to be targets of mild persecution for holding positions contrary to Postmodernism. In these last days, postmodern people in Western society “will not put up with sound teaching” (2 Tim 3).
But in their rebellion against God and their war against logic and sound reason, the unexpected result of Postmodernism in the United States seems to be a twofold outcome: First, believers and churches struggle to maintain their witness in the cultural decay and societal chaos that Postmodern has wrought. And second, people willingly deluded by Postmodernism’s false promise of freedom are now being victimized, scandalized, exploited, and destroyed by living out their valueless worldview.
The Disintegration of Culture, Society, and Possibly Civilization
The result is that civilization itself is being shaken here, as we watch others’ lives disintegrate before our very eyes.
Our word of warning to the Global South and believers there is simple: Avoid the error of European and American Postmodernism and learn to think for yourselves. You do not want to enter in to this pain and decay that is the only possible outcome of the Postmodern belief system. It is a bankrupt view of life that only makes promises of autonomy that it cannot fulfill, leading to even greater bondage and personal disrespect than one thought possible. I have seen this and plead with you to fight against Postmodernism in order to preserve your faith, culture, and dignity.