Chapter 8

Postmodernism

by on
Share:

I was recently on an airplane where, as God sometimes allows to happen, the subject of conversation was turned to religion and Christianity. The individual sitting next to me was a pediatrician from Thailand. I asked her if she had ever considered the claims of Jesus Christ upon her life. She said, “There is no need to. All religions are the same.” Then she added, “No one can claim that one religion is right and another is wrong. One can believe whatever they wish, as long as they believe it sincerely. All religions can be equally true.”

This woman, who said she was a Buddhist, told me that this is what Buddhists have believed for centuries. Her statement reminded me of what God said through King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This perspective, that all religions are equally valid, and that no one can dogmatically say that one religion is more valid than another is known as postmodernism.

This notion, held by this Buddhist physician, is a perspective that many Americans are now embracing.

Postmodernism Defined

Defining postmodernism is a difficult process because the term can be used differently between disciplines. To understand the word, it might be helpful to break it down. Historically, when the word “modern” was used in a philosophical context, it referred to a worldview based on the principles of the Enlightenment. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Enlightenment emphasized the autonomy of the individual, trust in the power of reason, conviction that human reason is objective, and that truth can be discovered by the rational human mind.1 The “modern” mindset valued scientific investigation, absolute truth, logical and pragmatic organizations, and orderly surroundings.2

For this reason, long-established institutions that were deeply rooted in society, such as religion and the government, began to be questioned. There was a new and greater emphasis being placed on man’s ability to reform the world by his own thought, by scientific investigation, and skepticism.3

Someone might think, “Well, what is wrong with that? What is wrong with using your mind and using science to determine what is true or false?” Please understand, the Bible is not necessarily against using our minds—it simply recognizes the limitations of human thought. God Himself says, “ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18). Even the casual reader of Scripture is familiar with the Apostle Paul, who when evangelizing the lost people would “reason from the Scriptures” the truths concerning Jesus Christ (Acts 17:2, 18:4). God made us with minds, and in the commandment that the Lord referred to as the greatest of all the commandments He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

The fact that the Bible tells us that our minds need to be renewed informs us that from God’s perspective they have been damaged by the Fall.

But the Scriptures also recognize that man’s mind is fallen. God tells us that the natural man, someone without a spiritual birth, “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). For the same reason, the Apostle Paul can declare, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). This is why he warns us, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). For this reason, once we receive Christ as our Savior and are given this second birth, making us new persons inside (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are then commanded to let God renew our minds through the truth of the Scripture (Romans 12:2). The fact that the Bible tells us that our minds need to be renewed informs us that from God’s perspective they have been damaged by the Fall.

Logically, most people can understand the principle that all human reasoning is not necessarily good. Hitler, with his reason, believed the Jewish people were an inferior race that needed to be exterminated. While the modernism of the Enlightenment period encouraged people to look to reason and science as a source of authority, if man’s mind is fallen, if man’s mind is by nature rebellious as the Bible reveals (Romans 3:10–12), then the conclusions one may make from science and reason alone will at times be faulty.

Scientific thought has been proven wrong on many occasions. There was a time when a minority of the scientific world was convinced that the world was flat. In hindsight, it did not matter how confidently they believed and taught it to be true –– their position was still erroneous.4 Modern secular science goes against a literal six-day creation despite the fact that God clearly reveals this truth.5

So when we speak of modernism, we are referring to a term that goes back to the time of the Enlightenment where man’s autonomous reason was considered sovereign.6 The problem with modernism is that it did not recognize that man’s reason must be brought under the authority of the Bible (hence, “autonomous”). Therefore, it is not surprising that today in theological realms, liberalism, the rejection of the Bible as the absolute and final authority, was once called modernism.7

Bible-believing evangelicals recognize that “reason” is valuable in that God has called us to use our minds, but only to the degree that our reasoning process is tempered and corrected by Scripture. Those of us who believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God tend to emphasize biblical thinking formed by logical analysis, propositional teaching, and a historical, grammatical interpretation of Bible passages. We embrace theological and moral absolutes as forming the foundation of our faith and typically are unafraid to challenge those who do not fully agree with this perspective.

