Minding The Times: An Exposition On Postmodernism, Part 2
The human mind and spirit cannot endure for very long the chaotic vacillation of such lawlessness before the individual eventually cries out for answers to the extremes of licentiousness and total control. Throughout much of the Modern Era, the Christian apologist could appeal to a shared respect for historic and scientific fact common to both Christianity and commonsense realism. Today, the Christian must first reestablish why anyone ought to believe in anything at all and then assert how the Biblical approach provides the best possible explanation for the condition in which man actually finds himself and the facts as they are rather than how he might like them to be.
The apologist must begin this process by exposing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Postmodernist system. James Sire writes in The Universe Next Door, "If we hold that all linguistic utterances are power plays, then that utterance itself is a power play and no more likely to be more proper than any other (187)."
This claim by Postmodernists that all utterances are merely power plays fails the test of systematic consistency where a philosophical proposition must square with the external world as well as logically cohere with the other statements comprising the set of beliefs under consideration. But more important than the sense of satisfaction resulting from the discovery of this contradiction allowing for a degree of one-upmanship in the battle of ideas is the realization that this contradiction exposes the unlivability of a particular worldview.
Big deal, the Postmodernist might quip in response to this inconsistency since they are not known for their devotion to logical argumentation. Try as they might to gloss over this oversight with platitudes honoring the glories of relativism and tolerance, Postmodernists still deep down possess that human yearning for a universal justice. Romans 2:14-15 says, "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts..."
It might not be fashionable to contend that there is no such thing as right and wrong and often believing such is even an occupational requirement in certain academic and governmental circles. But when it comes down to it, no one really wants to be treated as if that was the case. C.S. Lewis was fond of noting that those among us preaching the loudest in favor of relativism would cry bloody murder just like the rest of us if egregiously wronged. Just see what happens the next time the faculty nihilist is denied tenure when up for review.
Once it is established by our own existential makeup that there is something to right and wrong beyond the whims of those strong enough to have their way with the weak, it needs to be highlighted where these standards come from. John Frame in Apologetics To The Glory Of God writes, "Now, where does this authority of the absolute moral principle come from? Ultimately, only two kinds of answers are possible: the source of absolute moral authority is either personal or impersonal (97)."
This means that the ethical framework of the universe either arose within its own structure on its own or through the conscientious ordering of a higher organizing mind. Since we ourselves possess consciousness, by default the source of this moral order would have to be aware since it is impossible for the unaware to give rise to the aware or even to establish an ordered universe since that which is not guided and directed is haphazard and random.
If the Christian has been successful up to this point, the Christian has aided the Postmodernist in realizing that there is purpose and direction in life. The next step in the process involved proving to the Postmodernist that the Christian faith is the correct system of thought and meaning. Now the Christian can reintroduce a more traditional apologetic since the Postmodernist is now capable of stomaching objective fact.
The task of the Christian Apologist is to show the unbeliever that the Christian faith is the most viable religious option. This is accomplished by emphasizing the validity of the Biblical account. The first hurdle to overcome regards the historical legitimacy of the Gospel records. To accomplish, Winfried Corduan provides the following checklist of questions in No Doubt About It: The Case For Christianity: "(1) Are the accounts written by people closely associated with the event? (2) Are our present versions of the Gospels what the original authors wrote? (3) Are the accounts so biased as to be unbelievable? (4) Do the accounts contain impossibilities (186)?"
By answering these questions, it is discovered that the Gospels are remarkably well off. The Gospels are themselves written by eyewitnesses or contain the testimony of eyewitnesses. Corduan writes, "Matthew and John were disciples...Mark was a native of Jerusalem and present at the Gospel events...and reported the reminisces of Peter. Luke...was not a disciple...Yet tells of the research he did (189)."
Regarding the quality of the Gospel manuscripts, so many have come down to us in the present day with so few variant readings that there is little chance of some textual huckster committing documentary fraud without someone catching wind of it. As to the matter of bias, while the Gospels and the Bible were written to advance a certain perspective the same as any other book, it is remarkably blunt in cataloging the shortcomings of its most beloved protagonists. Most memoirs and autobiographies go out of their way to cast their subjects in the most favorable light possible even at the expense of factual accuracy.
Lastly, as to whether or not the Gospels record impossibilities is a matter of preconception in the mind of the beholder. One can either maintain the Humean notion that miracles do not occur because miracles do not occur or abide by the canons of historical research and accept these extraordinary events as they come since the rest of the document passes muster.
Since the Gospels are deemed as historically reliable, it would follow that those studying these document should look to those spoken thereof in its pages to provided the content and meaning of these events addressed. After all, the Founding Fathers are still looked to as important sources for interpreting the U.S. Constitution and for what was intended for the early American republic.
Likewise, to comprehend fully the significance of Jesus, the sincere student of history ought to consider what this historical figure said about himself. Jesus says in Matthew 12:39-40, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign. But none will be given except for the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth." From later passages detailing the Resurrection, we see that he carried through on this promise.
In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Peter responds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus did not chastise Peter for idolatry; instead he ratified the Apostle's assertion by replying, "Blessed are you, Simeon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."
An apologetic designed to address the concerns raised by Postmodernism presents a number of possibilities as well as challenges to the Christian seeking to reach those trapped by this subtle but pervasive mindset. Crafting an apologetic addressing the spirit of the age to an extent makes the evangelistic task somewhat easier.
Postmodernism already wrests asunder most metaphysical pretensions as linguistic obfuscations protecting the powerful. Therefore, the Postmodernist has already done a portion of the Christian’s work by exposing the invalidity of most intellectual systems. The Christian can therefore rush in and expose the contradictory nature of outright nihilism without first having to tear down incorrect theologies and the faulty ethics arising from them. As a result, the Christian can then show how the alternatives found in the Bible strike the proper balance between the liberation and conformity tearing at the heart of contemporary culture and individual well-being.
However, these characteristics can also serve as drawbacks when employing an apologetic addressing Postmodernism. Even though the Apologist does not have to deconstruct (to use a term popular in Postmodernist circles) faulty conceptions of God when dealing with these thinkers, the Christian has to take the time to reestablish why anything matters at all. With those hovering around the periphery, it might be relatively easy to lure them back onto the solid ground of commonsense founded on Christian absolutes; however, those at the heart of this movement churning out its lies and deceptions will be considerably harder to convince and will continue to ensnare unreflective minds.
It is in the campaign against this ongoing subversion that the Christian waging a defensive action to preserve the remaining shreds of moral sanity can get bogged down and neglect the distinctives of the Christian faith in favor of a less offensive set of principles common to various religions and ideologies shocked by the ethical brutality of the contemporary era.
Of the crop of books over the past few years by figures such as Bill Benet, Robert Bork, and James Q. Wilson that bemoan the decline in social morality, Hugh Hewitt writes in The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness In An Age Of Unbelief, “But there is no apologetic content to these writings. And they are mute on the ultimate question, they are ineffective. In fact, they might actually be harmful (154).” The Christian accomplishes little of lasting impact if the message is watered down to attract allies or spends inordinate amounts of time addressing the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual darkness in high places.” The Christian is involved in a grand spiritual conflict all around him. As in all wars, weapons and tactics change over time as each side engages in a spiraling exchange of point/counterpoint as each side tries to best the other.
In the Modern era, the Christian utilized an apologetic appealing to a common respect for objective factual knowledge shared with the broader culture. However, in the change to Postmodernism, the Christian has had to alter the apologetic to show how life without objective truth is unlivable. From that point the Apologist can go on to show how what Francis Schaeffer termed “true truth” indelibly points towards Christ.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.