Post-modernism is an emphasis in thinking that has been influenced by literary scholars who claimed that language does not refer to anything generally. Words have no objective meaning and cannot give us objective truth. Language is a cultural creation and reflects what people have done. The implication is that people have constructed language for the purpose of creating power for themselves over other people.
The Declaration of Independence has been used as an example: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights' that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The Post- modern mindset is suspicious of language. So meaning is sought behind the text, hence the term deconstruction. The Declaration talks about all men are created equal, but women are excluded. All are to have liberty, but Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and women were not allowed to vote for a long time, and slavery did not end until after the Civil war. On the surface the document appears a noble work of human thought, but from the Post-modern mindset it is a power document giving rights to some, but deny them to others.
One might ask:
what would have happened if there had been no Declaration of
Would women have equality with men? Would slavery have been
It was on the basis of the document that slavery was rejected
One of the ironies of post-modernism is this: they say there is no objective meaning in words, but they insist that everyone else understand them. Post-modernism gives us a new relativism and it has been become the permeating influence in our universities. As such we can look at certain major effects of the philosophy.
I. Relativism concerning truth
l. All truth claims
are rejected because they are regarded as a "coverup for power plays."
(Veith, Postmodern Thought, p. 56) Post-modernism rejects reason as a means of establishing objective truth, science is under attack because it claims to have objective truth, and the truths of philosophy and theology are suspect.
Since there is no objective truth, how can one describe claims to truth? Knowledge is regarded as information arranged in different paradigms. We have had the term "paradigm shift"
which gives one different ways of accounting for the so-called "facts."
Let me give you a simple example of two different paradigms that relate to the modern controversy one reads about in the newspaper. If you toured the Grand Canyon the naturalist there would tell you that the Canyon came about over a period of 10 million years or so due to water and wind erosion. That is an explanation based on the idea that change takes place over a long period of time. If you were to hear a young earth geologist talk about the grand canyon, he might tell you that this massive canyon came into existence in a catastrophic event due to an earthquakes or some similar event not too long ago, certainly not 10 million years. The point is this: the paradigm that one adopts determines how the "facts" are to be interpreted.
Postmodernism seeks to dismantle the paradigm of modernism. Modernism involves some of these features: There is a rational conscious self (and all people are like this) that knows itself and the world thru reason, or rationality and this is objective knowledge. (2) By investigation this rational self can acquire knowledge about the world that is true regardless of who acquires it. The knowledge of science is regarded as true and unchanging, if it is true in the first place. (3) This knowledge generally leads to progress and can be analyzed by science (rationally) and improved.
These and other ideas are rejected by post-modernism. Truth does not exist because we are only talking about competing stories. The old stories are regarded as stories used to put the elite into power. The new stories are designed to put the "marginal" groups into power. Those who have been excluded from power--"women, homosexuals, blacks, Native Americans, and other victims of oppression"(Veith, p. 37) are to be put into the center of the new paradigms, or stories. Afro-centrism is to replace "Euro-centrism" as the pinnacle of civilization. Patriarchal religions are to be replaced with matriarchal religions, Yahweh is to be replaced with Sophia, the materialistic view of nature is to be replaced with Gaia.
If we concede that the old stories were wrong, what makes the new stories right? Since there is no ultimate truth, there is only a struggle for power. Post-modernists are not looking for truth, they are looking for power. Post-modernist have given up the search for truth for the search for power and influence. They have given up rationality for intimidation.
2. If we give up truth and the search for truth it will come back to haunt us. We have a profound distrust of politicians, and we know they are telling everyone what each wants to hear. But if we look at this on a personal level we can see the implications for the broad picture. If a child tells a parent one thing and has decided to do another thing already, the parent does not want the child to lie. The child would not want the parent to lie to it. You and the banker both want to agree on the amount of money you have in the bank. If the trooper says that you were doing 60 in a 30 mile zone, and you were only doing 30, you would think it malicious to give you a ticket when you are innocent. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you....means telling the truth, being trustworthy in truth.
If truth is rejected in the home, there is no trust. If truth is rejected in the business place, there is no trust. If truth is rejected in government, there is no trust. If truth is rejected in religion, there is no trust.
3. Truth is
of all, a person, I am the way, the Truth....said Jesus.
are important because He is a God of truth. Jesus
"..but whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may
be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John
3:22) He told the woman at the well in Samaria that those who
God must worship in Spirit and in truth. (John 4:25) It does make
a difference which camp one is in. Jesus said,"If you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth,
the truth will set you free."(John 8:31-32)
There are people who don't want the truth, they enjoy the power they have and do not want to give it up even for the truth. This is illustrated in the encounter of Jesus with the Pharisees "As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things."(John 8:40) What is happening in cultural relativism is only another example of the truth of Jesus's words, Jesus said he would give us another counselor, " the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:17) Jesus prayed for his followers and indicated that God's word is truth: Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.(John 17:17)
The book of Romans has a serious indictment about the history of man and it has implications with regard to post-modernism. Mankind "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen."(1:25) Christians are to live" by setting forth the truth plainly ( so that we )may commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."(I Cor. 2:4)
Christians are commanded to humility in their claim for truth. We are to speak the truth in love, that we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."(Eph 4:15) There is no basis for going to war with people who disagree with you.