But while we would say that we have “reasoned our way” to this position, we would also acknowledge that this “reasoning” was not done without the help of the Holy Spirit and apart from submitting any conclusions we have made to the litmus test of Scripture. In other words, we would say that our use of logic and reasoning are still predicated on the ultimate authority of God and His Word. Christ promised this helping ministry of the Spirit when He said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit’s guidance never contradicts the Bible that He Himself inspired. For this reason, the Apostle Paul taught us that conclusions about life and God and the world around us that are contrary to what has been revealed in Scripture, are to be rejected.8 So while the “modern” of the Enlightenment used his mind, he rejected the Bible as the final authority to guide it. In his thinking, if reason and science dictated the Bible was wrong, then it must be wrong.

So what do we mean by postmodernism and how can we best define the term? As previously stated, it can be difficult to define, and definitions tend to differ. Earl Creps posits that due to its absence of a central, unifying trait, trying to define postmodernism “is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”9 Students of the social sciences generally agree that there was a shift that began to take place in the way some people began to think as early as the 1930s.10 While some date postmodernism to the 1930s, most agree that it did not begin to take root in the West and in the United States until the 1960s and ’70s, progressing ever since.11

Initially, the term “postmodernism” gained popularity as a term used to describe a period of architecture and art that began to emerge especially during the 1970s. Many found modern art and modern architecture to be confusing because it seemed to lack a sense of order, rhyme, and reason. By previous standards, this new expression of art and architecture seemed so bizarre, because it had abandoned traditional standards for new ideals. These new “postmodern” standards rejected a previous way of thinking about life based on objectivity and reason.

The Fruit of Modernism

Modernism began to deviate into a man-centered reality (as opposed to a God-centered reality)—postmodernism is like the fruit of this mancentered religion. It goes one more step toward relativism. Where modernism still retained certain aspects of Christianity (such as absolute conclusions) within its parameters, postmodernism tried doing away with any semblance of Christian influence (no absolutes).

Postmodern art and architecture had abandoned all previously held conventional standards in these fields. As a young man, when I would see this new kind of art and architecture, my first reaction was typically, “This is rather odd and confusing to me.” The rejection of absolutes—the rejection of being able to rationally define something as acceptable or unacceptable—eventually made its way into the realm of theology.

Postmodernism is a philosophy that says absolute truth, solid concrete values, does not necessarily even exist.

Postmodernism is a philosophy that says absolute truth, solid concrete values, does not necessarily even exist. Since the postmodernist thinks there is no real valid way to measure truth from error, acceptable from unacceptable, or right from wrong, all beliefs and perspectives are determined to be equally valid. This way of thinking is determinatively different from the way Americans and Westerners have thought in the past.

A survey of research and literature indicates that Americans under the age of 35 have been raised in a postmodern culture, with many having distinctly different values and preferences from those in earlier generations.12 At least with the person raised under the influence of the Enlightenment, through the process of reason, someone would come to a conclusion. Sometimes, a proper conclusion is made, consistent with the revelation of God in Scripture, and sometimes an improper conclusion. But in either case, a decision could be formulated, such that they would view an opposing decision as wrong.

However, in postmodernism it is argued that each decision is equally valid and that two opposing decisions can be true at the same time.13 Postmodernism embraces relativism to the highest degree. Relativism is the idea that truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.

This means that what is right for one person, may not necessarily be right for another person. Therefore, truth is not really knowable. Truth is whatever you want it to be. This makes truth a moving target. What one believes, what one considers to be right or wrong, is really left up to the individual. I’m OK; you’re OK—the famous saying brought to us by the psychology of the past—is an effective mantra for this viewpoint. What is true for you might not be true for me. In the thinking of the postmodernist, no one is really wrong except for those who hold to absolute truth. But how can they know that those who hold to absolute truth are wrong?

Are they absolutely sure? In their religion, there were no absolutes! By their own admission, they can’t know the most basic tenant of their own religion! So they are inconsistent and self-refuting at their most basic level. More on this as we progress in the chapter.

