Historicism and Postmodernism

Johan Malan, University of the North

Abstract: The abandoning of all traditions and ideologies in the current, postmodern reform process explains the emerging chaos in human societies.

The radical postmodern transformation of human societies all over the world is ideologically accounted for by the new emphasis on historicism. The concurrent rejection of proven biblical values has set people free to plan and order their lives according to their own liking. This is a recipe for disaster.

Historicism is a philosophy that is invading academic institutions, theological seminaries, politics and various avenues of the secular lives of people to justify and promote boundless humanistic freedom. In terms of this philosophy, all people are viewed in singular terms as unique. Likewise, their changing historical experiences are also unique. There are not two people who are the same, with the same experiences, ideas and desires. Consequently, there are no generally applicable rules and norms for all of them, not even in a smaller group context.

There are no fixed structures and unchangeable truths in the world. There is also no real communality as every person is unique and free to determine his own values and norms in the context of his own life. Everything fuses with history and is determined anew by individuals in every successive period. There are no universal ideas or groups – only individuals and their ideas.

Truth also fuses with the historical process. Each period in history has its own values, which are inapplicable to other periods. Truth is never generally applicable as it is determined and experienced subjectively by individuals.

The Bible is historically interpreted

According to this philosophy, biblical truth is also confined to its historical context. It is only applicable to the time in which it was written. There are no universal and timeless truths in religion, and therefore the Bible has no real message for modern humanity.

The new hermeneutics in theology is to try and understand what has been written cultural-historically for a given group of individuals. These messages and precepts apply only to them and not to us. Something that may, in biblical times, have been described as sin, for instance homosexuality, is not regarded as sin or anti-social behaviour in modern times. The Bible, therefore, has become obsolete during the ever-changing course of history.

Postmodernism

Postmodernism is the radicalisation of historicism. The ideologies and structures of the modern era are demolished in a process referred to as deconstruction. In this way (post)modern humanity frees itself from the political, religious, social, and economic structures which shaped people’s actions and beliefs in a deterministic way. Individual freedom is emphasised anew, and all people have the liberty to believe and do as they please. In this way an eclectic world culture is emerging in which no respect or sentiment is shown to traditional ways. Everyone can dress, speak, believe and act as he or she wishes.

A complete collapse of group values, structures and norms is occurring in consequence of the current freethinking and eclecticism – the process being driven by the subjectivity of radical humanism. In terms of these developments it is regarded unethical to prescribe to other people what to do. Every person is autonomous in his own right and can organise his life to his own liking. He takes control of his own destiny, and is even his own god who can determine his own norms.

Many long-standing structures have already been demolished by postmodern reforms – among them also various churches. Some of them are on the brink of extinction. The rationale behind this movement is that it is wrong to engage in normative preaching by prescribing certain principles to people. Everyone lives in his own situation in which his personal truth an lifestyle is subjectively determined.

Since it is alleged that the Bible is not written for today, what remains of church traditions and creeds in the modern, humanistic society? Virtually nothing, because everything has changed! The pulpit can be broken down because there is no authority in its message. The church organ can be silenced to make place for a modern band on the platform, which replaced the pulpit.

Sermons become moral talks to celebrate the newly established human liberties, human rights and the equality of all people and genders. Musicians and artists (including rock stars) are invited to amuse the people. In this way, the church is converted into a concert hall and open community centre.

Sinners are not conscience-stricken because of their wrongs, as everything that they are doing is justified in terms of the modern man’s freedom of choice. It is quite obvious that the Antichrist, as the man of sin, will emerge from such a society and in a short time be internationally accepted.

As is the case with boundless liberties of this kind, the drastic increase of chaos and lawlessness in every sphere of life will inevitably follow in the heels of the postmodern dismantling of structures and the rejection of long-standing values – including those of the Bible. If all the unsaved people with their depraved human natures can do what they want, many of them will drink, steal, loot, rob, lie, commit fraud, assault, intimidate, murder, and live sexually immoral lives as never before. They will invite the anger of God while following the Man of Sin (the Antichrist) on the road to perdition.