What is Postmodernism
Postmodernism is not so much a period of time, but a way of defining a reaction to the modernist movement. Postmodernism tends to be characterized in three major ways.
First, postmodernism is characterized by a partial return to the classics. This trait doesn’t tend to manifest so much in art as it does in theology, politics and sociology.
Second, postmodernism tends to be abstract, being defined as that which is aside from concrete or practical reality. In most cases, the abstract, whether in art or philosophy tends to be manifest as a reaction to classical thought or modernist thought.
Third, postmodernism is characterized by relativism. Postmodernists have identified a trend of change over time and as a result embrace relative truth—what is true for you is not necessarily true for me.
A little more practical: postmodern thought seeks individuality as well as commonality. That is to say that we can all be different and believe what we want, but we can still be united in what is common. This plays out more in social, political and religious arenas than anywhere else. Some signs of this are homosexual tolerance and support of gay marriage, multi-religions (ex. Someone who claims to be both Buddhist and Hindu) and implied tolerance for cultural diversity.
When it comes to a Christian standpoint, postmodernism can be a slippery subject. Certainly, most Christians agree that religious relativism and/or religious tolerance is wrong, but many have accepted it. There are arguments on culturally relative definitions of sin. I think it is best to remember that God is unchanging and therefore His standards are unchanging.
Here is an exercise in postmodernism.
On the subject of ethical values:
I would say that ethical values, or morals, come from God. There are many ways that we become aware of ethical values. We get them from the Bible. We get them from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And we get them from general revelation.
Because God is unchanging, His standards are concrete and unchanging. The same morals that existed 2000 years ago are the same as the morals which we should hold to today. In the same way, the morals that we use here in the US are the same that should be held to in China or anywhere else.
A postmodernist would say that ethical values are relative. They would likely recognize cross-cultural morals that have allowed society to progress for many milenia such as ‘murder is wrong,’ but they would take a relative view towards it.
For instance, there is a culture in Northern America called the Inuit that (in many circles) kills the elderly men when they are no longer useful for hunting game. A postmodernist would say that because it is necessary for the progression of that society that it is not immoral. But, according to God’s standards, it is immoral.
A similar argument can be found in abortion. The postmodernist would likely say that everyone is right to their own definition of life and so it is only immoral to kill a fetus if the person believes it to be a person.