Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts on Postmodernism

Having just finished attending a series of Wednesday evening studies on the subject of postmodernism at our church, I want to put down my thoughts on the impact of this philosophy on our society. Postmodernism comes out of the enlightenment's skepticism about ultimate truth. One of its foundational principles is that there are no "meta-narratives;" a meta-narrative is an overarching explanation for all reality. One of the world religions would be a meta-narrative, because it claims to describe God, the human condition, moral values, and the final destiny of everything and everyone. Since postmodernism says there are no meta-narratives, the truths and values that shape our lives are a product of the culture in which we live. And, in a very cynical assessment of particularly Western culture, those who have been historically in power have crafted those "truths" and "values" for personal benefit and to retain their power. This evaluation of the beliefs of a culture is called "deconstructing." Thus in deconstructing Western culture, the postmodern view is that it favors white heterosexual males to the detriment of all others. This has created a deep seated suspicion, if not outright rejection of traditional values, not to mention traditional roles and institutions in society.

As a result of postmodernism in academic circles (namely just about every college and university in the land) we have Women's Studies Departments, African-American Studies, GLBT Studies, and so on. Each of these departments are developing their own versions of history, often not to discover the facts or significance of history, but to advance their agenda and defend their previously accepted values. As well, no small part of their efforts are to gain political power and influence in order to achieve their agenda in the larger society. They feel justified in doing so because they believe they are overthrowing an oppressive system that, like everything else, is only one group's "version" of history anyway. In our relativistic age, if everything is true then in actual fact, nothing is true. Postmodernism leads to the most cynical of all conclusions; "might makes right." The people who can accumulate the most power have the right to make the rules and set the agenda. And gaining power is the end justified by nearly any means.

This has frightening implications for the future of politics and governance in our society. I have begun to wonder, if some of the heated rhetoric, exaggerated accusations, and apparent personal hatred that we see in politics today are the beginnings of postmodernism's influence. I don't believe we have crossed the line yet, but I fear we are headed in the direction of a postmodern dividing up into political "tribes" and the fearsome world of political correctness that we see on so many of our college campuses.

It would seem to me that we must be more dilligent than ever to explain and defend our traditional judeo-christian values. And the best way to explain and defend them is to live them out. Jesus called us the "light of the world;" by living out Christian values we show their reality and validity to an increasingly skeptical postmodern world.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Facing Uncertain Times

Even as people of faith, we must confess that much of life and its circumstances appear shrouded in mystery. We really do, as Paul wrote, "see through a glass darkly." In good times, we make plans with a sense of hope and expectation. In hard times (which appears to be on our horizon), hope and expectation get replaced by anxiety and skepticism. These reactions may be natural but are they right?

In particular, how do we deal with the fear and discouragement that may accompany the economic downturn we are facing? These emotions are the result of both not knowing what the future holds and of imagining worst case scenarios. God told us (and Israel) why He takes us out into the "wilderness." First, He wants to humble us (Deut. 8:2). Humility is one of the essentials of a life with God. One of the repeated principles of Scripture is that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humility is the key to experiencing grace. So in the face of these difficult times, admit your need and call upon Him for grace.

God also used the wilderness to reveal the heart condition of Israel and the condition of their character (Deut. 8:2b). Our greatest needs are not material, they are spiritual. God wants to strengthen our character and purge our lives of those distractions, attachments, and omissions that keep us from being all He wants us to be. God, therefore, will threaten or even weaken the material in order to strengthen the spiritual.

If you are in the wilderness or fear you maybe soon, remember that one of God's great promises is the promise of His presence. "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He said. Cling to Him and His promises, and allow the uncertainty and the difficulty to move you closer to Him. You may find that He is taking you "through" the wilderness to bring you in to the Land of Promise.