In 1979 a Philosopher named Jean-Francois Lyotard published a book called The Postmodern Condition. Using the phrase Postmodern from a contemporary artistic expression that was being coined in Europe during the time, he began to express that Postmodernism is not a set of beliefs, which many Christians have expressed it to be. Rather, he explains that Postmodernism is a condition. It is a way of life and thinking that one cannot escape.
I cannot escape the fact that I was born white. That I grew up in a middle-class family. That I was born into certain family traditions, values, and, ethics. Add this into the modern media overload, the influence of my friends and my education, and, I am living within the lens of how I view and live life. Thus, the condition is born. Society is undergoing such a massive overhaul of changes, that those living, especially my age, cannot escape the conditioning instilled into us.
What good postmodernism has not instilled into us, despite poor critique of it, is moral and theoretical relativism. When you look at the great thinkers of Postmodernism, (Derrida, Foucalt, Ricouer) you do not see this sort of relativism that is often critiqued upon it, especially by Christians. When you look at Jacque Derrida, a Jewish man, but, an intellectual atheist, you see the voice of Deconstructionism come to its greatest rise. Deconstruction serves to crack open the core of society, religion and ourselves, and, preserve what is ultimately most sacred. Ricouer, a practicing Protestant, had the goal of solving the problem of evil within a hermeneutic of Philosophy and Theology.
The truth of the matter is this…. we cannot escape who we are. While some of us have been more influenced by this Postmodern Condition than others, for better or worse, not accepting what is, makes it impossible to deal with what is. If you’re a Christian, you may have a problem with Brian McLaren (who does not claim Postmodernism) or other leaders of Emergent, Philosophers like John Caputo, James K.A Smith, or Peter Rollins, you may even have problems with people who are associated with Postmodern Christianity like Rob Bell or Donald Miller, but, if you don’t participate in conversation and practice within it. This is the system and culture that is instilled within us all, and, it has influenced us all.
We are currently undergoing a massive sociological shift. Similar to the one 500 years ago, where society changed, technology changed, the producing of information changed, religion is changing (Read Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence or Harvey Cox’s The Age of Faith). And, while the effects of these things, produced many wonderful things, it also produced many awful things as well. It was also a very violent time, especially within the Church. If we cannot be in conversation with each other about the world we are trying to create, we are going to end up in another violent cycle, where we create enemies and make the ride to what is next, much more rocky. As Christians we are called to be peacemakers, to enter into the places where there is confrontation and bring peace to a place that is hardly unsettled.