The Postmodernist and Tolerance

Today, those who embrace postmodernism ridicule Christianity as intolerant, egotistical, and arrogant because of its exclusive claims about God and morality. To say that there is only one way to heaven through Christ14 is viewed as intolerant by those who say there are many paths to heaven. To embrace a strict moral code that condemns sexual perversion like homosexuality15 or sexual permissiveness like fornication or adultery16 is to be restrictive, judgmental, and lacking sophistication. The battle cry of the postmodernist is a redefined understanding of “tolerance.”

Because truth cannot absolutely be known in their religion, the highest virtue for the postmodern man is tolerance, but not as the word has traditionally been defined. In the past, when Americans used the term tolerance, it was understood to mean that everyone has a right to have their viewpoint respected. When brought over into the realm of religious belief, while you might reject someone else’s religious system because you believed it was inferior or just wrong, you still allowed that person the right to embrace it. You might even try to convince someone that you believe his or her beliefs are wrong.

Nonetheless, because everyone is made in the image of God and is a free moral agent, you recognize they are free to choose and tolerate their choice. However, in the postmodern worldview, no one has a right to say that his or her viewpoint is better or more correct than someone else’s point of view (except, of course, the postmodernist who is imposing this belief system on others). “Tolerance” for the postmodernist is to be extended only to those who embrace a relativistic worldview. In practice, since postmodernism cannot possibly coexist with a worldview that embraces absolute truth, they are intolerant of those who do not agree, particularly Christians.

Postmodernism and Biblical Christianity

Some postmodernists argue that evangelical Christians are intolerant, not allowing other positions to exist or express their viewpoints. However, to paint this picture of Bible-believing Christians is utterly incorrect. It is true that in the history of the Church there have been some people who, in the name of Christianity, have not allowed other people to embrace or present their viewpoints. In this sense, such people were truly intolerant. However, what they did was contrary to Scripture, for the Lord Jesus said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). This statement that Christ made to those who questioned His authority implies the opportunity to decide for oneself.

Christianity is not intolerant in prohibiting people from considering certain options. But when postmodernists accuse Christians of intolerance, what they really mean is that because Bible-believers insist their point of view concerning moral absolutes and salvation in Jesus Christ is correct and other views are aberrant, they should be defined as intolerant.

There is a difference between tolerating a belief and refuting it.

Such a premise is a misunderstanding of tolerance. There is a difference between tolerating a belief and refuting it (showing it to be false). It is impossible for two viewpoints that contradict each other to be true.17 They might both be false, but they cannot both be true at the same time. Therefore, just because Christ claimed to be the only way to God, and because Christianity maintains that there are moral absolutes, does not by definition make it intolerant. It would only be intolerant if it did not allow people the freedom to believe their viewpoints. The postmodern man will allow the conservative evangelical to have a place at the table for discussion, only if we quit being conservative evangelicals. We must leave Jesus’ unique claims, the truth of the gospel, fiat creationism,18 moral absolutes, and the offensive teaching about hell on the back shelf. In postmodern thought, exclusive claims about Jesus and His work violate the highest virtue of their understanding of tolerance, and so they want it silenced in the name of their religion.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking has now permeated the university campuses of America. To spend any time in a meaningful discussion with the average college student, you soon discover that this way of thinking is widespread. Today, if you are a Christian on the secular university campus, you will be told that since all viewpoints are equally valid, what is right for one group is not necessarily right or true for someone else.

The most obvious example is sexual morality. For instance, Christianity teaches that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman because God created a man and woman. Therefore, by definition homosexual behavior and homosexual “marriage” are wrong.19 Yet, more and more young Americans who have adopted a postmodern point of view would simply claim that such a position might pertain to some Christians but not to other Christians or to those who do not follow Christ at all. Following this line of thought to its logical conclusion, postmodernism argues that the Judeo-Christian ethic on which our legal system was built, is now antiquated. So it is now maintained that while homosexual behavior was once considered against the law, such statutes should now be considered archaic. There was a time in the recent past when most Americans viewed homosexual behavior as objectionable. Prior to 1962, sodomy was a felony in every state, punished by a lengthy term of imprisonment and/or hard labor.20

