February 23, 2009
As time passes, different themes are presented throughout society. These themes tend to make attempts at disproving its predecessor. In Stanley J. Grenz’ book, A Primer on Postmodernism, he discusses the two most recent ideas supported by the public; modernism and postmodernism. The opposition is apparent between the eras of modernity and postmodernity. As described by Grenz, modernity focuses on the individual, using reasoning as a source of the truth. This belief causes truth to be relative. Postmodernity’s focal point is the group, rather than the individual. Truth, in the postmodern view, is created by intuition and feeling, causing it to be constructed. Grenz also discusses both the problems postmodernity pose on Christianity and the similarities between postmodernism and Christianity. Grenz’ portrait of postmodernism is accurate for what society is facing today. In order to understand the differences between modernism and postmodernism as Grenz has defined them, first understanding of how each was created is needed.
Modernity is based around meta-narratives; stories that connect everyone together. The most profound meta-narrative of modernity is the universal truth of science. One of the most important constructs of modernity is individualism, upon which all modern thinkers based their work. “Most historians suggest that the modern era was born when the Enlightenment brought new hope to war-ravaged Europe” (57). The Enlightenment had four principles; “Reason, nature, autonomy, and harmony” (68). These principles created the foundation for modern thinkers. Many modern thinkers throughout the era, regardless of their discipline, “Turned to the reasoning subject rather than divine revelation as the starting point for knowledge and reflection” (65). Through these foundations set for modernity, the modern philosophers turned to science in support for their hypotheses. “Thinkers such as Descartes, Newton, and Kant provided the intellectual foundation for the modern era” (80).
René Descartes was one of the first modern thinkers of his time, “often being referred to as the father of modern philosophy” (63). When Descartes first set out on his journey for knowledge, he set out with doubt, in search of absolute truth that doubt could not deny (64). Like many other thinkers of that period, he “Attempted to introduce the rigor of mathematical demonstration into all fields of knowledge,” because he believed that the truths of mathematics were more concrete than knowledge based on observation (64). Descartes eventually reached the destination of his searching; the one thing that could not be doubted was one’s own existence. His new way of thinking led to a different outlook of the human person. His work defined “The human being as thinking substance and the human person as an autonomous rational subject” (64). This new definition supported Augustine’s philosophy; “Cogito ergo sum – ‘I think, therefore I am,” (64). Although Descartes’ work did not discover subjectivity, “the chief importance of his contribution lies in his emphasis on personal experience and personal knowledge, on knowledge arising from the individual’s unique point of view” (64). His role in the Enlightenment paved the path for his modern-thinking successors.
Following Descartes’ work, Newton began making his own imprint on the world, emphasizing the importance of science. His work focused on trying to explain the workings of his universe that he saw as a “Grand, orderly machine,” (67). Newton’s idea of the world as a machine provided the framework for modernity. Newton believed that by viewing the world as a machine, he would be able to know its movements because it would follow a set of distinct laws (67). His design led modern thinkers to have a mechanistic understanding of the world, as opposed to a natural view (50). Although Newton looked at the scientific explanations of the world, his intent was to explain...