“The times they are a-changin.’” Bob Dylan recorded those words in 1963 for his third studio album of the same name, released on January 13, 1964. Dylan’s words were as true in the 1960s as they are today. The only constant, unchanging truth about life is the fact that it is constantly changing.

Most so-called experts who study these things agree that the world as we know it is in the midst of or has just passed through a major transition:

  • From an industrial society to an information society.
  • From a modern world to a post-modern world.

It matters little how it is described—what specific terminology is used—the point is that when historians look back at the 20th century, some date in that century will mark the end of an era (many point to the decade of the 60s as the point of transition but time will tell).

It appears that “post-modern” is the most popular term being used to describe the transition through which we are creeping. In that case, it behooves us to define it. What does the term “post-modern” mean?

Put simply, post-modernism refers to the fact that we have, as a culture, moved out of the modern era, modernity. The presuppositions, goals, and values that characterized the modern age are being rejected. We have moved past them, we are beyond them, hence, we are post-modern. And so to understand post-modernism one must first understand modernity—its assumptions, goals, and values.

  • As a modern world science has been the foundation of our building. Using the scientific method of inquiry, our goal has been to emerge from the darkness of superstition. In many cases, this has led to the rejection of all supernatural explanations for the universe.
  • In addition, technology has been the second floor of our building. Through advancing technology we have mastered our lives. Tasks that used to take hours (e.g., cooking, washing clothes, etc.) now take a fraction of the time. In some cases, technology has taught us how to control the very forces of nature.
  • Finally, the third floor of our building and our ultimate goal has been the production of wealth.

The promise of modernity was a society in which ignorance was overcome, disease was cured, poverty was eradicated, and war was rendered obsolete. Modernity promised to eliminate material and social needs. The dream was a society that continually improved itself, a civilization in which people would be genuinely happy and truly free for the first time in the history of the world. This has been the promise of modernity.

The problem is that modernity failed to deliver on its promise. The 20th Century witnessed some of the worst atrocities and human suffering ever experienced in the history of the world.

  • A true world-war. World War I was the most devastating and destructive human conflict in the history of the world up to that time. Many believed it to be the “war to end all wars.” After the devastation and destruction was assessed, many were convinced that no one would be stupid enough to start another war.
  • Another true world-war. World War II surpassed the first world war in terms of devastation and destruction.
  • The use of the nuclear bomb on non-military targets. Two bombs, two cities, one-quarter of a million people killed.
  • Global depression.
  • Untold human starvation.
  • The Holocaust.
  • Mass genocide around the globe.
  • Corporate scandal.

All of this (and much, much, much more that could be listed) in spite of our great knowledge, advanced technology, and unprecedented wealth.

In the aftermath of the 20th century, we are seeing a mass-scale rejection of the modern view. Its underlying assumptions about the world and the universe are bogus. As a culture, we are moving past the promises of modernity. In fact, there is a gnawing pessimism toward the entire modern project altogether.

Under this new, emerging, post-modern worldview,

  • Progress may be inevitable but it is often evil, destructive, and selfish.
  • Science, technology and the accumulation of wealth will ultimately lead to the destruction of the delicate balance of nature.
  • Progress will lead to an unhealthy need for further conquest rather than cooperation.
  • Ultimately it will lead to the destruction of the human species.

In the midst of all of this change, God still holds out hope to the human family:

  • Self-centeredness has been our problem from the first day we were expelled from Paradise.
  • God’s Word still has the key to human happiness and to the survival of the human family: turn from self-centeredness and return to God-centeredness.
  • God designed us to live in a harmonious community, enjoying open fellowship with him and with one another.

It sounds utopian but no matter how radically the world changes, it still works!

God’s people can and do enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. That peace cannot be found in earthly knowledge, modern technology nor in massive wealth. It can only be found in God.

Go ask Bob Dylan. He discovered that truth as well.

Advertisements