Sunday, July 28, 2002

modernism and postmodernism

On Saturday 27 July, Fred Peatross asked:

"How did we get to this point? I do believe that postmodernism is the ultimate end of human arrogance (unless you challenge and convince me otherwise); but perhaps the real reason is greater and more complicated. Could the cultural pain and confusion be God's doing? Perhaps postmodernism is the judgment of God for modernity. What say you?"

Fred, I'll suggest the following is one helpful way of wrapping our brains around modernity and postmodernity without suggesting that what follows is an actual analysis of the current state of philosophical discussion!

Let's consider that the heart of modernity is to make things systematic, programmable, definable, definite, etc. Or, more colloquially, to "figure things out."

Further, let's say that the heart of postmodernity is the awareness that there is reality beyond our knowing, that in this world we will ever see antinomies (apparent contradictions that aren't), or that we will always have mystery

Call that the x axis with modernity all the way on the left at one end and pomo all the way on the right at the other.

Now, consider the y axis is a continuum where theocentric is all the way at the bottom on one end and anthropocentric is at the other end.

These two axes therefore create a nexus of four quadrants. (You can view a simple graph in this article if you scroll down a bit.)

Quad I

Anthropocentric Modernism

"I can figure it all out with no stone unturned! I'm in charge!

Quad II

Anthropocentric Postmodernism

"I can't figure anything out. Language is just a language game and what I think is real is only an arbitrary paradigm my mind created. It's all a mystery. No one can therefore tell me what to do! I'm in charge!"

Quad III

Theocentric Modernity

God has given me a mind! "...the things revealed belong to us and our sons forever" (Dt. 29:29b). It is "glory of kings to search out a matter" (Pro 25:2b). I can learn some things and figure some things out! God's given me the ability to do this! He's in charge!

Quad IV

Theocentric Postmodernity

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Dt. 29:29a)! "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter"(Proverbs 25:2a)! He is mysterious. Sure I can know some things, but the fact that He is infinite and I am finite means I cannot know all! He's amazing and beyond my understanding! I must stay humble! Glory to Him! He's in charge!

So I'm suggesting that a mere binary analysis of modern/postmodern in many discussions can be simplistic unless there's an overlay consideration of the direction of the heart.

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