Andy Parker Explains How The TRUE Christian Should Respond to PostmodernismPosted: January 2, 2008
When Jesus prayed the beautiful high priestly prayer to His Father in heaven He asked his Father to sanctify His disciples in the truth. He then clarifies for us that the Word of God is truth (John 17:14-19). Not only did Jesus presuppose that there was absolute truth, but He also presupposed that the pages of Scripture were the source of truth. Not only can we know that the Word of God is truth but we can know the things attested to therein for certain (Luke 1:4). Cornelius Van Til writes:
Created man see clearly what is revealed clearly even if he cannot see exhaustively. Man does not need to know exhaustively in order to know truly and certainly. When on the created level of existence man thinks God’s thoughts after him, that is, when man thinks self-conscious submission to the voluntary revelation of the self-conscious submission to the voluntary revelation of the self-sufficient God, he has therewith the only ground of certainty for his knowledge. When man thinks thus he thinks as a covenant creature should wish to thinks as a covenant creature should wish to think. That is to say, man normally thinks in analogical fashion. He realizes that God’s thoughts are self-contained. He knows that his own interpretation of nature must therefore be a re-interpretation of what is already fully interpreted by God.
All truth starts with an absolute God. Thus, Christians believe in an absolute Bible because the Bible is breathed out by God. Thus, all true knowledge is derivative knowledge and in order for a thing to be true it must correspond to what God knows. What God knows has been revealed to man in nature, the incarnation, and in the holy Scriptures, but it is the holy Scriptures which reveals to us the proper understanding of God’s revelation in nature and through the incarnation. Van Til writes, “Christ tells us in his word that nature was never meant to function by itself apart from the direct word-revelation of God.” Thus, through the Scriptures God can be truly known. By the indwelt presence of the Holy Spirit illumining the Word of God man’s knowledge can correspond with God’s knowledge and man can know a thing truly though not exhaustively. Therefore, there can be no knowledge other than Christian knowledge because only that which can be true can come from God. Those who labor without the Word labor without hope.
Even as some accept, so also others reject the Word of God’s grace. To them the Word becomes a savour of death. Then they, with their culture, are lost. The work of their hands, their science, their art, their philosophy, their theology, in short their culture, will ultimately profit, not themselves, but those who have obeyed the word of grace in Christ. To be sure none of the cultural efforts of any man will be lost, for all things are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. But there are men who will lose their cultural efforts. They will lose the fruit of their labors because they have refused to labor unto Christ. They will reap the reward of Baal who sought to curse Israel and, most of all, Israel’s God. They will seek in vain, to die the death of the righteous.
It is true that the Word of God has always had its enemies, but opposing worldviews generally could agree that there was something that absolutely existed. The smiling nihilism of our day is a relatively new development. Francis Schaeffer writes, “Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as ‘This is true’ or ‘This is right,’ and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength. People may or may not have thought out their beliefs consistently, but everyone would have been talking to each other as though the idea of antithesis was correct.” Schaeffer continues, “We must not forget that historic Christianity stands on a basis of antithesis. Without it, historic Christianity is meaningless. The basic antithesis is that God objectivity exists in contrast (in antithesis) to His not existing.”
Therefore, the basic starting point of all life is that a Triune, ontological God is there as opposed to not being there and that He has created. Outside of this most basic presupposition or starting point there is nothing. This philosophical question/problem has plagued man since the fall; something is there as opposed to not there. As Aristotle said, out of nothing, nothing comes. This is not a problem for the Christian because we serve an eternal, Triune, ontologically distinct God who has chosen to create and reveal Himself. God is above time, space, and matter for He created all that is. He is not dependent upon His creation for love because He has perfect love and fellowship within the three persons of the Godhead. Thus, all other religious constructs fail at this point because they have no way to explain personhood, or love without at the same time creating a god who is totally dependent upon man to demonstrate that love. God has created because He has chosen to reveal Himself, thus, something exists. Hence, all that exists glorifies God. Even Satan and all his minions, despite their best efforts to the contrary glorify God through their existence. This is not to say that God at any point condones sin or is glorified in the sin act, but rather, this is to say all that is glorifies God by its very being.
