Monday, July 4, 2011

Postmodern Intellectuals

I know, only Christians use "postmodern" as a perjorative, but as I considered so many of the public intellectuals of today, I realized how deeply this philosophy has influenced the world of academics and education. Postmodernism is supposed to be a rejection of "modernism" which was the enlightenment emphasis on rationalism and scientific objectivity in the pursuit of truth. Going back to at least Immanuel Kant, philosophers of the last 250 years have understood the limits of unaided human reason to answer the really big questions of life. The philosophy we call postmodernism is the latest rendition of this lack of confidence in human reason, and is born out of the influence of French existentialism and the will to power as described by Fredrick Nietzsche.

The problem with postmodernism is that it is taking us to places we were never meant to go, such as the redefinition of marriage, of gender roles, and even of gender and personal identity. We are left with a situation where people, and most often the younger among us, must decide who or even what they are at an entirely unprecedented level. It was hard enough being a teenager in my generation, but I cannot imagine what so many kids face today. They must not only decide on a career path and the education required, they have to figure out if they are gay or straight, a man or a woman. And in case you think I'm making this up, the website posted an article this May by Mary Hasson about the growing level of gender confusion in the Western world. Boston Children's Hospital has a "Gender Management Clinic" where they give children as young as 9 years old hormones to prevent normal sexual development in puberty. The perverse reason for this is so that their subsequent sex change operation will be less difficult. As the article reported, these clinics (there are several in the world) aren't there to help confused kids and their parents but to advance their transsexual agenda. The victims of this agenda will pay a terrible price in this attempt to redefine human nature. Ms. Hasson makes the important point that an adolescent or pre-adolescent is in no place to decide on something so catastrophic to their future, such as, everyone who undergoes these kinds of sex change operations are rendered sterile. The door of family and offspring are closed to them. Not to mention the emotional damage of reaching an adult perspective on their teen or pre-teen emotions.

This tragedy is a consequence of the loss of the moral compass and standards of the Judeo-Christian system and the belief in Natural Law. In reality, these principles are built in to human nature and human society and to ignore them is to invite diaster. In the 1950's Dr. Spock wrote his famous book on child raising. My parents along with millions of other parents raised the 60's generation following his advice. His advice then; go easy on discipline, it will only stifle the child's creativity and development. In the 70's, as he looked on the consequences of his advice, he recanted and admitted that he had been wrong. As he put it, "I have helped to raise a generation of spoiled brats." In other words, we ignore Biblical values at our peril. In many ways, the Bible is "owners manual" for humanity, and in rejecting its teachings we are endangering people's lives.

How did we get to this terrible place? Jean Paul Sartre is the most famous of the French existentialists, and his philosophy was built upon the principle of personal responsibility for our existential status in this world. Sartre turned the classic philosophical principle, Essence precedes Existence, on its head. Thus instead of saying that a person's nature determines their characteristics, he taught that people by their choices and intentions can shape their destiny. Postmodernism has taken this even further, postulating that we can change our very nature, thus women can be men and men can be women. This has, in fact, become the politically correct dogma of the feminist and GLBT world.

We have come to believe that we can change our very natures because we have lost our moral and rational moorings. As the Bible says, "Professing to be wise, we have become fools." We have abandonded much of the wisdom of the ages, wisdom that protected human happiness and fostered the values of peaceful and prosperous societies. We have abandonded wisdom because we followed the pied pipers of academia, whose postmodern assumptions led them to abandon wisdom and truth in the process of "deconstructing" Western values. One of the great dangers of the intellectual life is the belief that one's learning gives one the authority to impose one's obviously correct views on everyone else. Our universities are filled with large numbers of agenda driven intellectuals (To be fair, there are also many fine teachers, who truly seek to pass on the accurate and relevant understanding of their field to their students).

The bottom line is that we must take what comes out of the intellectual centers of our society with a grain of salt. Because of the influence of postmodernism, I expect that a professor from Yale or Berkley will be spouting dangerous nonsense. We must ground our own thinking in the Word of God and in the moral and spiritual wisdom that is being so quickly abandoned by our society. This is what Jesus meant by describing us as the light of the world. My fear is that as the influence of postmodernism grows it will envelop more and more of the church, and more and more of the "dangerous nonsense" that emenates from it will be brought into the church. It is already happening, "Christian" books are already being written that promote the nonsense. We, as followers of Jesus, must stand our ground.