Posted with permission from Sunesis.
We live in a society dominated by a philosophy of change, a departure from human values, and the rise of anti-authoritarianism. We hear “post” frequently in terms such as post-Christian, post-liberal, and post-conservative; this is also a time of globalism and neo-paganism. Philosophers call the philosophy of this age Postmodernism. Before we look at just what this movement is all about, and how it affects each of us today, a little history is appropriate.
Premodernism was the worldview (whether people understood it as such or not) dominated by authority (in the West this authority was the Catholic Church) and a respect for that authority. It routinely included a belief in a deity and man’s responsibility toward that deity. Angels and demons, the miraculous, and the spiritual were an assumed part of life.
Modernism followed. With the Enlightenment of the 17th century came the rejection of the authority of tradition in favor of human reason and natural science. The autonomous human was the source of meaning and truth, and human ability became the god of this age. There were good things that came from the Enlightenment. It was foundational to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights. It broke the power of Catholicism in Europe. It restored dignity to the individual. Modernism, however, had significant problems. It assumed that man could do anything, including putting himself on the moon and launching himself into the universe. Thus Star Trek became the ultimate in modernist scientific thinking—man could even overcome the laws of physics. With the rise of reason and science, however, came a rejection of the miraculous. There could still be a god, if man felt he needed one, but it would have to be a god subject to the laws of physics and nature. Deism rose at about the same time as Modernism. It was a good fit, for the god of the Deist was one who set in motion the universe as we know it and left it to itself. In the modern worldview, there was a confidence that truth could be discovered and demonstrated as true. The debates, therefore, centered on metaphysical realities—is there a God or is there not? Is Jesus God or is he not? Did miracles happen or did they not? In these debates, it was assumed that there was a definitive answer which could be demonstrated by science, reason, and argumentation. Baptist individualism rose, especially in America, with the rise of the emphasis on the person. For Baptists (and others in the New World), meaning and truth were based on the human conscience and intellect informed by biblical truth. Bible believers were unwilling to give up the God of the Bible or His truth, but the interpretation of that truth was no longer based in tradition.