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POSTMODERNISM


"And, He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment...But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."

John 16: 8, 13




Postmodernism has gotten to be a popular buzz title in the evangelical world.

Although you will encounter that term in secular scholarship, I will deal with this word in this article only as used by evangelicals. Postmodernism is used by evangelicals to define a worldview that rejects absolute truth and embraces relative truth or personal truth (this is not the same thing). The charge is that the present American world is postmodern. I donít believe that is a correct analysis of people in this culture. What we have is not a post-modern world but a world suffering from an "authority crisis". That is, what people are rejecting in our modern, secular world is not absolute truth but an authority that determines such truth. The distinction is important.

We need to listen to people. When people say "thatís your truth" or "who is to decide what is the truth", what are they really saying? Our evangelical scholars have decided that people have rejected absolute truth in favor of relativism or personal truth. I think they mean what they say. This crisis of authority can be seen in the philosophical movement known as deconstructionism. The prevailing spirit of deconstruction is not that truth does not exist, but the need to go back to the beginning and look at what we consider truth. Could it have been constructed differently? And if it could, what would that truth look like? Would that truth be real truth or would the old truth be truth or have we missed truth altogether? You can hear this type of lament when people wonder how can one know what the truth is when there are so many religions.

Of course, this crisis of authority threatens us, who are the religious professionals. We are in an atmosphere where being in the clergy commands far less respect than it used to command. Saying "it is from the Bible" or "I am the pastor" does not settle the argument anymore. However, that does not mean we should overreact and make unfounded charges like "you donít believe in truth".

At Manna we need to take people seriously and listen to what they say. Also, we need to thoroughly believe the Bible. How does that work in this instance. First, if we take the Bible seriously, we know that people do not reject the concept of truth that should bind us all. Romans 2: 15 shows us that the necessities of truth are written on our hearts, although we can clearly reject the truth. However, the authority or determiner of truth is what troubles our modern culture.

As I have said before, there are two things, almost uniformly, that non-Christians and non-churchgoers want to know when I talk with them: 1). Can I pray for them; and 2). What does the Bible say. Interestingly enough, I find that people in this culture have not rejected the authority of the Bible but the authority of the "sanctioned interpreters" of the Bible like the clergy. In fact, the Bible claims that it has tremendous power (Hebrews 4:12). God the Father and Jesus have sent the Holy Spirit to convict (John 16:8) and will guide us to truth (John 16: 13). Perhaps we ought to believe and trust in the words of Scripture. I do not see modern Americans, armed with their questions, contradicting Scripture. I see wounded and insulted clergy contradict Scripture by claiming their neighbors are rejecting truth rather than rejecting us, the clergy.

How do we as Christians regain credibility with our neighbors? First, we live lives that are consistent with our beliefs. Secondly, we know what the Scripture says and who God is? Thirdly, we become ourselves and not some cardboard cutouts of what a Christian is supposed to be like. Fourth, we love our neighbors. Real love forgives a lot of sins. At that point, the truths we believe in can become the truths that our neighbors believe in; these truths can become binding.

Why is this topic important? We are spending too much time trying to convince people of something they already believe, i.e. that there is an absolute truth. Let the law written in their heart and the work of the Holy Spirit convict and lead our neighbors into truth. What is our job? Well, look at the paragraph above.

So, we at Manna are not on some crusade to convince our neighbors about the existence of absolute truth. They already inherently know it exists. We are on a crusade to introduce our neighbors to The Truth, The Way, and The Life, namely, Jesus Christ.