The Cultural Impact Of Worldview & Apologetics, Part 3
It could be argued that the primary perspective allowing so many of the other outlooks to take hold that would have seemed downright silly, bizarre, and even inimical to human liberty to previous generations of mainstream Americans is none other than Postmodernism. Modernism held that man --- through observational science and objective reasoning --- could on his own without reliance on God's revelation derive truths roughly equivalent to those once deduced from religion and even improve upon those areas in which credentialed experts had concluded ecclesiastical authorities had fallen short. Postmodernism holds, in the words of J.P. Moreland, that "...there is no such thing as objective reality, truth, value, reason, and so forth. All of these are social constructions, creations of linguistic practices, and, as such, are relative not to individuals but to social groups that share a narrative (208)."
The average person may not be aware of the obtuse and technical debates that go on in academia regarding the nature of history or whether or not there is a definitive interpretation to a classic work of literature or even if there are works of literature worthy of distinction as such. However, on some level just about everyone (with the exception of those in a persistent vegetative state whose lives are actually endangered as a result of the amoralism Postmodernism advocates) is familiar with the perspective of ethical relativism.
Francis Beckwith defines moral relativism as, "the view that when it comes to questions of morality, there is no absolute objective right and wrong; moral rules are merely personal preferences and/or the result of one's cultural, sexual or ethnic orientation (211)." This sounds quite enlightened philosophically, but as Beckwith points out, in such a system the belief that unjustified killing is wrong is reduced to the level of individual predilection such as one might have for one variety of ice cream over another.
The relativism upon which Postmodernism rests is undermined by its own assumptions and is ultimately held in place only by the sheer power of those that profess it. The unfortunate thing is it is through this mindset that such elites tend to propagate themselves and to marginalize those failing to embrace a form of diversity where everyone is compelled to espouse the same set of principles.
Inherent to Postmodern relativism is the assumption that no objective standard exists. Beckwith observes, “If the mere fact of disagreement were sufficient to conclude that objective norms do not exist, then we would have to believe that there is no objectively correct position on such issues as slavery, genocide, and child molestation; for the slave owner, genocidal maniac, and pedophile have an opinion that differs from the one held by those of us who condemn their actions (215)."
Yet especially in regards to the issue of child molestation, unless one has been severely traumatized oneself or deliberately decided to wallow in humanity's basest perversities, one recoils in horror at the prospect of there being no higher justification protecting the innocent from such horrors. Beckwith assures, however, the fact that objections can be raised regarding such practices itself lends credence to moral standards existing above the fray of human affairs. For to insist that there are no absolutes is itself to invoke an absolute.
The human tendency to formulate moral codes, even when those cultures and individuals deriving these fall short of the aspired ideal, is a powerful tool in the hands of the apologist to point the seeker towards the existence of God. If nothing exists beyond the physical realm, man is the highest authority with the state being the highest of his institutions. In such an environment, “what is” becomes “what ought” with the nation possessing either the largest army or the nation most willing to use force in extending its policy objectives both within and beyond its borders determining this for the greatest percentage of the world’s population.
Thus for standards to exist against horrors such as slavery and genocide beyond human preference and circumstance, they must be rooted in a source existing above, beyond, and yet accessible to human beings and their institutions for the purposes of reflection and implementation. Paul Copan writes, “The existence of a good personal God, who created humans in his image, offers a simpler and less-contrived connection, a more plausible context to affirm human value and rights as well as moral obligations (87)." Since human beings posses conscious personhood, the source of the standards we are to live by must also possess this quality.
Sexual debauchery and drunken carousing might provide a shallow satisfaction for a short while; however, after awhile the typical soul longs for something it perceives as having a more solid foundation. Indoctrinated now since nearly the first day of school as to the shortcomings of Western civilization, many young skulls full of mush as Rush Limbaugh once categorized naive students are turning to what are described as Eastern religions or systems of belief in their pursuit of purpose and meaning.
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.