Posts Tagged 'post modernism'

What is Truth?

“What is Truth?”

That’s the famous last question asked by Pontius Pilate of Truth Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.) Immediately after asking this Pilate turned away, indicating he had no interest in an answer. Or perhaps that he didn’t think Jesus had an answer… or even that there was an answer to his question.

In researching Roman culture, I’ve learned they had a very similar more to that which is dominating our post-modern culture these days — a problem discerning or even believing in absolute truth. The honorable Roman felt it was important to be tolerant of other faiths. They would even make altars and offerings to the gods of other faiths (witness the Temple of the Unknown God Paul references in Acts 17), and in return they expected the proponents of those faiths to reciprocate. (The Jews’ continued failure to do so, is pretty much what provoked the Romans to destroy their Temple and Jerusalem and scatter them about the empire in the first and second centuries.)

The problem with tolerating all other faiths, in the sense of making they equally valid or “right”,  is that you negate the truth of any of them. And pretty soon you have no truth, as Pontius Pilate expressed.

This thought train was sparked by an article I read today in The Independent on post modernism by Jay Merrick (PoMo: Everybody’s doing it)

Here’s how it starts:

“Forty years ago, we lived “modern” lives. Ideas, emotions and actions seemed ordered, and part of a zeitgeist of confident restraint that originated in the science, mass-production, architecture and art of the 1930s.

“Now we are profoundly immersed in the tortuous, commercially controlled currents of postmodern design and thought, and its weapons of mass psychic deconstruction. Has this made our lives richer in meaning, or just richly vacuous?”

I confess, overall the article was a bit over my head, and much of it centered on the postmodernism of art, architecture, fashion and literature, all of the sort that has never held even the slightest interest for me. Art that takes the most banal of subjects and tries to make something out of them, as if a golf ball is equally as interesting and important subject matter as the material Michelangelo presented in the Sistine Chapel. Fashion chosen to be deliberately ugly, architecture that jabs and slashes or incorporates humongous chairs or concrete suitcases, just because.

As I read his descriptions, it seemed to me almost a deliberate turning away from things that made sense to things that didn’t, from authority on even the smallest of levels. “They” designed socks to be worn on the feet, thus we shall wear them on our heads; “they” say that art should celebrate beauty or drama or truth or the divine… we will make art that celebrates the ugly, the boring, the silly, the profane… It’s an affected, fancy-pants version of “you’re not the boss of me” and I’ll do as I like.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Merrick is saying in this next paragraph…

 “Postmodernism duly arose in an uncoordinated blitz of individualistic artistic and intellectual objections to the more or less failed idea of rationalised lives and environments.”

He goes on…

 “The novelist Martin Amis warned us that postmodern people “over-existed”. Our postmodern, supposedly self-designed lives are embedded in these modes of over-existence. We’ve accepted the commercial, social and semiotic propellants that have ensured over-consumption in the guise of entertainment. Blizzards of imagery and opinion form a chimera of endless, conflicting possibilities without beginning or end; we seem to crave maximised senses of fractured movement, overlay, ennui and nowness.

“And it’s the hundred times a week we hear, or utter, that most über and craven of postmodern words – whatever.

“Modernism’s either/or mindset has been obliterated by this pervasive whateverness. Few of us now imagine any prospect of lives in which ideas, behaviour and outcomes can be clearly determined. To many, the details of the present must seem increasingly indeterminate or ambiguous; which duly turns our perceptions of the past and the future into cabinets of equally trivial curiosities, rather than illuminating points of perspective.”

<snip>

“The and/but vibe now suffuses almost everything we think and do. Surface has become more important than depth. Style – or, more accurately, stylee – trumps coordinated articulation; disbelief is more acceptable than belief.”

<snip>

“One can’t help fearing that the sheer psychic tonnage of postmodernity’s “undecidable things” is rendering most of us terminally passive and far more interested in ephemera than, say, socio-political ethics, or the implications of Facebook’s plans to calibrate and inter-link the media product preferences of their users…”

If you believe in nothing, if every faith or belief system is equal, then none of them mean anything. How can they? How can you accept the notion that God exists and also that He doesn’t? That He cares, and that He doesn’t. That there is eternal life and there isn’t. That the Bible contains truths we need and yet it doesn’t.

Saying all are equal, brings one down only to one’s own ideas, which are always going to be unstable, since the whole point of this postmodern everything goes is that there’s no absolutes. And an absolute truth is, by definition, stable. Without it, one will be tossed here and there by every wind of false teaching. Whatever sounds good today, whatever works today, whatever I want today, but the result is a life of doubt, and shifting shadows, a life that is “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” roiling and endlessly rising and falling, going it knows not where.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NoCal Conference 2009

karen Golden Gate

Well, I got back Monday afternoon from the Northern California Bible Conference which was held in Burlingame, CA (just south of San Francisco on the Peninsula) and sponsored by Grace Bible Church but which my Pastor did not attend, and so, obviously, did not teach at. Instead it was taught by one of the pastors my pastor has ordained, a man who has started his own ministry out here in the west.

