by Bill Nugent
In this article we will contrast the postmodern, modern and premodern worldviews with the Christian worldview. This will enable us to better understand and deal with the challenges currently facing Christianity.
Postmodernism is the dominant worldview on American and European university campuses today. Postmodernism is the belief that truth (or ultimate meaning) is created by each individual in their own thoughts and emotions. Each person formulates their own truth and no matter how bizarre that truth may be, the person can assert that it is right. This is a notion that is not only at variance with Christianity but also is in sharp contrast to the modern worldview. Postmodernism, as its name suggests, has gone beyond modernism.
Modernism maintains that truth (real truth, absolute truth) is discovered by human reason. A modernist believes that there is a law above man’s law and that all people are accountable to this law. Modernists generally do not believe that this transcendent moral law was given by God. Modern philosophy and worldview maintains that truth can be figured out or discovered by human reason apart from divine wisdom.
The Christian worldview maintains that truth is given to us by God. Truth was given by divine revelation and was written down in the Bible in the form of the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and other Bible passages. Man is accountable to God. God’s truth is real truth. Absolute truth, which is the law above man’s law, was given to us by God.
Let’s take a brief look at the ancient or premodern worldview. This will shed light on the direction that western civilization is headed. The premodern worldview is essentially indistinguishable from the postmodern worldview. The premodern and the postmodern worldviews are basically the same! Both worldviews reject reason and revelation. Premodernism and postmodernism may make an occasional appeal to reason or even to revelation from God but both worldviews reject absolute truth. Both worldviews reject the idea that there is a transcendent body of law above man’s law.
To both premodernists and postmodernists man is the law. The premodern societies had their kings and emperors who were the law. They ruled by decree. The postmodern fascist and communist societies of the 20th century had dictators who ruled by decree.
A good example of premodern philosophy is the writings of the pre-Socratic sophist philosophers of ancient Greece. Protagorus (c. 485 – 411 BC) is reputed to have said “Man is the measure of all things.” That statement is both premodernism and postmodernism in a nutshell.
Under premodern sophistry, man made his own truth. The most powerful man (king, emperor, dictator) creates his own truth in his own mind and then imposes it on the rest of society. The king takes the place of God and the king even receives worship as a god. Emperor worship was a common feature of ancient Pagan societies. Postmodernism, despite its progressive sounding name is really a reversion to premodernism. In postmodernism, western civilization is taking a giant leap backwards!
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle challenged the teachings of the sophists by presenting the idea of the moral ideal or “archetype” which could be discovered by human reason. They rejected sophistry and exalted the human intellect. They believed in a law above man’s law. This is the reason why Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have been studied down through the centuries. Their teachings helped give birth to rationalism and by extension, modernism.
The idea of a law above man’s law certainly did not begin with Socrates. Centuries before Socrates God revealed His law in the form of the Ten Commandments (and other biblical laws). Even king David of ancient Israel was subject to these laws and could not change them by decree. King David was punished by God when he committed adultery and murder.
Many of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s teachings are abhorrent to Christians. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were outrageously male supremacist, they belittled and disdained women and they endorsed infanticide.
The Christian worldview maintains that not only is there a body of law above man’s law but man cannot discover that law by reasoning processes alone. The God who created us loves us and He has spoken to us. What God has spoken has been written down in the Bible. The Bible is revealed truth. The Bible is also calledpropositional truth which is truth contained in plain statements such as commandments. God’s wisdom which is revealed in His commandments is far wiser than man’s premodern, modern or postmodern wisdom.