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Postmodernism and Despair

Reaping the Whirlwind

Of Postmodern despair...

by John J. Parsons

One of the key characteristics of the "postmodern world" (i.e., the spirit of this age) is a rejection of the idea that objective truth exists. Truth is now regarded as a function of (political/social) power, and the ulterior motive ("subtext") for making a truth claim is simply the raw desire to control a set of outcomes... According to the disciples of postmodernism, "reality" is always more than the sum of its descriptions (regardless of how useful some of these might be), and there is therefore no final correspondence between a given description and a particular set of events in the world. In short, no one can claim that "transcendent, objective truth" exists which is binding on all people and cultures, especially in the realm of values and ethics (no one, that is, except these theorists themselves who excuse themselves from the implications of their own theory).

Now postmodern ideology is both hypocritical and self-stultifying. It is hypocritical since, as I already mentioned, its claim that objective truth is unknowable is itself put forth as a statement of objective truth, and it is only by virtue of hypocrisy that those who claim such can do such with a straight face.  It is also stultifying because we intuitively know that objective truth exists. Our use of ordinary language ALWAYS assumes the "logical laws" of identity and non-contradiction. Deny these functions of language and we're (literally) "done talking," since words will no longer have referents....  Logic is no more the invention of mind than is the law of gravity or cause and effect.  Similarly, we intuitively understand that object moral truth exists. For example, it is intuitively obvious that torturing babies for sadistic pleasure is always -- in every possible circumstance -- wrong. That is, you cannot postulate a "possible world" wherein the practice of torturing babies for pleasure is considered a morally acceptable world.... If you attempt to deny this you've opted out and left the realm of moral discussion altogether....  So there you have it, QED: objective truth about the "is" and the "ought," the factual and the moral, are simply inescapable for human beings.

The postmodern mindset is a product of despair that can be traced back to the work of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (d. 1804) and his "critical philosophy." Kant's so-called "Copernican revolution" left mankind confronted with an unknowable ultimate reality, a noumenal realm that is impenetrable to the operation of the human mind.  All we can directly apprehend is phenomena (i.e., our own perspectives and perceptions) and therefore ultimate truth and meaning are literally based on fantasy (a fantasy which Kant nonetheless tried to rescue by means of postulates of "practical reason").  Kant's influence was enormous, and his legacy still haunts the world. From Kant's dualism sprang the pantheistic mind of Hegel, the mundane mind of Karl Marx, the defiant mind of Nietzsche, the practical mind of the American pragmatists, the absurd mind of French atheistic existentialists, the mystical mind of Wittgenstein, and the offended mind of Foucault and the deconstructionists. And here we are today, inheritors of this pagan (and entirely Greek-based) ideational tradition. Today's "postmodern man" is lost within his own private descriptions of life...

Tragically, the influence of postmodernism can also be seen in various expressions of the Christian Church. For example, the charismatic movement in the United States began at about the time that Kant's legacy had percolated down through culture in the guise of American pragmatism. Each successive "wave" of the "spirit" (i.e., new trends within the charismatic movement) can likewise be correlated with other waves of postmodern despair. In the 1960's, for example, atheistic existentialism became part of American pop culture and absurdism became the prevailing world spirit in the West.  It's not a coincidence that this is when irrationalism started to become more "mainstream" in the Christian world...

It is important to remember that God doesn't share His glory with those who profane His Name. The Name of God is not subject to the spirit of the age and its linguistic conventions but rather represents His character and reputation. He is looking for those to worship Him in the spirit of truth -- for those who want to share His heart and passion for a lost and dying world... The Father's business is to save the world through the ministry of His Son Yeshua the Mashiach (Matt. 28:19-20).

The way of Yeshua is always hidden in this world -- it is a life of sacrifice, of struggle, and quiet confidence and joy.  What man esteems and what God esteems are two different things. God invariably uses the lowly, the humble, and the weak to display His glory and power. God is not revealed by Cathedrals with ornate priesthoods and elaborate rituals any more than he is revealed by the hucksterism and nonsense shouted from televangelists or revivalists (nor, for that matter is He revealed in the convoluted music of J.S. Bach or in the arid theologizing found in many "Protestant" sermons). The Good Shepherd leads his sheep beside still waters...

Signs and wonders are ALWAYS ambiguous.  Yeshua pointed this out in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Even if a person should encounter someone literally risen from the dead it wouldn't suffice to impart true faith.  Indeed, Yeshua had stern words for those who wanted Him for the sake of "signs and wonders."  He called them an "adulterous generation" -- because they were not interested in God's passion but rather in their own (Matt. 12:29; 16:4).

Yeshua told us that the "great" in the Kingdom of God are those willing to be the servant of all (Mark 9:35). Those who truly give Him glory -- who do not profane His Name -- will live in humility and will habitually ascribe glory to the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah. They will agree with Paul's words: "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). The Holy Spirit, whom Yeshua explicitly called the "Spirit of Truth," always brings glory to its right focal point (John 16:13-14). We are called to live the "crucified life" and be filled with truth.

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