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"A Postmodern Life"

For the past several years numerous issues of morality and ethics have been at the forefront of daily headlines. Gay rights, abortion, euthanasia and human cloning have generated their fair share of controversy. Nonetheless, the number of people opposing such issues seems to be rapidly decreasing. For example, more and more people accept gay relationships as appropriate and argue, “If they claim they love each other, who are we to question their right to be together?” In the case of euthanasia some say, “They’re suffering! Please let them end their pain. Wouldn’t you want to leave this world on your own terms?” And who hasn’t heard the common rebuttal of any form of criticism, “You do what’s good for you and I will do what’s good for me!”

What does this shift from a firm belief that we can know what is true to an almost lackadaisical passivity tell us? In order to understand this paradigm shift we must take a look at history. Yes…I know what you’re thinking, “Oh gosh! Not another history lesson! I thought I was out of school.” The fact that we’re reluctant to look at history not only dooms us to repeat it, it keeps us from learning those things people of the past got right, such as the belief that there is such a thing as objective truth.

Throughout history there have always been skeptics doubting that we can know what is really true. Do you remember Pilate’s retort to Jesus (Truth incarnate), “What is truth?” Nonetheless, the modern, widespread distrust of any claim of absolute truth is the result of postmodernism. Postmodernism is the worldview that promotes the validation of every belief system or code of ethics (or at least those society deems acceptable). Postmodernism was a reaction to modernism that stemmed from the Age of Enlightenment. Modernism recognized that, while we are indeed limited or “finite” in our knowledge, it is possible through the process of debate and dialogue to come to a set of objective truths, truths that could not be doubted by anyone. However, the postmodernist came along and said, “Sorry to rain on your parade guys, but how do you know that your moral standard is really true?” The postmodernist recognized that morality and ethics were often shaped by culture. For example, in our nation, polygamy has been considered a moral perversion. However, in many parts of the Middle East it is not only allowed but encouraged. Who’s to say which view is morally correct?

Now that you know where this crazy notion of “what’s right for you may not be right for me” came from, what does this mean for the Christian? Do we continue to hold to the biblical truths that we have held dear for two millennia or do we succumb to the culture that claims our beliefs are bigoted and close minded? This is something on which Christians cannot compromise. The Bible teaches explicitly that some things are right and some things are wrong. Nonetheless, postmodernism has provided a legitimate correction of some aspects of modernism. Let’s consider both sides of the issue.

First, let’s take a look at what postmodernism has right. The fault of modernism doesn’t lie with the belief that objective truth can be known. The problem of modernism is the assumption that man is himself the measure of truth; therefore, objective truth can be determined solely by human reason. How can a “finite” creature reach a conclusion of absolute truth on his own given his severe limitations? Something that is limited, in and of itself, cannot achieve ultimate truth. This is why modernism, for the most part, has been superseded by postmodernism. However, before you begin printing your, “I’m a Postmodern Man/Woman” T-shirt, let’s take a look at the faulty premises of postmodernism.

The modernist did have one thing right. We can know what is truly right. There is such a thing as objective truth. However, unlike the modernist who believes man can determine this own his own, Christians believe that we come to this truth via a source outside of us. It comes through the revelation of God given His Word. The postmodernist objects, insisting that, unless we are able to know something exhaustively, i.e. know it as God knows it, we cannot truly know it. However, such a philosophical commitment doesn’t work in real life. For example, if a robber pointed a gun to your head and said, “Your money or your life!” most sane people would say that is unquestionably wrong. However, if one accepts the relativism of postmodernism, who’s to say the robber is wrong? Maybe he’s merely following his moral imperative. Perhaps he believes this is the right thing to do. Maybe the standard by which he assesses the situation is personal happiness and perceived well-being. The inconsistency should be evident. If right and wrong are relative, why do we have laws at all? But, the fact is, we do have laws in place. And for those laws to be effective, there must be objective truth – truth beyond you and me. We must conclude that what is right for you must also be right for me.

While we cannot meet the standard of postmodernism’s insistence that we must know something exhaustively to know if it really is true, we can draw our confidence in objective reality from someone who does has exhaustive knowledge of all things, God. One of the reasons we can trust what the Bible says is because God, who has created all things and is Himself, the source of all knowledge, has declared it so. The requirement of the postmodern is met, just not the way they thought.

While it is tempting to get caught up in the details of arguing why something is right or wrong, unless God is acknowledged as the source if all truth, the exercise will be unfruitful. Whether you are a modernist who believes truth can be known or a postmodern that claims truth can’t be known, the same dilemma applies. God is not the source of your knowledge. However, as Christians, we can say with absolute confidence to the people we address, “I believe it because God has said it.”

- Jordan McGehee