Postmodernism

postmodernism

Introduction

Premodernism is often thought of as the time before 1650 A.D. The dominant theme was metaphysics or the study of being (reality) – Source: By Norman L. Geisler March 2012

Postmodernism abandons modernism, the humanist philosophy of the European Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinking is based on the authority of French philosopher Rene Descartes’ autonomous man–the one who starts from his own thought (“I think, therefore I am”) and builds his world view systematically from reason alone.

Enter postmodernism. Postmodernism rejects modernism’s autonomous individualism and all that follows from it. Rather than seeing humanity as an ocean of individuals, postmodernists think of humans as “social constructs.” We do not exist or think independently of the community with which we identify. So we can’t have independent or autonomous access to reality. All of our thinking is contextual. Rather than conceiving the mind as a mirror of nature, postmodernists argue that we view reality through the lens of culture. Consequently, postmodernists reject the possibility of objective truth. Reality itself turns out to be a “social construct” or paradigm. In the place of objective truth and what postmodernists call “metanarratives” (comprehensive world views), we find “local narratives,” or stories about reality that “work” for particular communities–but have no validity beyond that community. Indeed, postmodernists reject the whole language of truth and reality in favor of literary terms like narrative and story. It’s all about interpretation, not about what’s real or true.

That’s why in postmodern culture, the person to be feared is the one who believes that we can discover ultimate truth. The dogmatist, the totalizer, the absolutist is both naive and dangerous

If tolerance means that we can’t offer criticism of others’ beliefs, then invectives directed toward those who believe in objective spiritual truth seem out of bounds too. Common assertions that Christians are “arrogant” for accepting the universality of biblical truth turns out to be profoundly intolerant.

For most people, the postmodern outlook I’ve described is more “absorbed” than thought out. An impressive majority of Americans believe that truth is relative. But few know why they think that way. Still fewer have any clue about how their beliefs practically relate to their own lives. In general, people are more ideologically confused than deeply committed to their convictions. So while we hear the rhetoric of openness to everything and tolerance for everyone, it’s rare to find someone who really understands what this means. It’s just the socially appropriate attitude to have. Postmodern ideologues have been successful in transforming ideology into popular zeitgeist.

Source – Postmodernism: The ‘Spirit of the Age’ by Jim Leffel

The post-modern movement finds its roots in Friedrich Nietzsche and the death of God movement he spawned. The whole post-modern movement can be cast in this context. Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves?” (“The Madman” in Gay Science, 125). But once they pronounced that God is dead, then the rest of post-modernism follows logically. For if there is no absolute Moral Law Giver, there can be no absolute moral law (subjectivism). Likewise, if there is no absolute Mind, then there can be no absolute meaning (conventionalism) or absolute truth (relativism). Further, if there is no objective meaning, then there cannot be an objective interpretation of a text. Hence, deconstructionism follows. So, the death of God leads to the death of every other area of thought and life as follows:
1. “Death of God”–Atheism
2. Death of objective truth–Relativism
3. Death of exclusive truth—Pluralism
4. Death of objective meaning–Conventialism
5. Death of thinking (logic)—Anti-Foundationalism
6. Death of objective interpretation–Deconstructionism
7. Death of objective values–Subjectivism

1. Relativism Stated: “We cannot know absolute truth.”
2. Relativism Self-Refuted: We know that we cannot know absolute truth.

…The claim that no view is exclusively true is an exclusivistic truth claim itself

1. Claim of Anti-Foundationalism: “Opposites (e.g., A is non-A) can both be true”
2. The Self-Refutation: They hold that the opposite of this statement (that opposites can both be true) cannot be true.

1. The Claim of Anti-Objectivism: “There are no objectively true statements.”
2. The Self-Refutation: It is an objectively true statement that there are no objectively true statements.

In short, their anti-objectivism makes an objective truth claim. Hence, it is hanged on its own epistemological gallows. It self-destructs.

1. The Claim of Fideism: “There are no reasons for what we believe.”
2. The Self-Refutation: There are good reasons for believing there are no good reasons for what we believe.
To state it another way, —
1. The Claim of Fideism: “Knowledge is a luxury beyond our means.”
2. The Self-Refutation: We have the luxury of knowing that we can’t have the luxury of knowing

1. The Claim of Anti-Certainty: “My understanding of the text is never the correct one.”
2. The Self-Refutation: My understanding of the text is correct in saying that my understanding of the text is never correct.
In short, the claim that one is certain that he can never be certain about anything the Bible teaches is a self-defeating claim.

But doctrine is dynamic! Ideas have consequences! E = MC2is a proposition that had dynamic consequences—it produced an atomic bomb. Likewise, biblical truth has consequences. The truth of the Gospel has consequence; it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). To deny the Gospel or its underpinning doctrines is to destroy the power of the Gospel.

C. S. Lewis pinpointed problem with universalism:
When one says, “All will be saved,” my reason retorts, “Without their will, or with it?” If I say, “Without their will,” I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be involuntary? If I say, “With their will,” my reason replies, “How, if they will not give in?” (The Problem of Pain, 106-107).

As C.S. Lewis put it elsewhere, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, `Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end. `Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, chose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell” (The Great Divorcce, 69). Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Mt. 23:37)

See also Psalm 110:3 regards will.

