Premodern vs Modernism vs Postmodern: A Theory

A few days ago I posted a question asking “where were all the Pentecostal/Charismatic emerging church leaders.” Today, I want to propose a theory.

But before I do, I must set the culture stage:

  • Modernism – this is the primary view of most people in the West today. It is a view that focuses on rationalism, logic and science. In a nutshell, modernism says that people can use logic and science to become neutral observers in the world, allows humanity to find the one “true” answer to each question asked. Modernism also disregards the supernatural as it can not be proven by science.
  • Postmodernism is a reaction against modernism. This cultural worldview says that there are no neutral observers in the world. Everyone looks at everything through their own ‘glasses’ – meaning that everyone has a point of view through which they see the world. Logic and science are useful tools, but they are not the end all – nor do they create a neutral view point. Postmodernist also tend to be more open to the unexplained (i.e. they are not threaten by the unknown or by not having all the answers). On a spiritual plane, postmodernist are more likely to embrace holistic medicine, spiritual practices and new age interconnectness beliefs.
  • Premodern (the worldview before modernism) held that natural and supernatural existed side-by-side.  Or, in different words, premodern folks tend to think that natural events are caused by supernatural causes. God, angels, demons, and the like are a reality to these folks, were as a modernist would deny them because the could not be proven by science, logic and reason.

Ok. Now that the stage is set, here is my theory.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic church tends to be closer to a Premodern worldview then a Modern view; hence, they are not as active in the Postmodern debate (which, as mentioned earlier, is mostly a reaction against Modernism).

This is not to say that there is NO Modernism views or beliefs in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church – it is just that since they believe in the active nature of God to work in their lives today, the full blunt of Modernism has been missed. In practical terms, this means that a lot of the things that the Postmodern/Emerging Church folks have been discovering are old news to those who grew up in the Charismatic world.

For example, two big name emerging church authors – Doug Pagitt (A Christianity Worth Believing) and Tony Jones (The New Christians) – describe their reaction to the classic atonement diagram of God on one side, man on the other and the cross in the middle spanning a canyon. From their modern worldview, in which the supernatural was disregarded, the diagram showed a God removed from humanity by a canyon.

However, as someone who grew up in various independent Charismatic churches, I looked at that same diagram that thought the exact opposite – the canyon is keeping me from working or earning my way to God by myself; I need Jesus to remove the barriers of sin so that I can enter into God’s presence. With my Premodern worldview, it was assumed that God was active in the world today – so the concept on Him being trapped never crossed my mind.

That is my theory. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Premodern vs Modernism vs Postmodern: A Theory”

  1. My parents are charimatic in their belief and they instructed us in the fact God is working in the world in was we can and cannot understand. That is why I never understood the whole modernism and postmodernism debate in fact when I hear about post moderism I think of the whole “there is no truth and there are no moral absolutes” so I never saw how it connected to Christianity.

  2. There’s actually a book that travels similar terrain, called “Why Religion Matters” by Huston Smith. He was an academic at Syracuse and perhaps the most important religious writer at the end of the 20th century. His book on the World’s Religions is one of the best reads on the subject. He divides worldviews into traditional, modern and postmodern. In the traditional worldview the world derives from a divine source and it is to that divine source that people will return. That is what makes it most different from a scientific (modern) or societal (postmodern) worldview.

Comments are closed.