Postmodernism—the philosophy pioneered by thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard that has bled through every aspect of our culture, media and collective social mindsets. Postmodernism is not easily defined, which actually might be the best way of explaining how postmoderns view everything, including the idea of God and spirituality. Critics of postmodernity, especially those amongst traditional Christian circles, view the thought patterns and accompanying culture as a proponent of universalism and relative truth.
I view it as a gift to the faith. As a human with finite understanding, I cannot and will not ever understand God—postmodernism says that is ok. Modernism tried looking for black and white answers to every question. On the other hand, postmodernism gives me a comfort in the unknown.
I have had my periods of intense doubt and questioning of Christian beliefs. At times I have been skeptical and even downright critical of the faith. I also do not believe I am alone in my questionings.
But is this wrong? Am I not supposed to bring my questions to a relational God that transcends my human logic and rationale? I am tired of trying to pigeonhole spiritual ideas in a way that makes sense. Frankly, God does not make sense to me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Answers in Genesis, The Creation Museum and Lee Strobel books bore me and try to rob the color and mystery of a divine creator—as if an earth that is billions of years old would invalidate the concept of God.
Concrete answers can be unsatisfactory and rather two-dimensional. Tradition at times can be wonderful. I for one deeply appreciate the hymns, writings of the church fathers and the reverence that comes from liturgical practices, but I also believe tradition should not be accepted just because it is tradition. Postmodernism offers these solutions.
My questioning and my searching have not diminished my faith, only redirected it. Ultimately, it has made it stronger. A pastor at the church I attend once said that “I believe in ultimate truth but as a human, I will never have absolute understanding of that truth.”
Postmodern culture has also changed where I look for and find God. I can find a moment of spiritual connectedness listening to a Radiohead song or viewing a Rothko painting as I appreciate great art that reflects God’s handiwork. I can learn about the nature of God from those outside of the institutionalized church and in return I don’t have to be cynical about culture’s newfound openness to spirituality. I can embrace that and take it as an opportunity to direct spiritual yearning. We are currently transitioning out of the age of a “There is a God”/”There is no God binary”. That is a victory.
So, I am comfortably going to accept that God is God. I will find beauty in the unknown; embracing his mystery. Prominent Christian existentialist writer Paul Tillich once said in his most treasured work, The Courage to Be: “Within it all forms of courage are re-established in the power of the God above the God of theism. The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”
I am not a theologian; I am not a preacher and I definitely do not understand even a fraction of how God operates, but I will attempt to give you my best spiritual advice. Doubt and doubt hard. Be confused. I am definitely not advocating for readers to abstain from theological study—we should try to understand God to the best of our ability, but we also can understand our limitations and fully embrace them.