There was a time in our nation’s history when the average American would have had little or no problem with the Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy, his young pastor protégé in the faith:

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:8–10)

In this passage, God plainly tells us that laws are to be written not to condone this kind of behavior, but to curb it. However, if you believe that truth is different for each person, which is at the core of postmodernism, then you will favor laws endorsing any lifestyle the individual chooses. History demonstrates, and God’s Word illustrates, that when the sin of homosexuality is left unchecked it will destroy a nation and invite the judgment of God.21 Of course, to group the lifestyle of a homosexual with those that God refers to as lawless, insubordinate, and ungodly—not to mention murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers along with kidnappers and perjurers—informs us that this behavior is not some genetic predisposition. Just as murder and perjuring oneself and kidnapping are moral issues, so also is homosexuality.

Yet, while God’s Word, the Bible, tells us that laws are to be written against this deviant lifestyle, our politicians, who have been influenced by postmodern thought, have written laws in favor of this behavior. The same could be said concerning the use and legalization of marijuana. Postmodernism is turning our legal system upside-down because those things that were once consider wrong are now being embraced as right.

What Is Truth?

Hours before the Crucifixion, Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate, and, as the Apostle John records:

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37–38)

Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” has reverberated down through history. It does not appear that Pilate was looking to find the answer, but rather was giving a cynical, indifferent, even irritated reply to Jesus’ answer. However, if the postmodern man were to attempt to answer Pilate, he would say, “Truth cannot be known definitively—truth is whatever you want it to be.” A profound response to that would be, “How do you know that is true?”

Of course, in our day Americans have differing definitions of what truth is, due to the influence of postmodernism. Some would say that truth is whatever works. The pragmatic outlook embraces that the end justifies the means. It is easy to see the fallacy in this line of thinking. For instance, one could lie and accomplish the objective they were trying to achieve, all the while doing it in a non-truthful way. Still, some would argue that truth is whatever makes you feel good. Many people build their morality on this proposition. However, if truth is what makes you feel good, what will the postmodernist do with bad news that one knows to be true but makes them feel miserable?

In our day Americans have differing definitions of what truth is, due to the influence of postmodernism.

Others would say that truth is what the majority of people think is correct. Upon a recent visit to Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research in Jerusalem, I was reminded again that during World War II, the Jewish people fled to nation after nation, including America, only to be turned away, with no place to go but back to Germany. While the majority of nations embraced the thought that the Jewish people should not be received into their countries, clearly the majority was wrong in light of the peril they faced in Germany.

Postmodernism has also influenced the popular position that truth is based on sincerity. It is reasoned that if you sincerely embrace something, then it is must be true. But if you pause and think about it, you will meet people who are sincere, but sincerely wrong. A person who is wrong but sincere is deceived, like so many in the various cults. Being sincere is not enough. The physician I sat next to in the airplane said, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you are sincere.” Of course, people who say this typically only apply this fallacy to morality and religion, but never to other disciplines like mathematics or mechanics or medicine. They fragment their worldview and apply it selectively. I reminded her of some absolutes that she embraced as a practicing physician, for which she had no argument. I mean, who would want to have a heart surgeon who thought it did not matter what you believed concerning the function of the heart? Who would want a pediatrician to unnecessarily prescribe an antibiotic for a virus like the common cold because he believed it was best for your child? It doesn’t matter how much one sincerely believes a wrong key will fit a door, if it is not the right key, the lock cannot be opened. Truth is unaffected by sincerity.

Someone who picks up a bottle of poison and sincerely believes it is lemonade will still suffer the unfortunate effects of the poison. My pediatrician friend from the airplane was quick to concur that believing two plus two equals five is foolish no matter how sincere you may be. Yet, what is sometimes so mind-boggling is that when it comes to spiritual truth, the one area of life that determines your spiritual destiny, people will tell you to believe whatever you want. Encounters like this serve as constant reminders that we are in a spiritual battle.22 Indeed, the question Pilate asked, “What is truth?” is a very important question.

