As discussed previously, everyone has a worldview whether they realize it or not. Recently I heard another apologist mention three questions that he uses to help people clarify their worldview (thanks Don M.). They help to frame the debate and help to clarify their beliefs. His questions are:
- Where did we come from? (Origin)
- Why are we here? (Meaning / Morality)
- Where are we going? (Destiny)
Ken Samples, the author of A World of Difference, has four podcasts discussing worldviews that give an overview.
- What in the World is a Worldview?
- Postmodernism's Skeptical Worldview
- Pantheistic Monism: an Eastern Mystical Worldview
The first worldview we evaluated here was Pantheistic Monism. Now we'll turn our attention to Postmodernism.
What is Postmodernism (PM)? First, perhaps we should discuss the context that PM is a reaction to: Premodernism and Modernism (or Modernity). These perspectives are fundamentally different. For each of these, the objective foundation for truth, meaning, purpose, and value:
- Premodernism - is found in God or spirituality
- Modernism - is found in man, nature, or science
- Postmodernism - does not exist
PM is a response to the objectivity and oppressiveness of various modern views and to the spiritual views of Premodernism. Wikipedia says, "Whereas modernism was primarily concerned with principles such as identity, unity, authority, and certainty, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, and skepticism." The language, power/status, and motivation of the holder of a belief is emphasized.
PM is characterized by a skepticism of an absolute basis for truth and of grand meta-narratives or worldviews. In a sense, PM is the worldview that denies the reality of worldviews. Most "realities" are simply apparent and have evolved from social constructs (i.e. someone's agenda or power struggles). PM holds that absolute, objective, or universal truth does not exist. What a person or social group finds useful or beneficial to them, is therefore "true" for them. Relativism, multiculturalism, and pluralism have flourished under PM. PM is also skeptical about the ability of language to communicate truth, resulting in the view that all texts are fundamentally indeterminate in meaning (deconstructionism).
Postmodernism has an interesting relationship to the Sophists of ancient Athens who debated with Socrates about the nature of truth. Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." For him, objective and fixed truths were discoverable by the minds of men through reason and dialog, something that the Sophists and PM would reject.
So how does Postmodernism stack up when put to the worldview test?
- It rightly recognized the excesses and exploitation of Modernism's totalitarian regimes. PM is aware of the needs and condition of people. Like the historic Christian worldview, PM holds that we should love and care for other people who are poor, weak, sick, hungry, and oppressed.
- PM also recognizes that man is deeply flawed and holds, in opposition to Modernism's belief in the fundamental goodness of mankind, and that we should be deeply skeptical of man's inherent goodness.
- PM is also critical of Modernism's grand claims of knowledge and understanding. In reality, we seldom have certainty about anything.
- Coherence - does this passed the test of reason? In rejecting the validity of all meta-narratives (or worldviews), it actually becomes one itself. It is the "grand story that dismisses all grand stories". By rejecting all ultimate claims to reality, it violates its own claim by making that very claim for itself. Also to assert that no one has access to ultimate knowledge, really requires access to that very knowledge to justify the claim. It fails its own standard.
- Textual deconstructionism is practically unworkable. If there is no way to get meaning from a text other than based on the reader's perspective, then no real meaning or intent can ever be communicated by speech or written words.
- If all ethics and morality are subjective and relative, then on what basis can they criticize modern oppressive and totalitarian societies? PM has no place to ground objective morality and thus it leaves humanity on the quicksand of morality by majority rule or group whim.
- If everything is truly subjective, then how can PM assert that their ideas are superior to any others? It has no big-picture perspectives for humanity and leaves only skepticism and meaninglessness. What meaning is there to life if we can't know our purpose or destiny?
In conclusion, Postmodernism's claims are logically incoherent and PM doesn't offer a pragmatic way to live. It provides no objective basis for recognizing right and wrong, and is unable to justify its criticism of evil and corruption. Again I'd recommend Ken Samples' book, A World of Difference, for more in depth analysis.