The Effects of Postmodernism: Overcoming the Challenges of an Un-churched Society, Part 2
J.P. Moreland may have said it best when he stated, “‘we hold these truths to be self evident’ now reads ‘our socially constructed selves arbitrarily agree that certain chunks of language are to be esteemed in our linguistic community,’” referring to postmodernism as a type of cultural relativism. However, the purpose of this study is not to argue against the philosophical postmodern worldview, but to call attention to the trickle down effect of postmodern thought into society in general and the need for a new method of reaching that society. This “cultural relativism,” wrong as it may be, has become so entrenched in our society that it demands attention from the church. The church cannot and must not sit idly by while postmodern thought grows rampantly in western society.
Postmodern thought is being fueled by a massive movement that has grown exponentially in the past several decades and shows no time of slowing any time soon. The Information Revolution created an interconnected global society that can instantaneously share and communicate ideas on a massive scale, otherwise known as globalization. Joseph Masciulli defines globalization as the “technological, economic, cultural, and political processes of integration and interdependence that are occurring transcontinentally, involving material forces, ideas, and values.”  All corners of the world now have the ability to become linked into a massive global network that supports the growth of this postmodern worldview, leading to the development of an “inward crisis…framed by a globalized consciousness.” Information is more easily accessible today than it has ever been. Social networking, blogs, podcasts, discussion boards, wikis, etc. allow an unlimited and instantaneous exchange of culture, ideas, and beliefs. Douglas Groothius calls the postmodern condition a condition of “oversaturation and over-stimulation,” which diverts the self from pursuing a higher reality.
This fusion of ideas, cultures, and beliefs has been detrimental in several ways. Globalization has made the postmodern worldview much more accessible to the global society. It has also led to an influx of the spread ideas and behaviors that were once deemed unacceptable in the pre-modern era and have become commonplace in today’s society. It has also brought forth a society of expansive wealth and material comfort that compromise the most fundamental structures of society, in which families are broken, laws are ignored, violence rages, and technology puts it all in the center of our attention. The acceptance of these ideas and behaviors focus on satisfying the self, and has led to a society that has become far removed from the will of God. David Wells stated, “The modern ideology of the self conceals everything except a subject’s own self-consciousness because in this ideology it is the self which is supreme and at the center of reality. This is so because the fallen self insists on emancipating itself from the past, from others, and from God in order to assert its own autonomy.” Not only has secular society distanced itself from God, it is becoming more and more evident that postmodern thought has infiltrated the church. In what Wells calls a “softening of Christian knowledge,” religion has come to be seen as unnecessary to being good, and therefore becomes optional as an individual choice of lifestyle. To further assert this point, two-thirds of today’s Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God, however, only about half can name a single gospel author. Also, almost half of today’s Americans believe the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Koran all speak the same spiritual truths. Tom Beaudoin explains how globalization and the amalgamation of culture, beliefs, and ideas is largely accountable for the diminishing Christian worldview:
“Young adults experience a variety of interlaced technologies of power as the powers and principalities of our lives today. We are often positioned to accept various trinitarianesque doctrines: the seemingly unbreakable bondage of truth-self-desirable body, truth-self sex, truth-self race, truth-self-tradition. These dogmas may be found in both “liberal” and conservative” secular and religious environments. These doctrines become more tempting as forms of retreatism in postmodernity, in the face of increasing ethnic, religious, and sexual pluralism, functioning as a new reification of subjectivity, a new pietism of self.”
To conclude the postmodern problem, one more element must be addressed in identifying the postmodern problem: the church itself. We have already discussed the problem of postmodernism that has been brought into the church. On the other hand, there is also the part of the church that has recognized the problem, yet chooses to do nothing. Many in today’s church have chosen to simply ignore the rise of postmodernism altogether, a course of action that will only allow postmodernism to continue to spiral out of control and further deteriorate the Christian worldview. If something spooks your horse as you are riding, causing it to rear and kick in terror, you don’t simply ignore the problem. You grab tight on the reigns, hold close to the horse, and stand firm in the stirrups. It may be a long, bumpy ride, but the horse will eventually come to its senses. Those who choose to ignore the postmodern problem are choosing to ignore the un-churched and thereby choosing to ignore the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).
22. J.P. Moreland, “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn,” 77.
23. Ibid., 79.
24. Joseph Masciulli, “The Governance Challenge for Global Political and Technoscientific Leaders in an Era of Globalization and Globalizing Technologies,” Bulletin of Science Technology and Society 31 no. 1 (3): 2011.
25. David Wells, “Christian Discipleship in a Postmodern World,” 19.
26. Douglas Grouthius, “Why Truth Matters Most,” 453.
27. Albert Mohler, Jr., “You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears: Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 05 no. 1 (2001): 18.
28. David Wells, “Christian Discipleship in a Postmodern World,” 26-27.
29. Ibid., 28.
30. Ibid., 28-29.
31. Ibid., 24.
32. Tom Beaudoin, “I Was Imprisoned by Subjectivity and You Visited Me: Bonhoeffer and Foucault on the Way to a Postmodern Christian Self,” Currents in Theology and Mission 29 no. 5 (2002): 360-361.