You must keep in mind that many reject truth in the world today. They will say, that is true for you, but it is not true for me. Jesus responded to Pilate about the nature of truth, " I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."(John 18:37) If they don't listen to Jesus, they won't listen to you. But you must stand firm for truth.
II. Relativism concerning morality
1. It seems like one can prove anything from polls. In one poll it is claimed that 66 percent of Americans" believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth." (p.16) Among young people between 18 and 25, the number is higher reaching 72 percent claiming they do not believe in absolute truth. More alarming is the part of the poll relating to evangelical Christian and 53% of those claim that there are no absolute truths.(ibid) An absolute truth is that which does not change from culture to culture, or from person to person, or from time to time. If a statement is true in 800 BC it will be true in 3000 AD.
2. How did such an attitude toward relativism in morality arise?
The Post-modernists view reality as something that humans have constructed with their language.
Morality is a product of our language and does not refer to anything objective. Moreover, since language is an expression of power the old morality was seen as a power play by some over others, men over women, straight people over homosexuals, free over slaves, etc.
3. Since there is no objective reality, as in the Christian view that God is Creator and Moral Legislator, one makes moral decisions based on feeling or desire. No one has a right to criticize my decisions, my choices, and my desires. On the other hand, the postmoderist wants approval for their actions regardless of what they are. Because of this, the cardinal virtue of the postmodern age is tolerance. Even tolerance may not be enough since acceptance is desired.
The Homosexual agenda wants their lifestyle regarded as an alternative lifestyle on par with the heterosexual lifestyle. Should you reject their lifestyle, you are being homophobic, judgmental, narrow minded, dogmatic, arrogant in claiming you only have the truth. "The only wrong idea is to believe in truth; the only sin is to believe in sin." (Ibid.p. 196)
4. There is an unusual turn in postmodern morality. PM can speak of collective guilt while minimizing personal individual guilt. The person is a product of the culture and its language. My membership in this group-culture, involves me in guilt for things that I have no involvement with. White people are made to feel guilt over the way our ancestors treated the Indians, slaves, women, and while people should be involved in redressing these past injustices. Some of these people who are descendents want compensation for the suffering of their parents, but they have not suffered themselves. (p.,197)
This does pose a serious problem. If there are no moral absolutes why should PM think that any wrong has been done? If justice is only a language fiction, why should we compensate people for something that is not really wrong? Calls for justice for all people is only another display of power. One power group over against another power group.
5. What are the
of relativism in morality? It leads to chaos in
society. Think of the change from the past. The
Pill became a symbol
of freedom for women.
The pill detached sex from children, then from marriage, and
then people lived together without getting married, then women wanted
have children without a husband, and the breakdown of the family came
Along with the promiscuity came the AIDs plague, and when this
people they turned increasingly to "virtual sex" in
and the computer. This is the final dehumanization of
Sexuality is not the only casualty. One young woman said: "I belong to the Blank Generation. I have no beliefs. I belong to no community, tradition, or anything like that. I'm lost in this vast, vast world. I belong nowhere. I have absolutely no identity." (p.72)
This describes many people who have lost their directions, their stability, and meaning. The book of Judges gives an example of a very relativistic view in the Old Testament. "Each person did that which was right in their own eyes." Modern anthropologists built upon the idea that diverse cultures are valid and came to the same conclusion. In modern times a philosophic emphasis called logical positivism claimed that moral standards cannot be verified by science. In this case, since the idea of wrongness in the statements like "rape is wrong" cannot be verified, then I can only talk about my "feelings" that rape is wrong. If someone "felt" that rape is ok, there is no scientific verification for that.
This movement reduced morality to emotive (or feeling) statements. Such an approach can only lead to relativism in ethics. If pushed to its conclusion, people can do what they feel like and this leads to relativism.
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" are words for
Jesus talked about building a life. (Mt.7:24) "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
If there is no foundation in Christ your world will increase in its chaotic nature and your world will come crashing down around you. (Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, still gives valid advice to our generation, and particularly the PM's. "If you have a why, you can endure any How." )
III. Relativism in Religion
1. The scientific
stressed the need for verification for belief. If something could
be verified scientifically, one was justified in declaring it
If something could not be verified, then the statement was regarded as
a product of one's emotions and beliefs. One could not
miracles scientifically, so they were out. This meant that the
Birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, his
and basic reliability of the Bible was
This became known as modernism, or liberalism, and this
permeated the seminaries and eventually the churches.
Main-line churches declined in growth, because it is easy to
that since the Bible is not true, there is only psychology and
responsibility preached from the pulpit and it is easier to sleep
in on Sunday morning.. The conservative churches
liberalism and they have continued to grow because they are
the Truth of the Scripture.
2. PM rejected the idea of truth altogether and this led to greater variety in the approach to religion. Instead of searching for truth, PM leads one to search for what feels good. One may say "I really like that church," Or, one can say, "I really like the idea that God is love.
