Hey everyone - I posted this a while back but have moved it up to appear closer to Part 2 in order to avoid confusion. Thanks for reading!
I recently attended a lecture by David Wells entitled: "How Then Should We Pray to (Postmodern) Persons?" I found it extremely interesting and thought that I would post my notes here. Since I had quite a few pages of notes, I will post them over the course of a week or two.
Part 1: The Postmodern Man
The intellectual culture is at a turning point. This change is one not dissimilar to the “Enlightenment” that provided the foundation of modern culture – until now.
In the Enlightenment, God’s grace was supplanted by our own self-sufficiency. Omniscience was made to bow to the “machine” of human reason. The beginning of this new humanist thought marked off the end middle ages and became the foundation of the modern world.
In the mid-20th century, these foundations were shaken. Now, with the philosophy of centuries crumbling, humanity seeks a new concept of man in which to place confidence – and is finding it in the rising era of postmodern thought.
Postmoderns, we’ll call them, have rejected the concepts of both progress and reason. There can be no true progress, they say, because every step that humanity advances in one aspect of civilization enables us to take many more steps back. For example: technology. The same technology that gives us our computers and antibiotics and spacecraft gives us our weapons of mass destruction. Progress is an illusion.
The human mind enthroned in recent centuries has been usurped – and rightly so – by the truth of man’s corrupted reason. The mind is nothing but a nesting place for private agendas.
Without the two great pillars of society, progress and reason, man cannot look forward, nor can he look inward. So in his quest for meaning he looks outward in search of community with which to identify himself. But true community, it seems, has all but disappeared. Man is left isolated.
The masses consume a delusion of personal and intimate relationships through the mainstream culture. In the world of business and media we buy and sell lies about the roles of men and women in respect to each other, the family, and the world . In place of beauty we have advertising as the art form of the 21st century. The role of society has become to feed our hungry minds – but the emptiness that is thrown at us is incapable of satisfying.
There are threads of continuity that bind the last century together. Chief among them is man’s understanding of self. In the 1970s Christopher Lasch wrote on this very topic in his works Culture of Narcissism and The Minimal Self. To those whose connections with anything outside themselves have been broken – the psychologically homeless – there is nothing apart from the individual that trumps self-awareness. All that remains is self. This is the modern man – the narcissist.