What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Eccl.1:9
One of my close friends, Ralph Ennis, frequently mentioned that we live in a “post-modern” world. My eyes would glaze, and I would knowingly nod my head in agreement, not really understanding this cultural descriptor. I suspect I am not alone.
As Scott Allen notes, “All cultural change begins with language change. Changes in language – new words, new definitions – can usually be traced to thought leaders who may have lived hundreds of years before.”
Worldviews help us make sense of our identity and purpose. We have to start with pre-modernism, a worldview which started with the Reformation in the middle ages. It was a worldview based on a belief in God. This included the concept of original sin and that humans were subject to God’s will.
The Enlightenment changed that, and faith in God was replaced by experience and reason. It emphasized science and individualism. Science and reason became the basis to prove the world true.
As Andy Kalan notes: “There sprouted a utopian optimism in the belief that humanity (and science) could explain and fix all problems.” In other words, the Bible was “out”, and science was “in”.
Moral agency (the right of an individual to determine his course) replaced a reflexive action based on biblical principles. Spiritual considerations wouldn’t hold up to the weight of science and Darwin pushed the idea that life was the result of spontaneous and chaotic naturalism. Yet even his theory of evolution doesn’t provide answers at a molecular level.
Modernism provided the notion that “we are all just animals acting out of our instinctual ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality set within us for our benefit.” The result? “Two world wars which pushed power structures and racism causing unforeseen devastation by people who were considered “civilized, cultured and evolutionary advanced”.
Fast forward to the 1960’s when postmodernism started as a quest to “figure out who I am.” Premodernism was defined by agriculture; modernism by capitalism, industry and mass production. Postmodernism shifted to the need for communication between isolated individuals searching for “meaning, experience from which to belong.” It’s economic model is socialism.
Premodernism was based on “where we came from”; modernism was based on a career-driven “what we do”; and postmodernism’s focus is on “who I am.” All have a similar ring. In a way, they each represent the three basic human needs to be loved, to be known and to be provided for.
Michael Foucault, the French postmodern thinker in the late 20th century argued that “language is more about power than it is about truth”. He insisted that, in modern society, “the deployment of force and the establishment of truth” are identical.
In the postmodern world, truth is fungible. There is no absolute truth, which makes biblical moorings difficult to maintain. Instead, political power replaces truth; if they can cancel your voice, threaten you with violent riots and force you to comply, then the imaginary world they demand will come into being.
The new “truth” isn’t based on the objective world or something we can describe or experience. It becomes the decisions that strong people make. It justifies violence to create and enforce. We see groups like Antifa roaming the streets of our cities causing violence and rioting, and one has to see the connection to postmodernism.
The agitators today present their ideas as new. They are not. In Greek times, gurus like Heraclitus insisted “all things are in flux”, which meant that there was no stable truth which could be known or counted on.
“Truth” has become so distorted that you wouldn’t recognize it. An example is the recent media and political narrative that riots, violence, lootings and even murders in many US cities were really mostly “peaceful protests”.
One cable news network featured a newsman giving a video report that the protests in Kenosha, WI, were “fiery but mostly peaceful” while standing in front of burning cars. Those “mostly peaceful protests” did close to $2 billion of damage to 140 cities and almost 30 died in the past 6 months.
That was not an isolated instance of media misinformation. We are being gaslighted, which is a reference from the play Gas Light in 1938. It is a form of psychological abuse aimed at controlling a person by altering reality and truth.
In the play, a husband sequentially turns lowers the gas-powered lights in the house. When his wife notices the dimming, her husband denies it and convinces her that she is imagining it to the point where she questions her own sanity.
We are now living in a period of constant gaslighting, where the “reality” being told is at odds with what we see. If you push back, you will be labeled and cancelled. Socialism is the answer because capitalism is oppressive, yet over 100 million people died from communism in the 20th century.
The challenge is to realize that postmodernism is Post-truth. It has bent truth beyond recognition and reality. Our next generation has been brought up in an environment where social media – their primary source for information – don’t question what is being fed to them.
They are searching for meaning in life, and they need others to come alongside who will display authentic and transparent lives with integrity.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You should recognize that your mentee is weak on history. If they don’t know about the Holocaust, then they can be deceived by narratives that are not true. You can help by leaning in and provide context such as an understanding of postmodernism.
Defining modernism and pre-modernism and Postmodernism – Stephen Hicks
Discipline and Punish – Foucalt
Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice – Scott Allen
WORSHIP: Your Love Changes Everything – Red Rocks Worship