‘That’s nice for you, but it’s not for me’
Why are morals getting more lax? It largely stems from a view that ‘what may be true for you may not be for me; I can make my own truth.’ This is the essence of postmodernism. Postmodernists claim that all knowledge is culturally determined and therefore not objective.1
Buzz words like ‘meta-narrative’ and ‘discourse’ identify postmodernists. Many of the humanities faculties (arts, sociology, education, etc.) at universities push this view. It’s quite the fashion.
Postmodernists deny that objective truth exists. But how can they know that their claim, ‘truth does not exist’, is true if there is no such thing as ‘truth’? So postmodernism is self-refuting: its absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth; its absolute ethic is that all ethics are relative; and its objective worldview is that all worldviews are subjective—a quagmire of suffocating, soul-destroying subjectivism.
In postmodernism, gravity does not exist as an objective reality. So someone operating under a different ‘meta-narrative’ (worldview) where gravity did not exist might walk off a cliff and not kill themselves. But no matter what you believe, you will hurt yourself. Also, the fact that they can walk at all and not float off into space is due to gravity! All beliefs are not equal.
What would have happened if the Wright brothers (see 100 years of airplanes—but these weren’t the first flying machines!) had been postmodernists? Would they have sought to discover the principles of flight? Hardly! What if an engineer designing a bridge decided that gravity was just a ‘Western’ concept and he decided to take the Hindu view that life is an illusion and (logically) so is gravity and the equations that prescribe the bridge? Would you drive over the bridge?
Some Christians have taken comfort from postmodernist attempts to undo the scientific worldview, which they see as opposed to faith in God. But they are confused in this. There is nothing about experimental science that is at odds with biblical faith, as many scientists have testified in Creation magazine.
Postmodernism is self-refuting: its absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.
The conflicts come from historical science, where people who were not there dream up what happened in the past. But eye-witness accounts (from the Bible and elsewhere) contradict the modern view of history that opposes the Bible, as the careful scholarship of Ussher shows (see Archbishop’s achievement).
Some have even tried to recast the Gospel in postmodern terms to interest those influenced by postmodernism. This is ill-conceived. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). The logic is clear: Jesus is either the only way, as he says; or he is wrong, in which case he is not the Son of God so we can forget about him. But the postmodernists say that ‘that’s just “Western”? logic, the product of Western culture’. However, by saying this, they use the same ‘Western’ logic to say that Western logic is not true! Postmodernism denies the very truth claim that Christian faith stands upon, so Christians should vigorously oppose postmodernism.
As Tom McLeish, Professor of Polymer Physics at Leeds University (UK) says, “Our dear friends in the humanities do get themselves awfully confused about whether the world exists, about whether each other exists, about whether words mean anything. Until they have sorted out whether cats and dogs exist or not, or are only figments in the mind of the reader, let alone the writer, then they are going to have problems talking about God.”2
I recall talking with two students at the University of Melbourne. One was indoctrinated in modernism (evolutionism); the other, postmodernism. I had a fruitful interaction with the first student because we both believed in objective truth—that we actually were standing there in time and space discussing real things.
The postmodernist fellow wasn’t sure whether we were really there or not—we might have been in a sort of cyber-dream (like the movie, The Matrix). I pinched him. He said, “What did you do that for?” I replied, “Do what? Maybe you were dreaming.” I pointed out that if there is no objective reality, how is it that he felt it when I pinched him? This shows that postmodernists can’t live consistently by their beliefs.
Because postmodernism says that there is no objective truth, it denies that God has spoken. This is not ‘modern’ at all. Didn’t Satan get Eve to doubt the truth of what God told Adam (Genesis 3:1)? And didn’t Pilate ask, “What is truth?” when he interrogated Jesus (John 18:38)?
Postmodernism aptly fits the description of ‘futile’ thinking that people are given over to when they deliberately abandon the knowledge of God (Romans 1:18ff.). But this teaching also immunizes many against the Gospel, putting them on the road to Hell.
Creation magazine, now celebrating its 25th year of publication [in 2003 when this was originally written], seeks to draw people back to the knowledge of God through affirming the absolute truth of His infallible Word, beginning in Genesis.
References and notes
- In contrast, modernism says: Truth is ‘out there’ to be discovered using the tools of rationalism (man is the measure of all things; matter and mind are all there is). Evolution is a modernist concept. Return to text.
- Radford T., Science cannot provide all the answers, The Guardian (UK), 4 September 2003; education.guardian.co.uk/higher/sciences/story/0,12243,1035026,00.html, 24 September 2003. Return to text.
It's possible to agree with the postmodernists and yet take them beyond it. Descartes was questioning the certainty of everything well before these people did.
That we must exercise a measure of faith and assume that reality is as it seems is a fundamental feature of everyone's existence.
Our existence as I Ams and our perceptions in the now are the only absolute certainties we possess, beyond that, the certainty of anything reasonable is dependent on how reasonable and logical I am myself. I'm not so sure of my logical abilities to claim absolute certainty about anything I might conclude from what I see. You can't live this way I know, but you can come pretty close ( I did for decades.)
I once wrote a letter to various ministers as a cry for help where I expressed how I desired certainty but it seemed impossible to attain. In that letter, I wrote:
"The only way I can believe in God is if I can be aware of Him in the same way as I am aware of myself."
Fortunately God hasn't created us to figuratively grope in the dark forever in the quest for certainty and absolute truth . He gives us a way to know Him by living in us, also giving us tastes of him through the Holy Spirit. He even overtly let us know that He is aware of the limited certainty in human existence and promises us more. By way of answering my written demand, He gave me my Damascus road experience but al of us have THIS promise:
"...12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
How cool is that?
The fact that the name of the Father is "I AM" is a beacon of hope that we can have certainty of truths beyond our own I Am and it gives us an inkling that HE is the source of certainty and truth.
I always wonder, with a chuckle, how does a postmodern professor grade tests and projects. How does the students know if they passed or failed? What is their instruction and lectures worth? It amazes me that they can even find their houses. What did the writer of this text really mean when he wrote '8th Ave West' on that sign?
Good article. I've always wondered why Philosophers who don't believe in truth or meaning write books to convince people of the same thing...
As the old joke advises "Take care of the solipsist you meet, if he goes, we all go!"