I find it interesting that in the Bible the Hebrew word for truth is emeth—which literally can be translated as “firmness,” “constancy,” or as “duration.”23 In other words, truth is something that is rock-solid and unchanging. In the original language of the New Testament, the Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “to reveal.”24 It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. Unlike the postmodernist’s perception of truth, God reveals that truth is knowable and available for those who desire to find it.25 Truth is simply telling it like it is because truth reflects a sure and certain reality that exists and is unchanging. Truth comes from an unchanging God who is the truth.

Evangelizing the Postmodernist

Remember, the focus of this entire volume is to better equip those reading to become sharper tools in God’s hand for breaking through the inaccuracies of our day. We are studying subjects like postmodernism not simply for our own edification, but rather to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

So precisely how do we reach so many who have embraced this faulty way of thinking? Please note, I did not say a new way of thinking because there really is nothing new under the sun. This premise of questioning truth, questioning what God has clearly revealed, is as old as the Garden of Eden.26

Critical to evangelizing those who are lost is to ask, “Why have they believed postmodernism to begin with?” Generally speaking, people embrace any error about God and morality for one of two reasons. Some are just deceived. In describing Satan, the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Satan has a very simple strategy, and it is to sow error, that people might believe falsehood and be captured in his kingdom forever.27 Some embrace postmodernism because the first to reach them deceived them. Unfortunately, many of God’s people are not as faithful and fervent in sharing the truth as some of Satan’s ambassadors are in sharing error.28 It is essential that as Christians we are obedient to the Great Commission that Christ has entrusted to us. In many ways, postmodernism appears to be winning because so many of God’s people are silent when it comes to sharing the gospel. So first, some embrace postmodernism simply because they are deceived. And the reason they are deceived is that they have not yet heard the truth, only error.

In many ways, postmodernism appears to be winning because so many of God’s people are silent when it comes to sharing the gospel.

Still, others embrace postmodernism because they have heard the truth, but have chosen to reject the truth, driven by a love for sin.29 Somebody once said that first God made us in His image, and ever since we have been returning the compliment. As rebellious sinners, we often like to make God in our image—as we would like Him to be.

The truth of Christianity is inevitably a threat to some because it immediately raises the question, “Who is going to be God in your life?” Some are not willing to admit that as created people, we have no right to tell the Creator what to do.30 Some are not willing to admit that our hearts are desperately wicked and rebellious and that we need salvation from the coming wrath of God.31 However, if one believes that they should be the center of their own universe, until their attitude changes, they are not going to consider the claims that Jesus Christ makes on their lives. Some people embrace postmodernism because while they may have understood something about God’s truth, they have chosen to suppress that truth, and as a result have believed a lie.32

The Apostle Paul describes in the first chapter of Romans the downward progression into error that people take when they refuse to believe what they know in their hearts and minds to be true.33 In their rebellion against God they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and as a result God gives them over, “to uncleanness” and, “to vile passions” and, ultimately, “to a debased mind.”34 The Greek word for “debased” is translated in many languages of the world as, “an upside-down mind.”35 In other words, a rejection of the truth results in a warping of values, where one calls right to be wrong and wrong to be right.36 People who sin against God’s revelation because of a love for sin can easily embrace falsehood.

For such people, postmodernism becomes a coping mechanism of sorts by which they can justify their guilty consciences and their sinful behavior. The old adage is true, that a man’s theology is often dictated by his morality. Nonetheless, people who are caught up in postmodernism are by no means unreachable for Christ. Even after the Apostle Paul gives a long list of sins describing depraved idolatrous behavior, he can still say of such people, “Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

When evangelizing the lost, we must never forget that even when a person is in the depths of sinful choices, they still do not totally lose the reality that they are sinning against clear absolute standards set by a holy God. We should be encouraged by the fact that even those who have been deceived into thinking that truth is not knowable and morality is relative still know better.

When describing those individuals who had never even read a Bible, God can say of them in Romans chapter 2, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Romans 2:14–15). Gentiles who do not have the written Law or Scripture, nevertheless by nature, “do the things” required by “the Law.”

