Postmodernism – Friend of foe?

The Christian Post guest columnist S Michael Craven asks, in a recent article, whether modernism rather than postmodernism is the enemy of Christian faith:

I often hear evangelical leaders speak of the “threat of postmodernism” or the “challenges of living in the postmodern era” as if some new malevolent force is overtaking Western civilization. In short, most Christians tend to assume that postmodernism is completely opposed to Christian faith, but I would argue that this is based more on a popular and uninformed notion of postmodernity than on a critical analysis that seeks to truly understand the complexities of culture and human knowing.

Make no mistake; there is indeed a malevolent force that has overtaken Western civilization, a force that has undermined authentic Christian faith. I’m talking about modernism. Postmodernism offers the first serious challenge to modernism since its emergence from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment; thus postmodernism warrants serious consideration as an ally to Christian faith.

It was the Enlightenment emphasis on autonomous reason that ushered in the modern era and with it a rejection of Divine revelation as a legitimate source of truth. Messiah College professor of English and film studies Crystal L. Downing points out in her book, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, “Truth for the modern thinker is objectively perceived by the unaided human brain. Reason begins to take precedence over revelation; rational analysis starts to supersede the authority of the church. … While the premodern Christian says that belief precedes understanding, the modern era began to switch it around, saying, ‘I must understand in order to believe.’” Professor Downing adds that, “once reason is turned into the preeminent source of knowledge, it erodes reliance on faith, which is ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’”

As he goes on to explains:

Though they may deny it, modernists do presuppose certain “truths”; therefore they, too, depart from reason at some point, employing faith in their assumptions. This is precisely what postmodernism challenges: the belief in autonomous reason apart from faith, which ultimately gives rise to the myth of the autonomous self. The “autonomous self” taken to its logical conclusion creates its own unique meaning, defines its own morality, and then attempts to live it to the best of his or her ability. In other words, life is all about you, your feelings and your desires. You and you alone remain the ultimate authority in your own life. This is a purely modernistic notion that has infected the contemporary church in ways too numerous to count.

Read the full article here

 

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