This complete paper appeared in the Spring 1999 edition of The Journal of Ministry & Theology, Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA.
When Charles Dickens wrote The Tale of Two Cities depicting the French Revolution, he began with the words, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Now at the end of that modern period, we may again repeat the words of Dickens. We are glad for the decline in modern and atheistic thought, but a greater foe is approaching on the horizon. While defending the doctrine of faith to our generation, James R. White asks, “Now a new tidal wave, called by the scholars postmodernity, is sweeping across Western thought, undermining the very idea of absolute truth. What should be the response of the Christian church in the face of these waves of philosophical attack?” (The Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 9).
This paper is an attempt to answer that question as well as define Postmodernism in our generation. In an interview, Dennis McCallum responded, “A simple definition of postmodernism is the belief that truth is not discovered, but created. . . No one has more to lose from postmodernism epistemology than Christians.” (focal Point Magazine, Spring, 1997, p. 5). By the very nature of postmodernism, Christian churches may be falling into this mode without even realizing it. If the modern era has indeed ended, as most think, then we are now postmoderns and the question only remains as to whether we will be postmodernists.
The story is told of three umpires representing the three ages of human history. The first, representing the pre-modern age says, “Three strikes and you’re out and I call ‘em the way they are.” The second umpire, representing the modern age says, “Three strikes and you’re out and I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.” The third umpire, representing the postmodern age says, “Three strikes and you’re out, and they ain’t nothin’ til I call em.” As we look at the approach of postmodernism, this outlook will become all too clear. Truth doesn’t exist except as the individual wants it to exist. As a matter of fact, he can create his own truth.
From the classroom to the television and even to the churches, institutions are asking the audience what they think truth should be and what it should look like, and then marketing their products to the whims of the world. This is the first time in Western Civilization that people are asking not to know and are being obliged by their society. The symbol of this age could easily be the bungee cord. It is a free-fall into nothingness just for the sake of doing it. We had better stop and check if the cord is really hooked to anything solid.