To know where we are heading, we must see first where we came from. Modernism, as first realized probably during the Enlightenment, can be summed up like this:
"I think, therefore I am." --Rene Descartes
"Knowledge is power." --Francis Bacon
This is the modern understanding, epistemology as we know it. Today I will talk about the cultural change, in the secular sense, if you will, and eventually I will undertake the ramifications of this on church culture.
Modernists tend to view knowledge (epistemology) as a man-centered trust in reason to discover truth. Thus, power and faith come in the form of reasoning, science, and logic. This is also used to understand God. Communication was spurned on by the invention of the printing press and thus learning was manifested through reading. Modernists are usually governed by a rational, logical system of learning. Truth is absolute and could be attained, or known. Knowledge was mostly "local", as global communication was not available. Thus, what was happening in the Western world was heavily important to modernists, it was reality.
We can all see modernity around us everywhere. One needs to look no further than the mega-church to see it. But as we move out of the modern world and into the postmodern, we must know what the big change is all about, so we can respond appropriately.
Overall, if there is one idea that I am trying to convey about modernity it would be this: the brain. Modernists tend to view reality through the head. This is key, and will be crucial to further posts.