You may be thinking, “How can we explain this paradox that although they do not have the Law, they appear to know it?” Paul’s answer is that they “are a law to themselves.” Not in the sense that they can frame or make up their own laws, as in postmodernism, such that truth can be whatever one wants it to be. But they “are a law to themselves” in the sense that their own human person is their “law” because God created them as people with consciences.

Although the Gentiles being described in Romans chapter 2 do not have the Bible “in their hands,” they do have some of the requirements of the Bible “in their hearts” because God wrote it there. This is the reason that people innately have a sense of what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust, what is fair and unfair. They understand principles of morality and justice because God wrote His moral dictates into our persons. It is important that we understand this as we attempt to evangelize the postmodern man. I asked the pediatrician on the airplane if she thought it was OK if I broke into her home, murdered her husband and children, and stole all her valuables. She saw my point. All truth is not relative. All truth is not whatever we want it to be. There are some absolutes.

Some Questions to Ask the Postmodernist

When I was in campus ministry working with many a skeptical college student, some who were trying to justify their immoral lifestyle, I was trained to ask three questions about statements students would make that clearly contradicted biblical truth.

First, “How do you know that is true?” Second, “Where do you get your information?” Third, “What if you are wrong?”

How Do You Know That Is True?

In asking this question, you want someone to examine the foundation of why they believe what they believe. For the postmodernist, you are asking them to explain why it is that they think their belief that “truth is not absolute” is correct. Of course, if they give the standard answer that truth cannot be definitively known, you can ask them, “Are you absolutely sure?” If they respond positively, they have revealed the absurdity of their position.

When the postmodernist states that there is no such thing as absolute truth, he is either stating that as an absolute or not. Obviously, if they are stating it as an absolute, then there is absolute truth. Whether his answer is in absolute terms or with a degree of uncertainty, we can still reason with him on the basis of the moral code written in his heart. In addition, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit’s help working behind our witness.37 If they are open to investigating the nature of truth, then you will have the opportunity to present the evidence for why you believe what you believe.38 The Christian’s faith is an issue of fact—God really did enter into human history, and there is either evidence for this or there is not. This is what contrasts Christianity with all the other religions in the world. Virtually all the other religions of the world are based upon an inner faith experience. They are not based on any objective, factual foundation. Knowing, as the Bible teaches, that God has written a sense of eternity into our hearts,39 I find it helpful to remind people that eternity is for a long, long time. I am trying to help them see that it is at least worth their consideration to examine the objective evidence Christians claim to have.

Where Do You Get Your Information?

A second question I often ask the postmodernist is, “Where do you get your information?” Remember, everything you believe, and everything I believe, is based on something. You either made it up in your mind, someone told you, or possibly you read it in a book somewhere. There is always some basis, some source for an individual embracing the belief system he or she embraces. This becomes a good lead-in to remind them that everything the Christian believes is based on the Bible.

That opens the door for them to ask, “Why should I believe the Bible?” Of course, our argument is that the Bible is the only book on planet Earth that God ever inspired. Think about it, since God actually is the author behind the human authors of Scripture, and since the Bible is the only book God inspired, then it stands to reason that humanity has a reliable standard of absolute truth. Based on this premise, anyone can take any belief they have and look into the mirror of Scripture to see if it is true. If you need help in defending the unique authority of the Bible, you might find helpful the chapter that I authored in the book, How Do We Know the Bible Is True.40

What If You Are Wrong?

A third question I sometimes ask is, “What if you are wrong?” I finished my time with the physician on my long airplane ride with a challenge. I reminded her that her perspective on God and the afterlife was so broad that, according to her belief system, we could both believe what we believe and we would be just fine when we die. But then I reminded her that my viewpoint, really the Bible’s viewpoint, is so narrow that both cannot be true. Jesus did not claim to be a good way to God, or even the best way to God, but the only way to God.41 Unlike in postmodern thought, all roads do not lead to God. If one takes the position that all roads lead to God because all roads can be equally true, then that person is going against the clear teaching of the Bible.

A wise person will be willing to examine the objective evidence that the Christian faith is built on.

