Postmodernism: A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.
Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of their being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism “cannot on its own principles ultimately prove itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.” (Postmodernism)
Postmodernism: — a state of mind or way of thinking in the post-modern world affecting every area of western culture
A general understanding reveals that postmodernism is a term that has gained popularity in scholarly writing as well as casual conversations. In fact, Thomas Guarino (1996) says, “It’s a “movement” that has inspired raging debates about ‘the cult theory’ [in the 1930’s] across the arts and sciences” (p. 654). One of the core issues of postmodern philosophy is the denial of absolutes across groups and lends itself to logical positivism and relativity as a maxim of truth. As a result, the intention of this article about postmodernism is not to solve the debate, but to understand the influence that state of mind held has upon contemporary beliefs about spirituality.
What Does Postmodernism Describe?
A description given by Daniel J. Adams (1997) says, “The postmodern era can best be understood in terms of four major characteristics: the decline of the West, the legitimation crisis, the intellectual marketplace, and the process of deconstruction” (Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism).
The perspective of Adams demonstrates is a fundamental shift in thinking in this period that began in a specific era of time and is associated with significant phenomenon occurring simultaneously in Western Culture that is characterized with the period of decline of spirituality. His analysis of Western Decline draws attention to a point of view that is fundamental to an evolution of spiritual meaning that has correlates to historical-cultural development. To illustrate, Adams (1997) says, “the legitimation crisis, identified with metanarrative shows [what] is now being seriously called into question” (2). Unlimited development and capitalistic movement in American ideology versus environmental pollution, limited resources, concerns about nuclear proliferation—use of energy, environmental threats, third world poverty, and the goals of the NAFTA have deligitimated descriptions that had characterized capitalism and the past success of the West. Postmodern thinking is characterized by a shift in state of mind about core beliefs that are delegitimized in an essential devaluation of past matters of importance.
Adams, draws attention to another significant development correlated to Western Decline the, “metanarrative of Judeo-Christian sexual ethic” (p. 2) characterizing American culture. His perspective identifies the shift of views about sexuality chastity, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and traditional view of marriage as another deconstructed normative value in culture. With Judeo-Christian ethics disempowered from authoritative acceptance, norms from the past are replaced with a plurality of views with no central source of knowledge or universally held value to describe a way of life experience in America. Deligitimation in postmodern life of the Judeo Christian ethic demonstrates changing beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and accepted norms indicate a shifting emphasis from the views of the past.
A perspective about the impact of postmodernism upon Christian thought is offered by David Couchman (2002) who describes how mind-set has been altered, he states: “if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put it in cold water and heat it slowly, you can boil it alive because it does not realize what is happening. … We think we know what is going on, while the culture in which we are immersed is slowly killing us without our realizing it” (Couchman, 2002, p. p. 74). Thus the effect of postmodernism is not readily recognize because culture has been inoculated in a gradual process of change that has brought dramatic change in the decline of western thought about many important cultural issues that have placed a profound effect upon spiritual values and beliefs in the 21st century.
References Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.orh/adams.html
Couchman, D. (2002). Facing the challenge of our times equipping christians to respond biblically and effectively to postmodernism. Evangel , 20 (3), pp. 74-78 retrieved from EBSCOhost March 09, 2011.
Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.
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