Is your faith like a plate of Spaghetti?
What in the world does postmodern mean? People call art, architecture, and even religion post modern. The word does get overused sometimes, but maybe this article can explain some of what is meant by the word “post modern.” But before you can understand postmodern, you have to understand modern.
The modern era began as a philosophical movement by Renee Descartes. He saw Europe embroiled in war and divided by ideology, religion, and nationality. His dream was to unite humanity so that those divisions never again caused one group of people to war with another. To do that, he intended to create a way of thinking that would unite everyone. He decided he needed a foundation that absolutely could not be doubted or reduced. To do that, he doubted everything he could, from his own existence, to candles, to God. Eventually, he realized the only thing he could not doubt was that he could doubt. This is where he came up with the phrase “I think, therefore I am.” From this foundation, he built back up and proved the existence of God rationally, and he thought no one would disagree with him.
As a result, philosophers decided that people had to be absolutely certain about anything they believed. This line of thinking branched off into two groups, especially as they concerned religion. One group believed that experience was the ultimate authority for belief, and anything in religion that did not match up with experience was to be rejected. This group came to be called liberal. Another group decided experience was not authoritative, and that an outside source was to be the ultimate authority. This group came to be called conservative. These groups became so extreme that neither allowed for the methods of the other, the liberals rejected almost all the Bible, and the conservatives built a wall around the bible and chastised any who might think to hard about the Bible.
A second result of modernism was an extreme emphasis on logical reasoning. Both conservatives and liberals had to have their faith laid out in a logical, analytically sound manner, and both had to have a firm, unshakeable foundation. A way of describing this method of thinking is a firm, concrete foundation with blocks stacked one on top of the other. Each block must rest on the one below, and go in an unshakeable line directly down to the bottom. The result was that doubt was handled inappropriately: the liberals surrendered to doubt, and the conservatives ignored doubt, believing it to be weakness. Both methods are wrong. Authentic faith can doubt, and faith is ironically stronger when someone struggles with doubt, instead of surrendering to or ignoring that doubt.
This is where the beauty of postmodernism comes in. Postmodern ways of thinking allow for both outside and inside sources for knowledge. For example, both the Bible and a person’s relationship with Christ (experience) can be a source of knowledge. Multiple sources, in fact, may be used for the beginnings of what we know. Here the model for thinking could be like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, where the meatballs are the sources of knowledge and the spaghetti is the connecting lines of thought. Doubt is easier to handle, because if one meatball is taken away, others can compensate for its loss. If one line of thinking is faulty, other lines of thinking can be moved around to compensate.
Do not get lost in the analogy, however. Just because I said the meatballs can be taken away does not mean that you can decide not to believe the Bible or believe in Jesus. What I mean to say is that postmodern ways of thinking allow for doubt in a way that modern thought does not. Instead of ignoring or surrendering to doubt, post modernity embraces doubt and works through it. Rational thinking can only take you so far, until you must leap out beyond certainty toward believing in a God who defies logic, who is unscientific, and cannot be measured. You must believe in the unbelievable, for if you could truly prove the existence of God, you could not then have true faith.