Mapping the Conversation

Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity – 2

When many Christian thinkers read Lyotard’s definition of postmodernity (the “incredulity toward metanarratives”), they obviously hear, “incredulity toward any grand story, including the biblical story of redemption in Christ” (even though this is not what Lyotard meant by his definition—see the previous post). This broader definition causes trepidation for Christian thinkers, for it is in conflict with the Christian contention that there is a grand story that explains reality—often outlined as “Creation-Fall-Redemption.” “Neo-Lyotardism” (as I'm calling this incredulity toward any grand story that offers universal meaning), is indeed trickling into the popular culture.

But the presumption of this series is that when we attempt to understand postmodernity on its own terms, it has many positive insights that are actually in line and helpful to the Christian worldview (more so, I believe, than the modern age did!). This is not to say there are not problems with postmodernity, and I will attempt to address those as well. But a key to starting our conversation is not to assume that we can sum up postmodernity as simply a radical deconstructive relativism that necessarily leads to nihilism. While some postmodern philosophers go that route, there are plenty who do not. And there are plenty of Christian philosophers and theologians who do not take that route either. I've been doing a lot of research on this subject (see the list of books I'm currently reading), and in the rest of this blogging series, I will address some of the key beliefs of postmodern thinking:

  1. The belief that all attempts at creating a totalizing, universally true worldview are, in fact, socially constructed by local communities that can only understand the world through their community’s peculiar conceptual language
  2. The belief that all metanarratives are, in fact, power-grabs used by one group of people to oppress another by forcing their totalizing, untrue worldview onto another, thus marginalizing the other, and often causing conflict and even violence
  3. The belief that the Enlightenment reliance on the scientific quest for universal knowledge through objective “Reason” or the “certainty of rationality” as the ultimate arbitrator of the truth is invalid
  4. The belief that epistemological foundationalism must be called into question and therefore, new, non-foundational ways of “knowing” must be sought
  5. The belief that there is, in fact, no Reality “out there” to know since all conceptions of “Reality” are simply constructions of our senses, situatedness, and conceptual languages
What are the proper Christian responses to these beliefs? Let’s enter into "dialogical dispute" with each. In this week’s posts, we will explore what I think may be good Christian responses to the above list.

Index of this series: Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity


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