A lot of what Gene Veith says explicitly in Postmodern Times will be foreign and unfamiliar to many readers. And yet, which of us has not been affected by these postmodernist ideals, now so thoroughly embedded in our culture and society that we can't even identify them? None of us, Veith answers bleakly, though his book is meant to correct the deplorable situation.
So what is postmodernism? As others have ably pointed out, it's a bit hard to define by its very nature, but basically it's the idea that truth, meaning, and personal identity don't exist, and that mankind is therefore free to do whatever he damned well feels like. It's a philosophical and cultural movement that, while difficult to define precisely, is easy to spot virtually everywhere.
The first chapters of Postmodern Times cover the history of modernism and postmodernism, both as philosophies and as cultural movements, and analyze them from a Christian perspective. Unlike many authors who simply make statements ("Postmodernists believe in no absolutes."), Veith explores the ramifications of such ideas, taking them to their often chilling logical conclusions.
In part two he shifts focus to postmodernism in art. These chapters are not for readers with weak stomachs. Many of the things done in the name of art that he describes are truly revolting, and parents would beware whose children (even older high school students) want to read this book.
Finally, Veith discusses the postmodern society, and offers explicit biblical critique of the attitudes and lifestyles that characterize and motivate it. He outlines a battleplan for Christians to combat the moral, intellectual, and religious chaos around them, and how to protect themselves from its permeating influence.
Postmodern Times is much more terrifying than any dystopian novel, primarily because it's based squarely in fact, and reflects the world in which we live and toward which we are rapidly "progressing." Those with faint hearts won't want to read much of what is found here, but for the sake of themselves and future generations they (and all other Christians) must understand the issues.
Unfortunately, the historical analysis in the first part is a bit myopic, dealing too much with the immediate causes of postmodernism, and not delving far enough in the past to uncover some of the real root problems. That being said, Veith is an excellent communicator who evidences deep knowledge of philosophical ideas, culture, and the orthodox Christian faith.
There aren't many books that "everyone should read," but this is one of them. Postmodernism is the result of centuries of naturalistic, non-supernatural thinking, anti-Christianity, and moral relativism, and it poses probably the greatest threat to Christianity today. Reading this book will tell you what it is, why it's wrong, and how to fight it.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.