The subject was Authority — how it is the most important thing in the universe. The question asked was “Do you know who/what your authority is?”

The answer… it’s a threefold construct — a triangle of God, His Word and the Pastor Teacher God has assigned to you to communicate that Word.

We were reminded that God is not the author of confusion. (I Co 14:33)

That God does things in ones — One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:5) — and that we each have one spiritual gift and one pastor teacher assigned at a time.

We reviewed the scriptures that document the fact that we are assigned a Pastor Teacher — Ephesians 4:12, 13 which tells us the gift of Pastor-Teacher is given for the training of the saints for the work of the ministry. I Pe 5:3 reveals that each pastor is assigned a specific congregation, and I Th 512 adds that each believer is assigned a pastor… and thus a specific congregation as well. The local congregation operates as a body in itself, and all the parts are needed by all the other parts. (I Co 12)

In times past the notion of staying loyal to an assigned pastor and local assembly was mostly unchallenged due to the difficulties of travel and the limitations of technology. If you wanted to hear someone you had to be there. Or perhaps, as in the first century, ou could rely on letters or books. Now with the explosion of printed material as well as internet technology which puts the works of thousands at our fingertips, and with transportation having advanced to the point you can travel thousands of miles in a day… this is more of a challenge. And that challenge was what the bulk of the teaching — and the conversation — at the Northern California Bible conference was about.

With the proliferation of prepared, doctrinal pastors in recent years, many of whom have their messages recorded and made available through the internet or other digitized means, it has become very easy to go “church hopping.” Don’t like what your pastor is teaching this week? With a couple of mouse clicks, you can see what Pastor B is teaching. Angry and offended because your pastor has dared to tell you the truth and thereby become your enemy (Gal 4:16), you can click out of his site and go to someone else who teaches more in line with what you want to hear. Do you just want to accumulate knowledge?  Feel good about your life and your self? Or are you simply curious as to what else is out there? Are you bored? Familiarity can be a subtle attack on your mental attitude with respect to doctrine which can cause you to become dissatisfied, restless or feel dry — though sometimes that dry feeling is just part of the Christian life, a test to see if you will proceed regardless or wander away in search of something new and more exciting.

The problem with this “spiritual adultery” (as the concept was taught this weekend) is that even prepared, experienced doctrinal pastors disagree in what they teach. Some say the rapture will occur at the end of the church age and other place it mid Tribulation. Some say we don’t need rebound (confession of sins to regain the Filling of the Holy Spirit) and others say rebound is central to the function of the Christian life. Some have taught that you can reach in this life a state of sinless perfection and others are aghast at such a suggestion.

All of them can support their positions scripturally because, as my pastor says, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to. So then, how does the congregant determine which is right? To think that you have the ability to discern through all the different teachers and pick out which one is correct here and which is correct there is really pretty arrogant. It assumes that you out of all of them are the one with the greatest knowledge and ability to see truth. It’s especially arrogant if you consider the fact that most of the men you are critiquing spend their days digging into God’s word, study the Greek and Hebrew and have spent years doing so, whereas the average congregant has devoted maybe only 20% of the same amount of time to their studies.

Actually, that mindset, the one of roaming about sampling from this and that source as you determine (or perhaps you think the Holy Spirit is guiding you… but not anyone else, apparently, or wouldn’t they be right?) is pretty close to today’s post-modernist thinking that says you don’t need an authority, someone to teach you, but that you can figure things out for yourself. It says that there is no absolute truth, either, that image is more important than words, that personal experience and emotion trumps reason.  A 2002 article in Christianity Todaypoints out that “when we speak of truth…our postmodern neighbors hear just one more opinion among many.”  I wonder if that might not also apply to some of our fellow Christians, their thinking influenced by the prevailing viewpoint of the times. 

But the Bible doesn’t hold that a man’s opinion or his experience is important. God’s ways are not man’s ways; His thoughts are not man’s thoughts. The fool is right in his own eyes. The ways of a man seem right to him… And pastors were given to train and instruct the saints for the work of service. Yes, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher — we can’t understand a thing the pastor teaches apart from Him; nor can the pastor study and teach correctly apart from Him. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the gift of pastor teacher has been given for our edification and we need him. One pastor. One human authority at a time to respect, trust and submit to — not merely to the man himself, but ultimately to God, who provided the man and delegated the authority to him.


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