Again, since the Bible is absolutely true, then they are embracing human opinion when they take a position that opposes the Bible. They are basing their eternal outcome on assertions others (mere people) have made, who have no authority to make them, because unlike Jesus Christ, they have not risen from the dead. It is much wiser to put one’s faith in the objective evidence of the Resurrection, which demonstrated Christ’s deity,42 and proved His assertion that He is the only way to heaven. Facts are facts, and facts cannot be disputed. For some, their problem is that they are afraid to examine the evidence. However, a wise person will be willing to examine the objective evidence that the Christian faith is built on. Eternity is for a long time, and the Bible reminds us that, someday, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”43

The issue is not whether one will do this, but when one is going to do this. People will either do it now, when it will bring them salvation, or they will do it when it is too late and they are eternally separated from God.44 This is why the Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

I reminded my physician friend that I was going back to my home in South Carolina and she was headed back to her home in Thailand. She could certainly continue to believe what she believed and never give it another thought. So I challenged her with the question, “What if you are wrong?” You see, if she is right and I am wrong, it really does not matter because, according to her postmodern position, we will both be just fine in the end. According to her belief system, my narrowness will someday be broadened to her perspctive, but in either case we both would be just fine. If she is right and I am wrong, it really does not matter.

However, I reminded her, if I am right and she is wrong, then nothing else really matters. I gently reminded her that if the Bible is true, that means she is spiritually bankrupt and without salvation.45 It is one thing to claim a belief, but it is quite another to stake your life and eternity on it.

Conclusion

As we think about evangelizing the postmodernist, as Christians we are to be involved in both apologetics and evangelism. Evangelism is the presentation of the gospel. The gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15 in the following words: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). The death, burial, and resurrection took place just as the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied centuries before would happen. Evangelism presents the essence of Christianity—that God came to earth in Christ and by His death and Resurrection provided a means by which we could be forgiven. We must never forget that evangelism is our primary responsibility and apologetics is our secondary responsibility.

Apologetics comes into play just as soon as people have objections. If a person raises an objection like Christ never lived, or the Bible is not true, or all truth is relative, then we should attempt to address these issues. As Christians, we need to be prepared to show the unbeliever that they cannot rationally justify unbelief. This means that as ambassadors for Christ we cannot remain intellectually lazy but must study to be able to respond to their objections. If someone remains a non-Christian, if someone embraces postmodernism, they will do so in the face of the evidence, but not because there is a case for unbelief.

In this day, many of God’s people are distracted by the entertainments of the world, and so they have lost their edge in being used of God to win people to the Savior. Just before his death, the Apostle Paul reminds Timothy in his last will and testament to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This verse reminds us that not all Christians can be usable in God’s hand, because not all are “approved.”

Certainly, the Bible is clear that all who have been saved are equally loved and accepted by the Father.46 But as Paul reminds Timothy, while all may be equally loved, not all are equally approved. Clearly, some are more usable than others because of their willingness to study the Scriptures and their readiness to share the Scriptures. If the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to bring about conversion is the Word of God,47 then we would be wise to study it and be readyto defend it. May God help us to be faithful to this high and holy call.

Summary of Postmodern Beliefs
Doctrine Postmodern Teaching

God

Deny the exclusivity of the God of the Bible. Various positions exist, but all would deny the exclusivity of Jesus as Savior.

Authority/Revelation

Holds a humanistic view of truth, looking to man as the source of truth.

Man

All men are able to determine truth on their own. Various positions exist on the nature of man, but most would view man as basically good.

Sin

Sin is a relative concept and generally denied. The Bible cannot be seen as the absolute authority on what is sinful.

Salvation

Most would hold the position that if there is an afterlife, there are many different paths to get there.

Creation

Most would hold to evolutionary views, though positions vary.

World Religions and Cults Volume 3

Unlike most books on world religions, this title dives into the secular humanistic realm.

Read Online Buy Book

Master Books has graciously granted AiG permission to publish selected chapters of this book online. To purchase a copy please visit our online store.

