Thursday, April 03, 2008

Modernism and Postmodernism

In last night's mens' class, we wrestled with a wonderful topic: Being Christ in a Post-modern world. It is hard for us to see as we live through it, but a significant philosophical change has taken place in people's world view. Those of us 35 and older don't recognize it -- except as we view it in those who are younger. It is not the same as the age-old "generation gap." No, this is a "once-in-a-500 year" total change in the way people process their world.

Those of us 35 and older lived in the age known as "modernism." It is a philosophical age that begin in the 1500s. It brought Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the "age of enlightenment." One of the leading modernist philosophers was John Locke. His methods greatly influenced Alexander Campbell -- the premier leader of the American Restoration Movement, of which Churches of Christ are a part. Modernist philosophy was about reason and absolutes. And as a modernist reads that, we think, "Of course, because that is important to establishing truth."

But a postmodernist does not see things that way. He or she hear our reasoning and ask, "So what? What difference does it make?"

You will hear many people bashing postmodernism -- especially one who is strongly tied to modernism. Our hard drives are not programmed for their way of reasoning. Nor is theirs for ours.

So what can we expect? Good and bad. This can lead to more clashes between the generations -- unless we realize that we live in two different paradigms. It means some of the things that we modernists wanted to fuss and fight over will mean nothing to the postmodernist. In fact, it will probably drive him or her away. So we better have really good and compelling reasons for what we do.

On the positive side, postmodernists will probably be more about actually being Jesus in the world. A Jesus of social justice and concern for the disenfranchised. While a group of modernists might think being like Jesus means knowing and discussing God's Word (extremely important), the postmodernist will be more about embodying THE Word (also extremely important).

Ideally, I wish we could take the best of both worldview philosophies and put them together.


Anonymous said...

I was frustrated with last night's class. However, the topic is huge and very difficult to put into a succint, easy discussion. As a post modernist I should be attempting to understand better my modern brothers and sisters. I personally enjoy the church's history and why we do the things we do.

I certainly believe we post modernists have failed to take into account how our "being Christlike" is met with confusion and questions from the older generations.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I missed that class. I think this is a very important discussion and something I have thought about quite a bit over the past 10 or more years. I was brought up with the idea that doing things according to the Bible was the test of Christianity and anybody that did things differently was not a Christian. I struggled with that and as I grew older figured out that the people who taught me that we not perfect and were for the most part teaching what they had been taught. That sent me on a long study of what it means to be a Christian. I have become more aligned with the post-modernists over this time. Theologically I would be considered a liberal in the churches of Christ but have remained morally conservative. I still beleive God expects us to be morally pure but I have a completely different view point of what it is to be a Christian than when I was growing up. Your comment about the restoration movement being influenced by individuals is the cause of many of the problems within the church (not just C of C). We have tended to hold on to the teachings of certain individuals and build traditions and beliefs based on those ideas. Once I put all of that out of my mind and just opened the Bible I saw many things I had not seen before and am hopefully grasping Christianity better than I did before.

No generation is going to get it all right. I think the key is to be able to look at ourselves and test our beliefs at all times and not worry so much about everyone else. This also means being able to accept that not everyone will believe the same as you and you must be able to accept that. Most of the battles I have seen in churches are over someone wanting things their way no matter the consequences. This type of behavior is strictly condemened in the Bible and typically the action being argued over is a matter of opinion.

Mark A.

Jonathan said...

Interesting post...over the last few years, I have come to realize how post-modern my thinking is. Jack Reese has some great thoughts about this is one of his books, Crux of the Matter, I think. I see one of the biggest differences being the "belonging vs. believing" mentality. A modernist would say you have to believe to belong. A post-modernist would want to see if they belong and then belief may come if they belong. Interesting stuff.

Jeff said...

I think I'm glad I wasn't in that class. I think nothing frustrates me more than people wanting everyone to see things their way (for the record, I'm equally frustrated when I only want someone to see things my way but I still fall into that trap at times). In my humble and feeble opinion, the suggestion that being Christ-like is all about how we treat each other and doctrine doesn't matter is short-sighted. On the other hand, the battles over doctrine that have been fought in our buildings (and spilled out into the public eye at times) have created wrong ideas and bad feelings.

If the day comes on earth when we see things from God's point of view and not our own...oh what a day that will be. Until then, I will certainly have to keep striving to quit causing frustration for others by only seeing things through my own lenses.

Kyle R. said...

I didn't get to be in class last night as I was with the 2nd graders.

Jody is right. There is no way to tidy up or condense this discussion. But it is an extremely important and relavant discussion. And one that needs to be had.

I will say the two ways of thinking can meet in the middle and do have common ground. As Christians, we must meet at the common ground. For those of us in Christ, the common ground is the at the foot of the cross and at the opening of the empty tomb. As Paul would say, "it is of first importance."