Some ideas can really grip a culture, especially when that culture and its society are currently finding bankruptcy in the prevailing ideology. Often times, history shows us that the acceptance of the next “heroic” ideology is based on more existential wishful thinking than on well thought out strategic steps of maturity. The leap toward postmodernism from modernism is no exception.
Some good questions have been raised about the existence of postmodernism. Postmodernism has become common language and many concluded it as the default disparager of today’s declined cultural and social milieu. But is this a proper conclusion and have the appropriate changes to this ideology been made? Dr. William Lane Craig is a voice that has been speaking up and raising challenges about the very existence of postmodernism.
I came across an old article in Christianity Today entitled “God is Not Dead Yet,” where Dr. Craig gives several arguments for the existence of God; in closing, he stated the following insight about postmodernism:
However all this may be, some might think that the resurgence of natural theology in our time is merely so much labor lost. For don’t we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.
This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.
I think he is correct; we do live in a modernist culture, not a postmodern culture.
Whether one is an advocator or protestor of postmodernism, both tend to make a crucial mistake; they are presupposing or implying that postmodernism exists by starting from the fact that people are postmodernist or that they possess postmodern thoughts. To attempt to construct arguments for postmodernism’s tenets as rational or irrational is to miss the point. The more fundamental question persists – Can our reality as we know it even host such an ideology?
Postmodernism (a theoretical ideology) still breathes life because first, P (people) still try to believe in postmodernism as a viable ideology, and secondly, people validate postmodern belief simply because there are P that say they believe in postmodernism. However, claiming postmodernism, or giving postmodernism existence because P (people) voice their belief of postmodernism, does not make postmodernism exist. Just because we believe something or say we believe something does not give that something existence. So even in matters (religious or ethical) where people offer a relativistic / postmodern conception to a given belief, it remains just that, a conception.
Dr. Craig said that relativism and pluralism (the two main tenants of postmodernism) are unlivable and untenable and he is correct. Relativism and pluralism are self-contradictory. Claiming that everything is relative and there are no absolutes must include its own statement which is absolute – pluralism suggests that all ideas are equal, except the idea that says all ideas are equal. Because these claims are self-defeating, relativism and pluralism logically cancel out their own existence. Giving credence to postmodernism means one does not truly see the value of the above arguments. It seems necessarily so that by de facto postmodernism is de fiction.
Other exemplar articles such as “Postmodernism: Dead But Not Gone” (although filled with good content) really miss the point: postmodernism never really existed to either die or reach extinction. Postmodernism then is reduced to a mythical realm, a realm of make-belief, a desired utopian state. Postmodernism is nothing more than an attitude that floats around culture fronting as a tolerant and fully excepting ideology trying to promote peace and unity among its social subjects. Peace and unity are exceptional social desires, but there must be objectivity that we can depend on to say “this is peace” and “that is unity” and then recognize when they are achieved.
On a footnote in reflection to Dr. Craig’s above statement:
I do see a small positive in this “new line verificationism,” if you will. “Old line verificationism” left no room for the existence of metaphysics but “new line verificationism” (modernism with a twist, or again, what everybody calls postmodernism) has an ethic of relative tolerance of all ideas therefore cannot exclude the existence of metaphysics. So Dr Craig’s challenge stands – the “new line” is verificationism but with its new ethical approach intrinsically makes concessions from the old line verification. This concession means metaphysical arguments must now become a valid approach for truth.
- Dr. William Lane Craig, “God is Not Dead Yet” – Christianity Today 2008 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/13.22.html
Collin Hansen, “Postmodernism: Dead But Not Gone” – The Gospel Coalition Blog http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/08/23/postmodernism-dead-but-not-gone/