But then what about things you don't like, as "I don't like the idea of Hell." The same attitude is expressed by members of the cults, "The Maharishi is really cool." "Transcendental mediation gives me a natural high."(Veith, p. 193)
How do you respond when someone preaches about something you don't like? I don't like someone telling me I am a sinner when I really am a sinner, , but recognizing the truth of that statement leads to finding forgiveness in God's presence. If I deny that I am a sinner, there is no help for me. Just as long as I deny I have a medical problem, cancer, or whatever, there will be no help possible.
3. Relativism in religion is a blunt disregard for people in any religious tradition.
However, remember this line from Ravi Zacharias, "it is more likely that all religions are false than that all religions are true." They cannot all be true. Hinduism believes that everything is god, Zen Buddhism rejects god altogether, Jainism rejects the gods, Islam believes in one God and it is debated who this god is, and Judaism and Christianity believe in the God of the Bible. It is not an attitude to tolerance to say to a Muslim that all religions are the same. Certainly Islam and Hinduism are in two different mind-sets and they cannot be reconciled. If you are tolerant, you should show respect, but it is a lack of respect to both the Hindu and Muslim to say that their religions are the same.
People are inclined to say that all religious are the same, "If they are, it seems rather unnecesasry to go into the middle of Asia to get one." (Chesterton) If they are all the same, why do post-modernist reject Christianity? If you proceed to do the PM thing and say that Hinduism is true for you and Islam is true for him, then this does not work either, because the Muslim believes that the Hindu is a polytheist and idolater, both of which are condemned by the Koran. The postmodernist who claims that all religions are the same is really an idolator.... If people call you intolerant, the response should be that you don't want to be an idolater as they are, because they may be worshipping something that is not God.
4. The New religions of the age have affinities with PM. PM believes that reality is created by your mind, and in Hinduism and Buddhism reality is an illusion also created by the mind. Neither of these groups function on the law of non-contradiction. Something is either true or it is false, it cannot be both true and false at the same time. Veith says, "The New Age religions are, of course, little more than a revival of old paganism. Behind the craze for horoscopes, E.S.P., and channeling lurks old-fashioned divination, magic, and demon possession. With the eclipse of Christianity, primitive nature religions come creeping back in all of their superstition and barbarism. These are, of course, adjusted to the contemporary imagination. Feminists, in reacting against "patriarchal"religions such as Christianity, try to restore goddess-worship. Environmentalists stress how the whole planet constitutes a single interdependent ecosystem. It is as if we are all individual cells in a larger organism, a living being long worshiped as Mother-Earth, the goddess Gaia....
"The revival of goddess worship may relate to homosexuality as well as to feminism. Scholars have shown how in ancient times homosexuality was associated with goddess worship. Many ancient religions also practice infanticide. Whether or not abortion is a form of Molech worship, its acceptance signals a profound shift away from the presuppositions of a transcendent ethical religion back to a darker, more barbaric ethical consciousness." (p. 200)
5. What does
the Bible say about all this. Jesus said: "I am the Way,
Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through
(John 14:6) This puts the Christian faith in a
of claiming truth. This truth is important for your future
It is not a matter of whether you like it or not, of whether it feels
or not, but is it true? The
of Jesus preached:(Acts 4:12) "Salvation is found in no one else, for
is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be
Again, I may not like this, but it is the Christian gospel, and it is
for all peoples to have salvation thru Jesus. I Peter 2:3, says,
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to
From the Christian view of things, it is not possible to say Christianity is true for you, but not for me. Any other option is a rejection of the truth of Christianity and deliberate ignoring of
God's gracious coming to mankind in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To turn away from Him is to turn away from everlasting life. Turning from Him is a step toward idolatry.
1. How do you
find yourself today. How much has the influence of the world
your thought patterns, your morality, or lack of
Have you come to the conclusion that there is no truth in the
Have you come to conclude that any religion is good as long as someone
believes something. Have you come to accept the idea
that any belief system works.
Many times peope talk about being relevant. Relevancy is always changing. But consider the statement by Simone Weil, "To be always relevant, you have to say things which are eternal."
The eternal God has spoken. He offers you the opportunity to become a new person in Jesus Christ. He offers unchanging hope. He gives everlasting grace. He calls you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind by the power of his Holy Spirit. Jesus said, " Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Mt. 24:35) He gives us the choice of living in a world that is going to pass away, and a world that is going to enduring in His presence forever. What will you choose?
Do you need to make a new beginning today to do the same? To ask God to transform your mind and renew your way of thinking so that you are God's person, not the world's lackey?
Each person did that which was right in their culture, and the most relativistic view is expressed in the Old Testament, "Each man did that which was right in his own eyes." Modern anthropologists built upon the idea that diverse cultures and came to the same conclusion.In modern times a philosophic emphasis called logical positivism claimed that moral standards cannot be verified by science. In this case, since the idea of wrongness in the statements like "rape is wrong" cannot be verified, then I can only talk about my "feelings" that rape is wrong. If someone "felt" that rape is ok, there is no scientific verification for that.
This movement reduced morality to emotive (or feeling) statements. Such an approach can only lead to relativism in ethics. If pushed to its conclusion, people can do what they feel like and this leads to relativism.