Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"I'm A Modernist At 33,000 Feet"

"We're living in strange times," so began Dr. Al Mohler at the 2007 Contending For the Truth conference held by Ligonier Ministries.  Dr. Mohler, president of the The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a truly masterful talk on the topic of "Postmodernism and Society." He lays out in layman's terms exactly what the postmodernist movement is and how it is impacting our culture today, and more importantly, our children.  Dr. Mohler closed with a strong exhortation to Christians, and especially Christian parents, that they should take steps to educate themselves about what is at the heart of this dangerous movement so that they might earnestly contend for the faith:
"I believe that time is short, because the reality is that (postmodernism) is affecting our children.  They're watching the movies, they're seeing the advertising, so many of them are in schools where this postmodern worldview is being basically mainlined into them, almost as if it were an I.V. going right into their bodies.  They're getting it from the culture, they're getting it from the music, they're getting it from their peers.  James Davison Hunter, now 15 years ago, wrote an amazing book in which he indicated that evangelical young people, who would now be in their early 30s, who in terms of their belief system, were radically different from their parents without their parents recognizing it.  If that was true 15 years ago, then I would suggest to you that it is far more true, and far more urgently and emphatically important than even then.  It's important that we understand postmodernism and frankly, it's important that we understand postmodernism in its uncut form, because if you don't understand the source, you can't possibly understand the fountain.  But we need to be people who with keen eyes and with an apologetics sense of mission can look at the world and say, "I know where that comes from."  And we need to be the kind of people who, in an evangelistic conversation with our neighbors, understand when they talk about morality-as-oppressive, and they start using this language....we know where this comes from.  One of the most important things we can do is show an honest postmodernist where postmodernism lands with a thud.  You can have a postmodern architect....but not a postmodern engineer.  You can have a postmodern artist...but you don't want to have a postmodern banker.  And as Richard Rorty, himself a postmodern theorist, said: "I'm a modernist at 33,000 feet."  You want a pilot who believes in absolute truth and rationality and order and predictability.  It's a great apologetics challenge to live in the time that the Lord has given us.  It's a great opportunity.  It's a great opportunity to "subvert subversion" to the glory of God. To help people see where postmodernism shapes the culture....and where postmodernism collapses upon itself.  Sometimes one of the most important ministries of the Christian is to stand amidst the debris and point to the cause of the fall and to the only hope for recovery."
This is a fantastic talk by Dr. Mohler - I was really "at attention" by the end of it.  And I'm speaking as someone who was taught postmodernism and initially embraced it.  My sister and I were both of the generation that was right on the cusp between modernism/postmodernism, but postmodern thought, by the time we were teenagers, was very prevalent.  I initially embraced it because it sounded so much more tolerant and loving for there to be a worldview that "allowed" everyone to hold whatever conflicting views they might have, with no-one holding out one particular set of beliefs as "truer" or "better" than any other.

Thankfully, God eventually opened my eyes to the fact that this idea of all-truths-as-valid necessitated the fatalistic - and futile - view that no truths were valid.  And if no truths were valid, then there could never be an ultimate and objective standard for truth on which one could firmly stand, and say with conviction, "That. That is truth."  As Christians, we know that truth is not a "what," but a "Who."  It is a person, Jesus of Nazareth, God in flesh, who entered into time and space and spoke these words: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father but by me." These words uttered by Jesus cut like a sword through today's world of easygoing, tolerant, "anything goes" postmodernism.  These words are narrow and exclusive, and they demand a response: what is your response?  Do you humbly bow the knee before the Sovereign Lord of the universe, or do you turn away gnashing your teeth at the narrow-minded intolerance of it all?

Postmodernism is perhaps the most dangerous of all philosophical movements to date.  At first blush, it "sounds" good, but ultimately it is damning.  It tickles the ears, but the Bible tells us we must guard against this (2 Tim 4:3-4).  For the sake of the next generation, we must educate ourselves about this movement so that we not only warn our children about postmodernism, but also actively train them in what the thinking is, how it takes shape and how to respond to it from a Biblical worldview. And, as Al Mohler said, " 'Subvert subversion' to the glory of God."

 Additional Resources 

Chris Rosebrough's Fighting For the Faith - Audio Version of This Talk

Pastor Bob DeWaay's Excellent Book on How Postmodernism is Undefining Christianity