Here is an important critique of the pretensions of both modernity and postmodernity, offered by a gifted sociologist from an (implicitly) Christian perspective:
“Many years ago, our human ancestors huddled around fires listening to shamans and elders telling imaginative stories by which they made sense of their world and their lives in it. They told myths about the world’s origins, and about how they as peoples came to be. They told legends about mighty heroes of old, about overcoming great adversity, about visions of the future. They narrated tales of moral struggle, about people good and bad, and about what happens to naughty children. They recounted myths about fairies, spirits, gods, and powerful cosmic forces. By narrating such fictional stories, our ancestors recounted meaningful explanations of a world that was to them mysterious and dangerous–and entertained themselves in the process. As primitives, telling such stories, myths, and legends was the only way they knew how to explain the world and contemplate how to live in it. And such was the condition of traditional human societies of all kinds up until a few hundred years ago.
But all of that changed. We moderns no longer have to huddle around fires telling fanciful myths about creations, floods, trials, conquests, and hoped-for paradises. Science, industry, rationality, and technology have dispelled the darkness and ignorance that once held the human race captive to its fanciful fables. Today, through progress, enlightenment, and cultural evolution, we now possess positive knowledge, scientific facts, and rational analyses. We no longer need to be a people of ballads and legends, for we are a people of periodic tables, technical manuals, genetic maps, and computer codes. We may tell fables to our children about wolves and witches and arks. But the adult world is one of modern, scientific information, facts, and knowledge. We have left behind myths and legends. We are now educated, rational, analytical. Indeed, by struggling to break out of the fear and ignorance of our ancestral myth-making past into the clear daylight of rational, scientific knowledge, we have opened up for the human race a future of greater prosperity, longevity, and happiness.
Such is the story we moderns–huddled around our televisions and computer work stations–like to tell each other. This is the dominant narrative by which we make sense of our world and the purpose of our lives in it.
The point here is not that modernity’s story is false. Narratives, myths, and fables can be true, in their way. The point, rather, is that for all of our science, rationality, and technology, we moderns are no less the makers, tellers, and believers of narrative construals of existence, history, and purpose than were our forebears at any other time in human history. But more than that, we not only continue to be animals who make stories but also animals who are made by our stories. We tell and retell narratives that themselves come fundamentally to constitute and direct our lives. We, every bit as much as the most primitive or traditional of our ancestors, are animals who most fundamentally understand what reality is, who we are, and how we ought to live by locating ourselves within the larger narratives and metanarratives that we hear and tell, and that constitute what is for us real and significant…
But wait just a minute. What is this talk of narratives? The ‘postmodern’ condition, we have been instructed of late, has brought with it the suspicion of, perhaps even the end of, coherent narratives, especially ‘grand narratives.’ Postmodern people are the kind who simply cannot believe in the metanarratives offered by, say, Marxism, Christianity, and liberalism. The expansiveness, coherence, and claims to universality of these grand stories have become simply incredible to those who have lived through and beyond modernity.
However fasionable this notion has become in some intellectual circles, the suggestion of this chapter is that it simply is not true. The human animal is a moral, believing animal–inescapably so. And the larger cultural frameworks within which the morally oriented believings of the human animal make sense are most deeply narrative in form. Of course, postmodernism itself is a narrative, hardly providing an escape from story-based knowledge and meaning. But the problem in its claims about the end of metanarratives run still deeper than this self-contradiction. Postmodernism simply underestimates the vitality and appeal of certain narratives–particularly in America, of the modern story of progress and liberal freedom; and, for many, of the Christian story. Those metanarratives and their associated narratives are very much alive and well–however coherent or less than perfectly coherent they are. Progress and liberal freedom, in particular, are still the driving spirit, vision, and energy of contemporary public culture and social institutions. Postmodern claims on this point, therefore, cannot be taken seriously. We have no more dispensed with grand narratives than with the need for lungs to breath with. We cannot live without stories, big stories finally, to tell us what is real and significant, to know who we are, where we are, what we are doing, and why.” (Christian Smith, Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture, pp. 63-64, 66-67)