Because God has chosen to reveal Himself through creation we can know something truly, and we know something as true truth when it corresponds to what God knows about a thing. Schaeffer writes, “It is plain, therefore, that from the viewpoint of the Scriptures themselves there is a unity over the whole field of knowledge. God has spoken, in linguistic propositional form, truth concerning Himself and truth concerning man, history and the universe. Here is an adequate basis for the unity of knowledge. The unity encompasses both the upstairs and the downstairs. This is the answer to the discussion of the unity between nature and grace and modern man’s question of knowledge above and below the line of anthropology. The unity is there because God has spoken truth into all areas of our knowledge.”
Thus, we can truly know what God has revealed of Himself. This is true for the simplest of minds to the greatest of minds. For example, let us look at mathematics. In the first grade a young mind can learn addition and subtraction. They can learn that two plus two equals four, and they can know this truly. No one would say that a first grader has an exhaustive, comprehensive, or even basic knowledge of mathematics, and even with this being said we can easily say that they can know truly that two plus two equals four. Knowledge is not an either/or proposition, i.e., either you know something exhaustively or not at all. This approach is not only nonsense but it rules out any functionality for any finite being. Thus, we can have confidence and enjoy certainty in what we know even though our knowledge of that thing may be low indeed. D. A. Carson applies this example to the Holy Scriptures, “Even a child may believe and understand the truth of the proposition ‘God loves the world,’ even when the child’s knowledge of God, love, and the world is minimal, and her grasp of Johannine theology still less (John 3:16). With patient study and increased learning and rising experience, a believer may come to understand a great deal more about the proposition ‘God loves the world’ than does the child.”
Our God is altogether infinite, but He is also personal and thus, we may truly know what He has revealed of Himself. “The living God is the God who speaks for himself and shows himself,” writes Carl F. H. Henry. Thus, Jesus could tell His disciples, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32). This is not to say that all one needs to be right with God is to believe that the Bible contains propositional truth claims. Even the demons believe in the God of the Bible (James 2:19). Simply knowing that I am married to my wife does not make a marriage, and likewise, knowing as fact that the God of the Bible exists does not make one a Christian. Becoming a Christian cannot be reduced to propositional truth claims, but it definitely involves nothing less.
Postmodernisms blithesome attempt to destroy revelational truth is not only an attack on God but is an attack on man. Carl F. H. Henry brilliantly illustrates:
More is sacrificed by defecting from the truth of revelation than simply the truth about God and man and the world; loss of the truth and Word of God plunges into darkness the very truth of truth, the meaning of meaning, and even the significance of language. To sever the concerns of reason and life from the revelation of God as the final ground and source of truth and the good accommodates and accelerates the contemporary drift to nihilism. It is not merely Christianity that stands or falls with the reality of revelation. To avert a nihilistic loss of enduring truth and good, only the recovery of revelation will suffice. It should tell us something that amid American abundance four to eight million Americans suffer from mental depression, and that the wish for death plagues multitudes gripped by psychological poverty. Relativism begets pessimism, and pessimism begets nihilism. There is an abiding lesson in the scriptural sequence of the serpent’s “Yea, hath God said…?” and the Lord’s query to fallen man, “Adam,…where art thou?” (Gen. 3:1,9 KJV). The stench of moral death hovers over a generation that seals itself against enduring concerns of truth and conscience. A culture that welcomes its own glaring inconsistencies as inescapable will inevitably suffocate for lack of spiritual oxygen and find human existence devoid of worth and meaning. It is man who dies, not God, when the truth of truth and the meaning of meaning evaporate.
Every attempt to make man autonomous has disastrous effects for man. This is seen in the optimism of modernity where truth was sought without God, and now in postmodernity where God is sought without truth. Postmodernity asserts that absolute truth does not exist and they also have a bitter distain for propositions. First of all, if they are correct – they prove their own assertions wrong. Second, everything they assert is in complete opposition to what our Lord Jesus Christ taught. It is really not that complicated. We confuse ourselves by getting caught up in language games. The Bible tells us that the truth has come through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), and those who receive His testimony certify that God is true (John 3:33). Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6-7). Paul tells us that those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 18) exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather that the Creator (Rom. 25).
