Postmodernism

Recently, building upon the shoulders of the modernists, a new breed of heretic has evolved for which the Christian educator must contend. These are not merely colorless, shapeless backdrops to be attributed to irrelevance when observing the social mosaic. Neither are they isolated voices of “corn pone” professors with megalomaniac visions of grandeur. It is touted from Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Stanford, as well as a consensus of other elite schools. Like sheep, other average state universities have already followed their lead, and are systematically redefining their respective disciplines in order to keep up with the avante garde.

If history is an indicator, postmodernism will rapidly assimilate into Christian colleges and public high schools. Then progressivistic theologians will try to contour new theologies to fit the new cultural paradigms. Some will hold to their outdated modernistic theologies (e.g. crisis theology, process theology). Other theologians will react to these theological abuses, and once again stick their theological heads in the sand by adopting a language of escapist isolationism.

As a result, many others will parrot the perceived success of those who adopt the postmodernist worldview and try to find their own language and paradigms that will accommodate the new mindset. Some will even go so far as to construct a linguistic synthesis between the contemporary culture and Christian education, thus baptizing postmodern presuppositions into the school’s faith. Once again, the historic Christian faith will be submerged under a obfuscating sea of worldly philosophy.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer did the church a great service by disclosing the monolithic philosophy of secular humanism in the early seventies. Up to that time, the church was flailing at seemingly isolated theological and social hot spots. They could not see the connection between eastern mysticism, atheism, radical socialism, feminism, the generation gap, the Black Muslim movement, the peace movement, and pantheistic ecology.

The church was already reeling from its losses to materialistic evolution and abandonment by the political establishment who banned prayer in public schools. For the average Christian, it appeared the world had gone crazy. There were thousands of differing battles needing to be waged.

Previously, the church and the “establishment” had been unified. A Judeo-Christian ethos emanated from the White House to the court house. Science and politics had affirmed Christian presuppositions for many generations.

During the sixties, the “establishment” abandoned the Christian faith and adopted a posture of “neutrality.” Suddenly, the baby boomers were rebelling against the vacuous morality of Americanism. In this fragile, volatile environment, Schaeffer began to show the church the big picture. These were not isolated, independent movements. These were natural extensions of a specific philosophy that had become acculturated in society through the education system. Suddenly, Christian activism and apologetics began to focus its arsenal on the REAL enemy of civilization, secular humanism.

Unfortunately, Schaeffer died a number of years ago. However, the social phenomena and the church’s reaction to it are frighteningly similar. If he were here, he would acknowledge that it must be understood, that there is a single thread that ties together the various movements of political correctness, multiculturalism, some strands of alternative medicine, egalitarianism, pluralism, victimization, and a host of other beliefs. These are mere branches of the dominant philosophy of postmodernism.

In order to combat postmodernism, one must become aware of the underlying presuppositions by which it operates. At its most rudimentary, postmodernism contends that human beings are cogs in a social machine. The concept of the individual is a contrived category. It does not actually exist. It is a myth, derived from a particular culture. The postmodernist psychologist, George Herbert Mead, once wrote, “Individual consciousness emerges from social interaction: Far from being a precondition of the social act, the social act is the precondition of it (On Social Psychology, pp. 132).” In other words, all individual knowledge is of necessity a social by-product.

Furthermore, not only do postmodernists claim that belief in the individual is academically misguided, they blatantly affirm that it is dangerous. John Gill, a postmodernist author, contends that, “in this day of the shrinking world, … individualism is a luxury as practically dangerous as it is theoretically erroneous (Toward a Philosophy of Education, pp. 118).”

The political ramifications of this notion in a free republic are bone-chilling.

According to postmodernists, we are social beings. All of our knowledge comes by way of a “social construct.” As Gill articulates, “The final justification of human knowledge lies not in objectivity, as with critical philosophy, nor in subjectivity, as with existentialism, but in our common and shared activity as knowing agents… it is important to keep in mind that the search for and legitimization of knowledge takes place within a social context, or community (TPE, pp. 56,74).” I am a Christian, according to Gill, because I was predisposed to believe that way by virtue of my social upbringing, not because of individual conversion.

This is the driving force behind multiculturalism (also called “diversity”). There is no culture that is more righteous or virtuous than any other. All cultures are equal. As such, they should all be equally represented.

To ensure this, national education institutions are promoting funding tied to the requirement that state schoolteachers take workshops reinforcing “diversity training” and “culture sensitivity.”

This is NOT the same as the Christian concept of justice toward all cultures. The Christian belief is based upon the stark realization that ALL cultures have sinned, and that Christ is the propitiation for ALL. It is this basis by which we are able to judge all cultures, even our own. There ARE cultures that are more right than others; those that conform themselves most to His truth. There ARE inferior cultures that are further away from God’s precepts.

Postmodernists contend that “progress” is a code-word used by modernists to justify the domination by European culture of other cultures. To be Eurocentric is a postmodernist’s sin. This has been a major catalyst for the historical revisionism becoming so widespread in this country. Great energy is expended by postmodern historians to lay the blame of all social evils at the door of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, males.

For postmodernism, there is no objective, universal truths that transcend culture. All knowledge is culturally derived. As Gill contends, “While there may be no set, universally agreed upon answers to many of the questions under consideration, especially in philosophy and religion, each person may indeed should, work toward some tentative conclusion of his or her own (TPE, pp. 76).”

These are unashamedly relativists. They do not care that it creates a necessary tautology (i.e. If all things are relative, then the statement all things are relative is in fact relative). The reason for this is that the law of contradiction is itself a byproduct of a social construct. There is no such thing as objective rationality (that is, reason unaffected by bias). It is a socially constructed myth. So, a can be non-a at the same time and in the same sense.

It is this point that is the most sinister part of postmodernism. It is the first philosophy in Western civilization that claims to throw out the law of contradiction as a test for truth claims. Even Hegel and Kierkegaard did not do this. However, a point of weakness in their philosophy is that they irresistibly use reason to ‘prove’ their case. Only when it is convenient to try to establish authority for their argument, however.

Finally, for the postmodernist, thoughts are imprisoned in language. As the famous postmodernist linguist, Michael Polyani, was famous for saying, “We know more than we can say.” All languages are mere symbols of what exists, and is necessarily inadequate to communicate truth. The Eskimo language has dozens of words to describe snow, most other cultures only have one. So for them, language is a prison house.

Imagine trying to explain the color blue to a person blind from birth. They could not go outside their language in either thought or experience. They would have to create words in order to go outside of their experience. They are imprisoned by their language.

Jacques Derrida, often credited as the Father of Postmodernism, taught that the key to understanding any text was in its “deconstruction.” In other words, since the author had his own biases and agenda for writing his work, it is the readers responsibility to discover what those biases are and read it accordingly. For example, the Constitution was written by white Anglo-Saxon slave holders, so the TRUE message of the framers was to construct a government whereby they might be able to maintain control of the wealth and power of the new nation.

This has huge ramifications for both politics, theology, and education. For if language is a prison house, then those who received revelation from God and wrote the Bible, were incapable of clearly understanding the realities of which God’s word spoke, and necessarily mixed their own personal biases and social constructs in with the pure word of God. We must then “deconstruct” the Bible to understand what it means.

Most in the philosophical community believe postmodernism is an aberration, and lacks the rigor of analytic thought to give it sustainability. It is just this rigor, what the Puritans termed “inspired reason,” that the next generation we are currently training need to place the “death nail” into this dangerous philosophy.

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About rhbryant89

Educator and Administrator for over 25 years.
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