Postmodernism is one of those labels that is fairly difficult to pin down and define. Many things come to mind when we hear the word: Portland, culture, strange music, abstract art, reader response theory, relativity, etc. One philosopher has called it “an incredulity towards metanarratives.” Postmodernism is a disbelief in the idea of one overarching story to our universe. There is no such thing as “the meaning of life.”
Another facet of postmodernism is meaning in language, or lack thereof. They will say that each sign we use to communicate (words on a page of book, for instance) will only point endlessly to other signs. If you see the word “rainbow” in a book and the look it up in the dictionary you will not find a rainbow. You will only find other words. These words in turn point to other words that you can look up in the dictionary. Words like “color,” “clouds,” “water,” and such. But signs are not limited to words. Gestures are signs. Smoke signals are signs. Our world is made up of an endless chain of signs that point back and forth to one another. Signs can only be explained by other signs which can only be explained by other signs.
This is like a little kid repeating the question “why.” No matter what answer you will give, he can always ask “why” again. That is postmodernism’s point. We can only go in circles. We never arrive at any kind of stability or foundation. If we call anything stability or foundation, we can still ask the question “why.”
Here is where the doctrine of the Trinity sets Christianity apart from all other systems of thought. The Trinity, in my mind, is the only reasonable response to the problem of postmodernism. And I think it’s important to mention that Evangelicals find it easy to take shots at the hypocrisy of postmodernism. After all, aren’t postmoderns assuming a metanarrative precisely by declaring an absolute rule that there is no meaning? This is usually the argument Christians make. And it’s a good point, to be sure. Yet at the end of the day, taking shots at postmodernism fails to take serious or engage with their argument. How is meaning possible? Can we take seriously the idea of meaning?
But with the Trinity all signs point to Jesus, not in the same way that they would point to Zeus, or Allah, or any other kind of god or thing. For if you ask the question “why” of Allah there is nowhere to turn to except outside of “god” back to the created realm. But if you ask “why” of Jesus, he points away from himself to his Father, and the Father in turn points back to his Son, and the question why is forever within the Trinity, within the threeness of the one God.
Postmodernism doubts absolute truth because everything is infinitely relative, they say. As trinitarians we should say amen. The Truth is relative. He is Jesus. He is forever related to his Father and the eternal love of the Holy Spirit. And God is one.
All things point to Jesus, who is the Son of God who points to Father and the Spirit. This reality in turn gives all other things life and meaning and stability. Most importantly, this gives us something extremely concrete to live for:
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).