Today we’ll wrap up this look at postmodernism. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
We’ve established the phenomenon. It started within the fields of art and architecture, but postmodernism has expanded into a philosophy and worldview which is based on the premise that all truth is relative. You don’t even have to imagine the damage this has caused – and continues to cause – in academia, civic life, and pop culture. Where “there are no absolutes,” there can be absolute disaster. In some ways, all of Western Civilization is at risk.
But let’s be clear about an even more sinister danger: postmodernism can change the way in which people hear a sermon. It can change the way in which people hear the gospel. How does that work?
First of all, people drenched in postmodernism often view authoritative truth claims within the context of oppression. In other words, if anyone claims to have the truth, it is likely that he or she is merely attempting to exert power. The German philosopher and philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), espoused that there is no such thing as good and evil – only good and bad. What was his point? That we don’t need to allow for any morality which comes from outside of us – and that we certainly don’t need any moral standards coming from God. Nietzsche influenced the modern world with the notion that to embrace God is the same thing as enslaving ourselves to the obliteration of our human potential.
Secondly, our friends who’ve been raised in postmodernism have a very difficult time believing that “what’s right for one person – in a moral sense – is right for everybody.” In a postmodern world, that doctrine feels frighteningly uninformed. Instead, this perspective feels better: “right” is whatever you want it to be. Quite ironically, the only person who is “wrong” in our postmodern world is the person who holds to absolute truth.
Thirdly, the postmodernist has been whipped into shape, by the winds of the day, to believe that Christianity is inherently arrogant, egotistical, and – most offensively – intolerant. This mantra is reiterated by cultural and media icons on a daily basis.
So, when we put these three together, what happens? Let’s say that unbelieving John Doe is invited to the First Evangelical Church of Elm Grove. The pastor happens to be preaching from John 14, and makes the claim in his sermon that there is only one way to eternal life, and that the way is Jesus Christ …
What are John’s initial reactions?
“Wow, that guy’s got some ego, talking like that!”
“How in the world does he know what’s right for my Muslim neighbor? Absurd!”
“The people who buy into this stuff are most likely ignorant, and most certainly unloving.”
I may be playing up the drama just a tad to make my point, but I don’t think it’s too far a stretch. To make exclusive truth claims about an exclusive Christ is regarded as the epitome of intolerance in our day. And to even suggest that there is a universal moral code which has been issued by a sovereign God – utterly preposterous by postmodern standards and sensibilities! It just doesn’t fit with how most people understand pluralism today.
So where do we go from here?
- We allow Christ to define us. We are, as His followers, designed to be “cross” cultural. By that I mean: guided by Scripture, sometimes we are cultural, sometimes we are multicultural, and sometimes we are countercultural. We are people of the Word, and our source of authority is the Word.
- We embrace our neighbors. Whenever and wherever we can, we find common ground on which to stand with them. We regard ourselves as a missional people, and we live on mission – as if we were serving on a foreign mission field – wherever we are in our postmodern world. We share Christ in word and deed, and we share Him within the context of genuine relationship whenever possible.
- We radically pursue holiness. For the glory of God, we consistently ask ourselves the question: “am I allowing God and the gospel to delineate my holiness?” If we’ve fallen into either licentiousness or legalism, we repent and change course immediately. “Grace and truth” – that’s us!
- We concern ourselves more with Christ than comfort. Enough said.
Thanks for journeying with me. I wish you knew how much I love you.