Like Cervantes (Don Quixote) I have a hard time with the up and coming new view of the world. For Cervantes, the medieval, chivalrous way of looking at life, the universe and everything was dead and buried. What came to be called the modern world view was taking its place, but Cervantes found modernism irreverent, immoral and idiotic. Now, even as modernism is in its death-throes, I find its replacement, what is currently called post-modernism, irreverent, immoral and idiotic. It will be hard for me to describe this worldview without offering a sub-text of commentary. But I will try.
If in my mind the central figure of modernism was Sir Isaac Newton in that he embodied the two most basic parts of the modern worldview: Science and Progress. So also I have one person who at this point can best be pointed to as a central figure in post-modernism: Albert Einstein (though he would deny it). But like Newton’s work, which embodied modernism, so Einstein’s work embodies post-modernism. And again, I find two words at the heart of the worldview: Materialism and Relativity.
By Materialism I do not mean that post-modern thinkers are materialistic, though they may be. Rather, I mean as Einstein showed, this universe is made up of material: energy and matter (which in some places is described as slow energy) and the universe contains nothing else, at least as far as science is concerned. Post-modernism sees reality as material (matter and energy) and outside of that, everything non-material – everything that cannot be touched or measured in some way is imagination or fantasy. At best non-material things are opinion and at worst they are crazy talk. Thus, as the Medieval world and the advent of the church (in a semi-religious worldview) produced a pagan underground good for burning at the stake, and the modern world and the idea of human progress (as exemplified in human rights) produced an anarchist mentality good for blowing things up, so the post-modern world (and its matter alone is real point of view) has produced radical atheists who are trying to convince the world that God is dead, or better yet, that God never was in the first place.
The Medieval world was a place focused on two great contrasts: Heaven or Hell. Earth was in the muddy middle and the main concern was what path a person was on – where were they headed? As Cervantes penned one of the first so-called modern novels in Don Quixote, so John Bunyan, some sixty years later, published the last of the real medieval-modern hybrid novels in Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan’s Pilgrim was trapped in the muddy middle and destined to end up somewhere. But then, he was progressing, making progress, not just living moment to moment (or season to season) which is a very modern idea.
In modern thinking, the inherent contrasts of the medieval worldview where man was in the muddy middle were taken to be absolutes for the human race itself. Heaven and Hell might get little or no play in the modern mind, but right and wrong, good and evil, better and worse, civilized and uncivilized had great play. Just read the books or watch the movies. Now, in post-modern thinking, all of that is overthrown by the idea that everything is in contrast and there are no absolutes because everything is relative.
Relativity, above all, characterizes the post-modern view of reality. Even the material universe is in flux with matter and energy being relative, depending on speed. Relativity means everything is (in essence) equal: cultures, moralities, systems of governance business, religions. Within the confines of the material universe, relativity means nothing is better, more right, more good than anything else. Cultures are no longer primitive or civilized, they are equal, just different. And progress is a sham which usually acts as a cover for the strong taking advantage of the weak. This is how colonialism is now viewed.
In the modern world, colonialism was the result of the highest and best intentions of the civilized world: to bring civilization, industry, medicine, ministry, better environmental preservation as well as farming techniques, and so on to the third world. To help primitive cutures progress toward civilization. But now in the post-modern world it is seen only as exploitative, forcing western culture on a world that did not want it, and for selfish reasons like greed – the exact opposite of how it was intended.
Nothing could better prove the phrase, “It is all in how you look at it.”
Along with absolutes, modernists viewed the world as a system controlled by laws. In the middle ages, law was embodied in people like Lords and Kings. As such, it was mutable and changeable. With Newton, law became immutable – like the laws of motion and gravity, it could not be changed. So the world was perceived as full of natural laws, scientific, social, moral and all. Now, under the post-modernists, laws themselves are relative and so once again subject to change, or rather interpretation, or in a sense it is recognized that there are exceptions to every rule, and that is becoming something of a Pandora’s box. Post-modernism is clearly threatening the very fabric of society by suggesting that everything outside of the material universe is only a matter of opinion, and that includes the law. And all opinions and everyone’s opinions are equal.
Religion is being replaced by a choose your own spirituality – and no one can say you are mistaken, because it is only opinion. Education is seen as propaganda, not the passing on of time honored truths. Governance is seen as the enforcement of the strong over the weak, and some, like sheep, appear to want it that way, though others, like leftist anarchists and rightist libertarians resist, not on the basis of human rights, but on the basis of the rejection of laws that they don’t personally agree with. In fact, rights are no longer ordained by God, but granted by the powers that be (essentially government, or anyway, bosses). Opinions, however, may vary. Soon enough, reality itself (what is real and what is fantasy) may be seen as relative – no more than opinion. Lord knows where that will take us.
Now, I don’t imagine there are any people around who still buy into the old Medieval worldview, much less the older Roman Empire view of the world. Most people today are primarily modernists or post-modernists or some transitioning combination of the two. (And I say that with the understanding that no two worldviews are exactly alike). The century or so it takes to move the world from one worldview to another can be very confusing times, as Don Quixote discovered. The thing is, the main thing, the thing to always keep in mind and remember, is none of these worldviews is the one held by God.
You see, we don’t perceive the world as it is. We don’t view reality at face value. We don’t honestly understand life, the universe and everything. We have our worldview to inform us of the truth of things – what is real and what is fantasy. But God sees all things differently, and without prejudice. Our first job then, as disciples is to sit and watch, as Watchman Nee wrote in his famous commentary on Ephesians, we must sit before we can walk before we can stand. We are to be renewed in the renewing of our minds, as the Apostle Paul said. We are to learn God’s worldview so we can see reality as God sees it, and nothing less and nothing different. We need to give up our worldview, whatever it may be that is holding us captive, and open our minds to reality as it is, face value reality, as God sees creation.