Monday, July 23, 2007

Postmodernism vs. Christ

Albert Mohler has aptly stated that postmodernism "allows for infinite forms of meaning." From an epistemological standpoint, defending the Christian faith against this type of thinking can seem impossible. Aside from the infiltration of postmodern thinking in others, those fighting for the faith must also battle postmodern tendencies within themselves. It's no wonder that some Christians find themselves frustrated as witnesses for the gospel of Christ.

This short article is a broad summary of continuing thoughts I have had concerning this struggle. There was a time when I sought to be a well-spoken apologist with an answer for any anti-Christian argument that faced me. Besides the fact that I have the memory of a goldfish born from the inter-breeding of thirteen generations, I realized afterwards that my particular goal to become a great apologist was objectively unreasonable.

By no means am I suggesting that apologetics are unnecessary. God often uses apologetics as a bridge to the gospel. The situation of Paul at the Areopogus is a classic example of this (Acts 17:16-34). Paul researched the belief system in Athens to understand the worldview held by the people. He did his homework first, and then he spoke. When he addressed the people, he did so in a way that was relevant to their expansive cultural context. From that point, he masterfully transitioned into a presentation of the gospel.

deadkitty.jpg

Pictured above: One suggested method for converting postmodernists.


The point I'm trying to make here is that Paul's objective was to present the gospel of Christ through Scripture. Paul's chief end was to arrive at a point where he could say, "Here is Christ, your Savior." Yes, he studied. Yes, he reasoned. Yes, he philosophized. But in the end, when he had finished reasoning with them, he says in verse 24, "this I proclaim to you." Paul had come to proclaim the gospel of Christ to these people, not to defeat their arguments or show them their deficiency of logic.

In light of these things, I am writing as a reminder to all of us who labor hard for the truth of the gospel that we must not forget our objective, who is Christ of the Scriptures. We must not compromise the power of God's Word for the eloquence of any argument of logic. No matter how impenetrable or beautiful a philosophical argument may seem, it will never bring someone to Christ. The gospel "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Peter wrote "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

The Word is power. The Word reveals the hidden darkness as light. We must not be ashamed of the Word or be afraid that it is too weak to overcome the most brilliant arguments of intellect. When we feel overwhelmed by the many faces of postmodernism, we must not rely on philosophical reasoning. We must spiritually assault the confused reasoning of postmodernists with the penetrating power of Scripture. This will keep us centered. This will keep us humble. Most of all, this will bring God the most glory as we battle against the enemies of the gospel.

9 comments:

Gordan said...

Great first post, Seth. You and Trevor have really slapped a couple out of the park with your initial Mafia endeavors. Praise God.

Exist~Dissolve said...

While you are certainly free to level critiques against the errors which you perceive to exist within postmodern thinking over and against your understanding of Scripture and the nature of the gospel, I hope that you will be as willing to be critical of the philosophical paradigms which you feel to be legitimate for approaching these same subjects. That is, for most who reject the legitimacy of the categories (or lack thereof) of postmodern methodology, the assumptions of post-Enlightenment modernist thinking are the "default." So my question would be are you willing to be equally critical of the philosophical arguments which are inherent to this paradigm of thinking through which you are apparently operating?

Albert Mohler has aptly stated that postmodernism "allows for infinite forms of meaning."

If postmodernism allows for infinite forms of meaning, what you would advocate reduces the exclusivity of meaning to the prejudices and presuppositions of the individuated thinker (not a much better conclusion, IMO). Truly enough, most who advocate the same will deflect this conclusion by claiming that the exclusivity of meaning which they assert has been appropriated from an objective, absolute source, despite the fact that there exists no accessible nor demonstrable criterion by which one might determine that such a source is in fact objective and/or absolute. In this way, Mohler's fear concerning the "infinitude" of meaning proposed by postmodernism would seem to stem not from any meaningfully determinable diminuition of "truth," but proceeds rather from distress over the loss of what has until now been an unquestioned hegemony of power concerning the supposed self-evident nature and accessibility of truth so-called.

Dusty McDust said...

Yes -- nice, well-reasoned argument for not relying on well-reasoned arguments.

(:o] Just kidding... I mean... well, you know what i mean.)

Seth Fuller said...

I wish I had thought to use this verse to make my argument stronger, found in 1 Corinthians 1:21-25: "21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God andthe wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

Trevor Almy said...

Amen. The goal and end of all apologetics is to present Christ as the glorious, sovereign King of the Universe. While we do use logical reason and argumentation, it is only for the purpose of tearing down every barrier between a dead sinner's understanding and Christ. The goal is revealing the worth of Christ, while the means are apologetics. As Paul said, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (1 Cor. 10:5)."

jazzycat said...

Tell me about it.... After debating a post-modern emergent village pastor, I found that they are basically liberals that force Scripture through there liberal grid to make it fit the liberal world-view...

Scribe said...

I see that there be some theological 'Heavy-weights" among us... ;D

Seth Fuller said...

To exist-dissolve:

I appreciate your thoughtful response. However, make no mistake. I will not play the big-word and ambiguous-yet-it-sounds-intelligent game with you. If you want to participate in a fair and rational discussion, write clearly, concisely, and do not write abstractly. Communicate with vivid meaning. I know you are capable of being more clear because I have read through some of your blog entries.

Also, if it wasn't apparent to you, this entry was not to argue against postmodernistic thinking. It was to encourage those who are fighting against such a position. So before you go throwing implications around that I'm not going to critique both sides, you might want to consider the context first.

Deviant Monk said...

Seth-

God often uses apologetics as a bridge to the gospel. The situation of Paul at the Areopogus is a classic example of this (Acts 17:16-34). Paul researched the belief system in Athens to understand the worldview held by the people. He did his homework first, and then he spoke. When he addressed the people, he did so in a way that was relevant to their expansive cultural context. From that point, he masterfully transitioned into a presentation of the gospel.The point I'm trying to make here is that Paul's objective was to present the gospel of Christ through Scripture.

Where precisely in Paul's speech to the Athenians does he even mention the scriptures?



He didn't merely speak in a way that was culturally relevant. His objective rather seems to have been to reason with them from the context of their own presuppositions, and by doing so demonstrate their self-negating worldviews.

I don't see him presenting Christ through the scriptures anywhere. And indeed, what value would Hebrew sacred literature have for Athenians, since they wouldn't have necessarily shared Paul's presuppositions of its inspirational or authoritative nature?