Heart 3: Postmodern Trends cont.

If one postmodern shift in focus is to pay more attention to the role of power in knowledge, the second is a shift toward pragmatism–what knowledge seems to “work” and what does not.  If we inevitably see the world from within time-conditioned frameworks from which we cannot free ourselves, then we cannot acquire a God-like point of view on what is true.  Our sense of truth will always be skewed to some extent at best. 

Coming to terms with this situation, postmodernism has focused on what we might call “pragmatic” tests for truth.  If our paradigms inevitably impose meaning on the data of the world, then the best test for truthfulness is what works.  So Thomas Kuhn has shown the degree to which paradigm shifts in science have to do with the voices in power and trends in history.  But it is clear that most of these paradigm shifts have resulted in understandings that are more useful than the ones before.  Say what you like about the absolute truth of quantum physics as a paradigm–it has brought us incredibly “useful” “truths.”

The appropriate Christian response is not to rail against every aspect of postmodern discussion–as if attaching the label “postmodern” to an idea is adequate enough to dismiss it.  It is this sort of move that has appropriately won many Christians a reputation for being bad thinkers.  There are some compelling elements to these discussions that cannot be dismissed simply by stamping a label on the box they come in.

On the other hand, Christians believe in a Guarantor of truth, and Christians believe that God has a word for the world and his church.  The notion of revelation is fundamental to us as Christians.  Meaning for us thus cannot be completely random, and the power that steers truth cannot be merely human power.  Truth may turn out to be more sophisticated than we thought before, but we as Christians believe in truth.  The next section explores some key ways that we as Christians might process and appropriate some of the insights postmodernism has brought us.