Jean-Francois Lyotard described Postmodernism as “incredulity towards metanarratives.” What does that mean? Well, as you know, a narrative is a story, add ‘meta’ (about, beyond) to it and you get an overarching story or a grand narrative. A metanarrative is an all-encompassing story that claims to have explanatory power for understanding the world. To be incredulous towards metanarratives is to believe that there are no such Stories. Thus, PM takes a disbelieving disposition to any story that claims to explain the world. Lyotard describes the various stories of the world, e.g. Islam, modernism, as myths- fabled constructions necessary for psychological stability, to make some sense of life as we know it. These myths are sundry and relative and cannot offer satisfactory resolution, finality and a future to the history of humanity. Therefore, what matters is not whether or not they are true, but whether or not we believe them. What matters is “your story.” The particular story that postmodernism reacted against is the story of modernism, the story of progress birthed by the Enlightenment. Modernism told the 20th C that the world would be cured of its ills through human progress, much of which was economic. The industrial revolution has come and gone, followed by the technological revolution. Multinational companies and a global economy are in place and yet, the 20th C was plagued with oppression, starvation, wars, and violence. Not counting the wars, approximately 170 million lost their lives to state-sponsored killings (Mao, Hilter, Stalin).
The story of modernism was a failure. Human progress did not achieve the utopia envisioned by the Enlightenment thinkers. And so, postmodernism rebelled against the idea that one story can explain our world, offer resolution to the incongruities of life, determine finality for this thing called history, and chart a course for the future that is bright and glorious. Postmoderns are right. Modernism did fail. The world is no more humane than it was before the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, we should be cautious to not throw out the baby with the bath water, metanarratives with modernism. Metanarratives, be they modernism, evolutionism, Islam or whatever, attempt to offer resolution, finality and future for the world we live in. Resolution for the contradictions of life and death, suffering and happiness, poverty and wealth, truth and deception. How can these co-exist? Finality for the world as we know and not an endless eternity of these unresolved polarities (Nietzsche, Hinduism), and Future for the present. Where will we go when it’s all said and done, individually and globally? Most metanarratives can not offer satisfactory resolution, finality and a future because they can offer no guarantees. Postmodernism does not believe in resolution, finality and the future but, instead, is incredulous towards any metanarrative at all. (Nevermind the circular argument made by PM, which is itself a metanarrative!) Against the backdrop of modernism’s optimistic failure and postmodernism’s nihilistic nothingness, the plausibility and power of the biblical metanarrative, the Story of Scripture shines brightly. (to hear or read further on an explanation of the Biblical story go to: www.covenantchapelct.com and click on “resources” and select MP3 1/30/06)
 In fact, the 20th C was the bloodiest century of human existence. In fact, a special word was coined by R. J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii for the massive movements of state-sponsored killings that swept the globe during the 20th C—democide. Remember the genocidal attempts by Stalin and Mao, Hitler’s Holocaust, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, the Rwanda massacres? Four times the number of people lost their lives to democide in the 20th C than through all the wars, international and domestic, of the 20th C. The total number was approx 170 mL. For figures see R. J. Rummel, Death By Government (Transaction Publishers: 1997).