POSTMODERNISM – The Death of Truth

Postmodernism is best understood as a modifier of other worldviews. It began as a challenge to the optimism that was inherent in the modernist project. Postmodernists were unimpressed with the progress mankind had made when we started with human reason and worked outward. Unlike modernism, postmodernism focuses on the construction of meaning using language and cultural norms, rather than the discovering of meaning through observation and rationality.

KEY POINTS / BELIEFS

  • As far as we know, the physical universe is prime reality. However, we do not have access to these sorts of answers, so asking these questions about the really real is useless.
  • As far as we know, the cosmos seem to be real and eternal and exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system. The cosmos, including the world, is understood to be in its normal state and there is no special revelation.
  • A human being is insubstantial, but we construct the self by the language we use to describe ourselves. The “strong poets” of science and modernism (like Freud and Darwin) have created the language that we use to defined what it is to be human. If we are anything apart from our own language is unknowable.
  • Death, it seems, is the extinction of personality and individuality.
  • It is possible to know certain things (pragmatic truths), but absolute or objective truth is forever hidden from us. As such, all we can really do is tell stories. The world does not speak to us and we listen; we speak and build meaning onto the world.
  • We must reject all meta-narratives or master-stories that try to put all other stories underneath them. Every story is valid as long as it is meaningful to the storyteller.
  • Ethics, like knowledge, is a linguistic construct.  Social good is whatever society takes it to be. These leads to radical ethical relativism.  Art and beauty are also relative.  Meaning in literature is decided by the reader and not the author.
  • It seems that history is a linear stream of events linked by cause and effect but without an overarching purpose. However, we can’t really know for sure.
  • Postmodernism’s core commitments are in a constant flux. Postmodernists are committed to an endless stream of “whatevers.”

WHAT MAKES IT SO ATTRACTIVE / RELEVANT?

Postmodernism validates everyones story and definition of the world and ethics. Meta-narratives or worldviews are judged as “true” if they satisfy the holder of the view and give them what they desire (peace, hope, sense of security, purpose). No further examination, consideration, or conversation is needed and so everyone can just co-exist.

RUBS WITH CHRISTIANITY

LOGICAL RUB = Is your worldview logical?

  • Is it true that no story can have any more credibility than any other? Is it true that there is no absolute truth at all?
    • For this to be absolutely true, the statement itself would have to be false, it is a self-refuting argument.
  • Is the postmodern description of how meta-narratives function in our society true?
    • It can only be true if and only if it functions as a meta-narrative describing all societies…making it a self-refuting argument.
  • Is it true that a thing is whatever I say it is?
    • Car keys can be used as a wind chime, a baby rattle, a fashion accessory or more… but that doesn’t mean that first and foremost they were designed to operate a car. Alternative subjective meanings do not necessarily remove the objective meaning or essence of a thing.

SCRIPTURAL RUB = Is your worldview biblical?

Pragmatic Truth vs. Correspondent Truth

Pragmatic Truth = Nothing has essence outside of our subjective minds. Truth claims are merely constructed and applied to realities for the present usefulness to the individual or the society to help us survive or thrive in this moment.  These truths are subject to change as needed.

Correspondent Truth = Things exists apart from our observation of them or the language we use to describe them. There are objective realities that are true at all times in the same way for all people. We then pick our language to correspond to these objective realities that exist outside of our mind.

  • Genesis 3:1-7 – “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”‘ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, so she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
    • Objective truth was given to Adam and Eve by their Creator. The serpent used the deceptive power of pragmatic truth to convince them to forego the revealed truth for a version of truth that suited their desires more.
  • This ultimate temptation has not changed; and rather than trusting God’s word, we choose to become our own truth-makers and decide for ourselves what we want true and false, right and wrong, good and evil to be.
  • God has never withheld any of this knowledge from us, but he has always desired that we come to Him to receive it. This is because of his deep desire to live in relationship with His creation, with us. When we choose not to approach God for this knowledge and create it on our own — when we stop going to Him for help and even deny His existence and His ownership of all truth — we sever that relationship and live life apart from our loving heavenly Father.

GOSPEL RUB = Is your worldview gospel-centered?

The salvation that Postmodernism promises is from the oppression of the absolute truth claims of others. It is salvation from religious meta-narratives, idealists, and others who supposedly use truth claims as power plays.

However, the fundamental presupposition of the gospel is NOT that we need saving from some force outside ourselves, NOT even that we need saving from Satan, and NOT even from the evil of this world. The primary presupposition is that we need to be saved from ourselves. 

  • The problem for Eve was not the serpent, the problem was Eve.
  • The problem for Adam was not Eve, the problem was Adam.

We need salvation from our own pride, jealousy, anger, disobedience, unfaithfulness, envy, bitterness, laziness, gluttony and doubt.  Our government, parents ideas, and economic situation may be problems that we hope to overcome, but they are not our primary problem.

  • John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

What we really need is NOT what we think we need. What we really need is JESUS. Don’t trust your pastor, the church, your parents, or the guy on TV or the guy… Trust God! Because it is His meta-narrative, His master story, His all-encompassing plan that have a chance to participate in. Do you trust Him?

NEXT STEPS…

  • Engage in deep and meaningful conversations.
    • While Postmodernism claims that absolute truth is dead, how might Christians play a role in bringing the reality of absolute truth of the gospel back to life?
  • Honestly reflect on how your worldview may be be influenced by Postmodernism. How do you perceive meta-narratives? God’s meta-narrative?
  • Listen to this week’s sermon on our website.
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