What Postmodernism Gets Right

The Audacious Ride for Visions, painting by Leda Luss Luyken

When I first started examining postmodernism to know how precisely that way of looking at the world differed from what I was used to, my pastor at the time, Dale Burke, said that postmodernism is no more dangerous than modernism — neither one is a Biblical worldview but neither one is all wrong either.

He was right. And yet it seems so much easier to camp on the ways that postmodernism contradicts what I believe rather than affirming the things about this way of thinking that are helpful.

First, postmodernism is essentially a way of looking at the world that stands against the ideals of modernism — things like socially progressive trends; affirming the power of the human being to create, improve, and reshape the environment; and replacing the old with the new to facilitate the advance of science and technology.

One thing that seems true of postmodernism is that science and materialism is no longer the end of all knowledge. Instead, there’s a new awareness that there is spiritual knowledge — influences that can’t be scientifically defined or measured and a world beyond the material that can’t be quantified.

This is a good thing. In some ways it’s a replication of the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the latter being the Jewish sect that didn’t believe in supernatural intervention in the world such as angels or visions or presumably, the Holy Spirit, and certainly not the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

It was the Pharisees that could say when Paul was arrested, Wait a minute; maybe he has seen an angel.

The point is, the refusal to see beyond the material world is a huge barrier to anyone coming to Christ. How do you explain God’s existence to someone who begins the discussion believing that the only viable proofs are material in nature? It’s like saying, Show me love.

Postmodernism reintroduces the spiritual into the conversation. Granted, another part of postmodernism wants to accept all and any spiritual experience as equally valid and true, so it’s still far from a Biblical position, but nevertheless, it seems to me more Pharisees were likely to believe Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road than Sadducees who thought communication with a supernatural being an impossibility.

Something else I think postmodernism has right is validating human experience. Today there’s much more emphasis put on a person’s story, and on story in general. Telling stories as opposed to delineating facts puts the heart back into history. How people feel and how they act as a result is a holistic approach to understanding others.

Of course, postmodernism misses again by thinking that no one can understand another person’s experiences because of the limitations of language and that all experiences, even those that clash, are equally true because they are true for each person in question.

The important thing for the Christian, I believe, is to pay attention to what our culture says and to measure it by the standard of God’s word. How others in society perceive the world matters a great deal.

In many respects, someone like Rob Bell (Love Wins) or Paul Young (The Shack) is doing nothing more than mirroring the thinking of the age. Christians can pooh-pooh those ideas and scorn those books, but we had better understand why so many people listened. Two of those reasons are things postmodernism gets right — stories touch our hearts and the spiritual is real.

Those things are consistent with a Biblical worldview, and it would be wise for us to admonish and teach and evangelize by capitalizing on exactly those things.

This post first appeared here in April 2012.


  1. Well said, Becky. I enjoyed reading this. This nailed it, “Two of those reasons are things postmodernism gets right — stories touch our hearts and the spiritual is real.”

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  2. There is no necessarily spiritual element to post modernism. I’ve spent massive amounts of time with dozens and dozens of them.

    The spiritual element comes in when professing Christians, in direct defiance of Col. 2:8, attempt to smuggle it into the gospel. Most of the post modernists I’ve gotten into it with are all over science and still refuse to believe anything their high priests of scientism will not affirm.

    So many people listen to the apostates in the thoroughly post modern emergent so called church because they are unregenerate rebels who stiffneckedly refuse to surrender to God’s truth and love their morally degenerate uncertainty.

    What touches our fallen sinful hearts is not the standard for Christians. God’s word as interpreted by the historico-exegetical method is the standard for Christians.There is precious little fiction (if any) in the bible for a reason. God is not at all impressed with what touches our corrupt hearts.

    This article is very post modern of you Rebecca and very disappointing. See? Nothing can ever really just be wrong. EVERYthing deserves a hearing.

    Post modern thought has lobotomized the church and paved the way for historically unprecedented worldliness and carnality that has rendered her utterly powerless in the face of today’s onslaught of secularism and immorality. It has made cultural idolatry fashionable.

    The fact that it critiques modernism means practically nothing. The true saints have been doing that forever. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. It is simply a convenient instrument for rationalizing idolatry.

    You won’t be able to keep one foot on each side of all this forever. You’d have to be a post modernist to be able to do that.


  3. Greg, when you feel passionately about something, you apparently lose some critical thinking.

    First, postmodernism isn’t a “them” as you state in your opening paragraph. It’s a philosophy. That you’ve talked to people who identify with postmodernism or “emergent” doesn’t mean that their thinking has been sanitized of all remnants of modernism, so I’m not surprised that you’ve run across individuals who still hold to the physical and the rational as if all of life is summed up in those two things. Apparently they can’t see how contradictory that belief is to the postmodern tenets they also hold to. .

    The spirituality I mentioned in the article is, as I said, far from Biblical. But I tend to think it’s easier to talk about God to someone who believes God could actually exist rather than with someone who adamantly holds to their disbelief in a spiritual realm.

    I used the Pharisee/Sadducee divide as an example to illustrate that point. The Sadducees were unwilling to listen to Paul at all when he started talking about seeing Jesus, whereas the Pharisees at least entertained the possibility that he’d seen an angel. Too bad there were no polls in those days to see how many Pharisees versus how many Sadducees became Christians! 😉

    Bottom line, though, Greg, is that you completely missed the point of this article—again because of your passionate disagreement with the postmodern way of thinking. Much of which I share.

    I’ll state it again as clearly as I can: postmodernism is no more dangerous than modernism—neither one is a Biblical worldview and what we need is a Biblical worldview. Not a postmodern view. Not a modern view. The important thing for the Christian is to pay attention to what our culture says and to measure it by the standard of God’s word.

    Greg, I’m not up for another lengthy debate with you, so this will be the last comment here. I’m closing the comments section.



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