All of this leads John MacArthur to say, “Clearly, the existence of absolute truth and its inseparable relationship to the person of God is the most essential tenet of all truly biblical Christianity. Speaking plainly: if you are one of those who questions whether truth is really important, please don’t call your belief system ‘Christianity,’ because that is not what it is.” In opposition to the truth that is in Jesus Christ is the Devil who is the father of lies. Jesus told us plainly, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:44-47).
Postmodern teachers often come to us as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They pirate Christian terminology which gives the biblically illiterate a resemblance authority, but in actuality they are nothing more than heretics, and worse than that they smile while perverting the Word. Paul warned Timothy of such men, “For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Tim. 3:6-9). We also read in 2 Peter, “And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words [stories]; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Pet. 2:2-3).
As Christians we have completely forgotten that we are at war. We are not fighting a war of flesh and blood. Rather, we are fighting a war of ideas, but a war nonetheless. Those who are in Christ fight for truth, and those who are sons of Satan seek to deconstruct truth. The words of Charles Spurgeon serve us well here:
The church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is in the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.
The church of Jesus Christ has grown fat. But with all the material prosperity, the mega-churches and brilliant sound systems that we enjoy we cannot come to grips with the fact that death lies at our doorstep, and with it will come the judgment of a righteous God. We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and with it we will do anything to maintain our peace and personal affluence. As postmodern pundits spew lies from their mouths with brazen bravado we not only sit back and smile, but we welcome them into the church. They tell us that the Word of God is not good enough for educated men and women today and that what we really need to save the day are stories. Stories will be our Savior. Thus, the gospel truth of Jesus Christ is put on the same plain as Alice in Wonderland. The apostle Paul would not tolerate such heresy in his day and neither should we. He writes, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9).
Let us not be fooled by the fake humility and smiling faces of postmodern preachers for at their core is wicked unbelief. MacArthur writes, “Postmodernism is simply the latest expression of worldly unbelief. Its core value – a dubious ambivalence toward truth – is merely skepticism distilled to its pure essence. There is nothing virtuous or genuinely humble about it. It is proud rebellion against divine revelation.”
Our Reformation forefathers would not tolerate such filth. Many gave their lives to protect the Word of God. They realized that if the truth of God’s Word is not defended on all fronts then we do not have the right to bear the divine name. Martin Luther writes, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
The battle lines are drawn. Every attempt to dialogue with the devil is an attempt to minimize the authority of Christ. Postmoderns like McLaren tell us that it is more important to know the way than the words of Jesus. Such statements are the epitome of stupidity. This is the equivalent to saying I want to know my wife, but could really care less about anything she has to say. How is it that one can know the way of Jesus if they don’t take seriously everything that He said? Ridiculous as it may be, this is the nature of postmodernism. Satan will use all the means at his disposal to pervert the truth and these parasites are the latest example of that.
As Christians we should not fear postmodernity, nor shy away from their attacks for although they are flaming arrows they cannot stand against the Word of God. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13). “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13-17).
 Francis A. Schaeffer writes, “The Christian does have an adequate universal he needs in order to be able to discuss the meaning of love. Among the things we know about the Trinity is that the Trinity was before the creation of everything else and that love existed between the persona of the Trinity before the foundation of the world. This being so, the existence of love as we know it in our makeup does not have an origin in chance, but from that which has always been.” Ibid., (Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There), 105.
 Ibid., (D. A. Carson), 122. Carson goes on in further detail, “The diligent student of John’s gospel soon learns the “world” in John in usually a term that describes the moral order : human beings in rebellion against God. God’s love is wonderful, in John 3:16, not because the world is so big, but because the world is so bad. Further study would show that God’s love for the world is declared in context that affirms his wrath upon the world (3:36), and this will lead to serious study of God, and of atonement passages in the Johannine corpus (e.g. 1 John 2:2). But would it not be incorrect to say that the child misunderstands the proposition? The proposition as John gave it, I would argue is true; as grasped by a child, it is truly understood, even if not exhaustively understood. The child may have (and probably has) adopted some false associations along with her understanding – associating love, perhaps, with a good cuddle, or with a kind parent. But the heart of the matter is nevertheless rightly said to be understood, even if there is further explanation (and demonstration!) of God’s love to come in the child’s experience.”