I recently made an interesting discovery. I am a postmodernist.
This was something of a surprise for me because I had been told many times over that the basis of postmodernism is the belief that there is no absolute truth, and that all “truth” is relative. That simply does not describe me at all. But, while that may characterize some postmodernists it is really only a result of what truly is foundational to postmodernism: the questioning of everything established.
Now, if so far you either have no idea what I am talking about, or if you are about to give up reading because this subject gives you uncontrollable fits of yawning…well, please bear with me anyway…
The postmodern “movement” really began as just an art and literature thing. Creative minds began questioning what made art art, or what constituted “good” literature. So, ideas began to fly. And, so did paint. Artists like Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp questioned classical views of art. Admittedly they went about it in different ways and produced different results (Pollocks paintings were large canvases full of paint splatters, whereas Duchamp exhibited a slightly modified urinal as a “sculpture”), but their basic premises were the same: to challenge established views of art.
And that, in a nutshell, is what characterizes postmodernism: challenging what is established. That is why younger generations today are suspicious of religion. That is why (at least from my limited perspective) the political scene is so divided and partisan (not the congressmen and women, but the population itself…partisanship in Congress is another story).
The postmodern view has resulted in some pretty ridiculous creations in the art world, and some crazy views in the Western world, but I think it has something to teach us in the Christian world.
Paul told a group of Christians deeply embedded in Greco-Roman society, a society full of traditions, philosophies, religion, and politics (a society very similar to our own in many aspects), to “test everything; hold fast to what is good.” (1Thessalonians 5:21) That is a postmodern view. Question everything. Challenge what is established. Doubt traditions and practices and long-held interpretations. Push until you get some answers.
That is something that I can get behind, and the main reason I no longer have a problem considering myself postmodern. We have nothing to lose from questioning what we believe…even the most fundamental, strongly held beliefs we can come up with. We have nothing to lose because if we are wrong then we will have discovered our error, if we put some serious time and study into examining our beliefs. If we are right, then we have only more firmly established our faith.
Although postmodernism may produce some pretty ridiculous art, it can also produce a ridiculously true and devoted faith: the kind of faith that set the world against Jesus, and Jesus on a cross. That’s the kind of faith we need.