Question 3 What is Post-modernism?
Question 3 What is Post-modernism?
The Routledge Dictionary of Post-modern Though defines post-modernism as “a wide-ranging cultural movement which adopts a skeptical attitude to many of the principles and assumptions that have underpinned Western thought and social life for the last few centuries.” Many people believe we are now living in the post-modern word, which has a great amount of influence on how we think about God.
As we explore the meaning of theology in our post-modern world, it is important for us to understand how each time period has understood the purpose of theology. The three time periods we will be focusing on are Pre-Modern, Post-Modern, and Modern. These time periods came into being during the enlightenment period when science began to dominate. We call this the beginning of the modern period.
The period before this is known as the Pre-modern period, which dates from 2500BCE to 1500 ACE. It was the Pre-modern period that produced the Bible and the emergence of the church. It produced our first doctrinal statements and our first attempts at theology. This period was primarily concerned with understanding who God was and who they were. They illustrated these truths through stories, such as the creation story. The writings in the Old Testament gave a picture of a God who loved them, even though they continued to rebel. Then the New Testament writers drew on these stories and told how Jesus gave these stories meaning. Jesus explained God in better ways than the other religious teachers. The disciples saw that it made sense of what they had read about God in the Old Testament. The early church fathers took the writings of the Old and New Testament and began to formulate what the church would believe. They wrote these in the forms of creeds and this became the doctrine of the church.
The purpose of these doctrinal statements in the Pre-modern period was attempts to understand God, as revealed through Jesus Christ. They used theology to help them better understand doctrine. They primarily asked the questions “What is God like and what are we like”. They wanted to know what doctrine said about God. For example, Athanasius, a fourth century church father says this about the doctrine of the Incarnation, “It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil.” His theology of explaining the incarnation focuses on telling us the incarnation is a reality because God is good. His theology told more about who God is than anything else.
Next we move to the Modern period, ranging from 1500 to 1980 ACE. Remember, this was the age of reason and the scientific method. In the scientific method, the goal is to prove a hypothesis true with as much date as possible. Something was not true unless it was proven by sound argument or evidence. Theology in this period became a means to prove doctrine to be true. The major questions being asked of doctrine was “how can we prove what God is like and how can we prove what people are like”. Theologians would not believe something just because it was passed down from generation to generation. It is in this generation that we see people trying to disprove the existence of God through scientific and rational explanations. Modernism taught Christians that certian explanations of the world had to be either true or false.
In the twentieth century, scholars believe we are headed into a new time period called the Post-modern era, which began around 1980. Post-moderns want to ask the question, “why does it matter what God is like.” They are not interested in whether something can be proven, unless it can be applied to their lives, empirical data is not enough. This has a huge impact on the way Post-moderns do theology. They are not interested so much in which theologies are right or wrong, theology is used to help apply doctrine to their lives.
Post-moderns normally look for truths that apply to their situations in any theological system.
Tomorrow I will talk about what I see as the positives and the negatives of Post-modern thought for Christians.