Unfortunately, it is self-defeating to claim God is interested in group but not in individuals. For all groups are made up of individuals. And while good wants us to belong to a body and to have unity in our community of believers, nonetheless, in the final analysis all salvation is individual. God does not save people by groups or even families. He saves them one by one, individual by individual. This, of course, plays into the hands of ecumenism and the world-church movement which, as we know, is a characteristic of the end-times. Salvation is only found in the whole, not in each person or part. Indeed, the bible says, “Each one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

Evangelical Christians affirm that the Bible is the inerrant (without error) Word of God. Why? Because the Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot error (Jn. 17:17; Heb. 6:18). So, the Bible cannot err

On the apparent errors in the bible

This is not to say that there are no difficulties in the Bible. There are. But St. Augustine’s dictum put it well: “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood.” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5)

1. The Claim of Errantists: “No human writing is without error.”
2. The Self-refutation: This claim (that no human writing is without error) is without error.

Like all the foregoing self-defeating claims of post-modernism, they set the trap and fall in it themselves. Jesus declared: “Your Word is truth.” (Jn. 17:17). He added elsewhere, “If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.” (Jn.10:34-35). “Laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the traditions of men…, making the word of God of no effect through your traditions.” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Paul declared that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….”(2 Tim. 3:16). The Scripture is the Word of God (Rom. 9:6) and God cannot err (Titus 1:2). Jesus said, “’It is written’…by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4). Since the Bible is the very words of God, then to attribute error to the Bible, is to attribute error to God.

C. S. Lewis pinpointed the problem well when he wrote “You can argue with a man who says, ‘Rice is unwholesome’: but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, ‘Rice is unwholesome, but I’m not saying this is true.’

In short, either the post-modern is making truth claims or he is not. If he is, then his views are self-defeating. If he is not, then he is not even in the stadium. He can’t play the “game” unless he is on the field. By claiming that he is making no truth claim, then he has disqualified himself in the arena of truth.

Source: By Norman L. Geisler March 2012

Contrast of Modernism and Post-Modernism

As can be seen from the following chart, there is an import shift between modern and post-modern thought. The general shift is from epistemology to hermeneutics; from absolute truth to relative truth; from seeking the author’s meaning finding to the reader’s meanings; from the structure of the text to destructing the text; from the goal of knowing truth to the journey of knowing:

Modernism——Postmodernism
Unity of thought——Diversity of thought
Rational Social and psychological——Conceptual Visual and poetical
Truth is absolute——Truth is relative
Exclusivism——Pluralism
Foundationalism——Anti-foundationalism
Epistemology——Hermeneutics
Certainty——Uncertainty
Author’s meaning——Reader’s meanings
Structure of the text——Deconstructing the text
The goal of knowing——The journey of knowing

Two of the dominant figures in Post-modernism are Jacque Derrida and Paul-Michel Foucault. The starting point for their post-modern thought was Nietzsche’s death of God. For if

If there is no Absolute Mind, then there is-
1. No absolute truth (epistemological relativism)
2. No absolute meaning (semantical relativism)
3. No absolute history (reconstructionism)

And if there is no Absolute Author, then there is—
4. No absolute writing (textual relativism)
5. No absolute interpretation (hermeneutical relativism)

And if there is no Absolute Thinker, then there is—
6. No absolute thought (philosophical relativism)
7. No absolute laws of thought (anti-foundationalism)

And if there is no Absolute Purposer, then there is—
8. No absolute purpose (teleological relativism)
If there is no Absolute Good, then there is—
9. No absolute right or wrong (moral relativism)

The Problems with Post-modernism

In summation, the problems with post-modernism are: (1) It can’t be thought consistently; (2) It can’t be spoken consistently, and (3) It cannot be lived consistency. Why? Because it is based on atheism, and atheism cannot be thought, spoken, or lived consistently. Evidence for the inability to live atheism consistently comes from the lives of atheists themselves.

Athiests

Former Freudian did a study of great atheist and found that they were fatherless wither actually of functionally and that, rather than believers creating the Father (God), atheists are attempting to kill the Father (Paul Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless). He wrote, “Indeed, there is a coherent psychological origin to intense atheism” (p. 3). “Therefore, in the Freudian framework, atheism is an illusion caused by the Oedipal desire to kill the father (God) and replace him with oneself” (p. 13).

Atheist Albert Camus declared that “Nothing can discourage the appetite for divinity in the heart of man” (Camus, The Rebel, 147). Blaise Pascal insisted that there is a God-sized vacuum in the human heart which nothing but God can fill. He wrote: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him… though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself” (Pascal, Pensees # 425). Former Atheist Francis Collins who headed up the human genome project asked: “Why would such a universal and uniquely human hunger [for God] exist, if it were not connected to some opportunity for fulfillment?… Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well there is such a thing as water” (The Language of God, 38). So, if there is a God-sized vacuum in the human heart, then nothing smaller than God will be able to fill it.

Indeed, in Nietzsche’s famous quote about “God is dead” the next line is “and we have killed him.” French existential atheist Jean Paul Sartre, illustrates the point in his own autobiography when he wrote: “I had all the more difficulty of getting rid of him in that he had installed himself at the back of my head.… I collared the Holy Ghost in the cellar and threw him out; atheism is a cruel and long-range affair; I think I’ve carried it through. I lost my illusion” (The Words, 252-253).

However, even though Sartre had given up on God, God had not given up on him. Before Sartre’s death he is recorded as saying, “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here” (National Review, 11 June, 1982, p. 677). Indeed, Sartre was disowned by his own mistress as a “turncoat” and visited by a Christian minister regularly before his death. I have in my file a letter from missionaries in France who knew Sartre who had expressed to them his regret on how many young people he had led astray with his atheistic thought.

Source: A Response to Philosophical Postmodernism by Norman L. Geisler

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