Footnotes

  1. B.E. Benson, “Postmodernism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), p. 939–945.
  2. Gene Edward Veith Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 42.
  3. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine whether something is valid.
  4. Had they only tempered their scientific discoveries with passages like Isaiah 40:21–22 or Proverbs 8:27 they would have discovered that their scientific conclusions were false.
  5. For a good discussion on this subject, see “Could God Have Created Everything in Six Days?” in The New Answers Book by Ken Ham, ed., (Green Forest, AR: 2006), p. 88–112; available online at this site.
  6. Essentially, man’s ideas were elevated to a position of absolute authority by leaving the Bible out of it. It is a religion where man is basically seen as replacing God.
  7. Today, when a person departs from theological orthodoxy, we say that he has embraced theological liberalism. Interestingly, during the late 19th century and during the first part of the 20th century, theologians who departed from orthodoxy were said to be guilty of modernism. Such people, who have departed from biblical Christianity, place their mind and reason above the authority of the Bible.
  8. Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 6:3–4.
  9. Earl G. Creps, “Moving Target: Reframing Discipleship for Postmoderns,” Enrichment Journal (Winter 2008), p. 68.
  10. For a discussion of this shift, see Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 173; see also Heath White, Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 12–17.
  11. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p. 17.
  12. Webber, The Younger Evangelicals, p. 41.
  13. For a discussion of this shift in thought, see Heath White, Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian, p. 12–17.
  14. Clearly, this is what the Bible teaches in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12.
  15. Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 1 Timothy 1:8–10.
  16. Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27–28; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3–5; Hebrews 13:4.
  17. In formal logic this is known as the law of non-contradiction. Those who adopt a postmodern mindset seem to be comfortable with logical inconsistencies like this one in many situations.
  18. Millard Erickson, in his systematic theology, defines succinctly the biblical revelation of fiat creationism: “This is the idea that God, by a direct act, brought into being virtually instantaneously everything that is. Note two features of this view. One is the brevity of time involved, and hence the relative recency of what occurred at creation. . . . Another tenet of this view is the idea of direct divine working. God produced the world and everything in it, not by the use of any indirect means or biological mechanisms, but by direct action and contact” (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988], p. 479–480).
  19. Many who support same-sex “marriage” and the promotion of privileges for gays argue that, since Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, He did not consider it to be sinful. While it is technically true that Jesus did not specifically address homosexuality by name in the Gospel accounts, He did speak clearly about sexuality in general as well as in the rest of His Word (the Bible). In Matthew 19:4–6 Jesus clearly referred to Adam and Eve and affirmed God’s intended design for marriage and sexuality.
  20. For a helpful discussion tracing the sodomy laws in American history and the changes that began to slowly take place after 1962, see Margot Canaday, “We Colonials: Sodomy Laws in America,” The Nation, September 3, 2008.
  21. If someone really wants to understand how God feels about the sin of sodomy, all they need to do is read Genesis chapter 19. In fact, in the New Testament, God uses the judgment that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of the wrath that is yet to come on all those who reject God’s Son (Jude 7).
  22. 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12.
  23. See Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, #571.
  24. For a good discussion on truth versus postmodernism, see B.E. Benson, “Postmodernism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), p. 939–945.
  25. John 7:17.
  26. Genesis 3:1–7.
  27. Matthew 13:37–42.
  28. 2 Corinthians 11:13–15.
  29. John 3:19–20.
  30. Romans 9:19–20.
  31. Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 19:12–27.
  32. John 12:35–41; 2 Thessalonians 2:8–12.
  33. Romans 1:18–32.
  34. Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28.
  35. All of the Slavic languages of the world translate the Greek word in this fashion
  36. Our generation would do well to heed the warning of Isaiah 5:20.
  37. John 16:8.
  38. 1 Peter 3:15.
  39. Ecclesiastes 3:11.
  40. “Why is the Bible Unique?” Dr. Carl J. Broggi, found in How Do We Know the Bible Is True, Volume 2, edited by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012), p. 53.
  41. John 14:6.
  42. Romans 1:4.
  43. Philippians 2:11.
  44. Matthew 7:23, Matthew 25:46.
  45. 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Revelation 20:14–15.
  46. John 17:23; Romans 8:38–39; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
  47. Romans 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23.

Newsletter

Get the latest answers emailed to you or sign up for our free print newsletter.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390