There is an insidious weed slowly and deceptively poisoning the worldview of the present-day Christian and weakening the foundation of many. It is a lie that, according to culture, is presented as truth. It is a motto preached from almost every social media outlet, car radio, television screen, schools both secular and, remorsefully, some claiming the name of Christ. It is a weed so intertwined with our thinking that at times we cannot differentiate the plant from the intruder. This is postmodernism. It has been and will continue to strangle and suffocate the impact of a clear and distinct Christian testimony unless something is done to eradicate it. To do so we must understand the very roots we are pulling out.
The development of Postmodernism in the Western world can be divided into three broad spectrums. The pre-modern era, where there was no option but to believe in God. The modern era, in which it was possible to believe in God. The postmodern era, in which it is impossible to believe in God.
The pre-modern era was characterized by the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and narrowed by the Protestant Reformation to the principle of sola scriptura. In both cases God was indivisible from daily life. That is, until the 1700’s, when René Descartes published Discourse on the Method where he gave us the famous phrase, “I think therefore I am”, essentially saying that existence is authenticated by personal reason. Francis Bacon created the scientific method and John Locke proposed empiricism, the theory that knowledge is birthed from sensory experience, affirming Descartes’s phrase.
At this same time in America the founding fathers penned the Declaration of Independence, stating that the chief end of man was “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Deism thrived, where God was seen as a watchmaker and the world as a watch. The watchmaker made the watch and removed himself, letting it run on its own accord. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, the latter who literally cut out all the miracles in his personal Bible– removing them because they were irrational, held this belief. To modernists the Bible became “an ordinary book” filled with errors that were scientifically unverifiable. Life was explained by science and reason, and man began to assert his own authority over life rather than God’s. Thus, the modern era and theological liberalism was born.
Modernism was characterized by a hollow optimism helped along by the Industrial Revolution, which promised that science and reason could solve all of humanities problems and figure out every mystery in the universe. This optimism was disparaged upon the horrors of World War I and World War II, where the technological advances they made to alleviate pain were used to cause it. The foundation of absolute truth in the modern era had been taken away from the Bible and placed upon science and reason, which turned out to be just as empty as Solomon lamented it would be in Ecclesiastes.
Optimism now turned to skepticism. Modern moved to postmodern, absolute to relative. “Human beings would possess no firm foundation for ascertaining true values, and would thus be subject to the dangers of amoral relativism” author of The Passion of the Western World Richard Tarnas states. Nathan Busenitz, a professor at The Master’s Seminary, says of postmodernism, “There are no absolute answers but rather a ‘whatever works for you’ mentality. It shows up in art as a reaction. It is seen in literature through reader response theory, it is not about what the author intended but about what it means to you”. Al Mohler, an American historical theologian, ironically says that it makes “the Christian apologist almost nostalgic for Enlightenment rationalism. We can take a head-on, honest, straightforward, and bold denial of Christianity. At least a true atheist knows what he denies. Postmodernity’s smug ‘whatever’ pales against Friedrich Nietzsche’s bold claim that God is dead, and that we have killed him.”
Christians and churches in the western world are trying to find a way to work around this. Churches have adopted the reader response theory in their interpretations of the Bible. John R. Franke, author of Manifold Witness: The Plurality of the Truth, claims, “The goal of reading the Bible is not the attempt to identify and codify the true meaning of the text in a series of systematically arranged assertions that then function as the only proper interpretive grid through which we read the Bible. Such an approach is characteristic among those who hold particular approaches to theology and hermeneutics in an absolutist fashion and claim that such procedures will lead to the arrival of the one true and proper conception of doctrine contained in Scripture. The danger here is that such a procedure can hinder our ability to read the text and listen to the speaking of the Spirit in new ways . . .” Hence, there is no absolute truth to Scripture and therefore no accountability or commonality to what Christians doctrinally believe or how they should act.
In ‘adapting’ to relativism, preachers across the continent are molding their evangelism tactics to appease the cultural trend. Seeker friendly churches thrive, feeding the human need for comfort, prosperity, and ease rather than preaching the reality of sin, the eternality of the soul, and the true Savior. Liberal churches now have the freedom to say whatever they want about Scripture without ever offending anyone, cutting and pasting the ‘attractive’ parts of the Bible that speak about sacrificial love without the purpose behind Christ’s sacrifice. Amoral relativism birthed the charismatic movement in the church where, to some, Scripture is dependent on feeling rather than inerrant Truth. Self-proclaimed Christians are succumbing to societal pressure so that when the Bible lists homosexuality as a “shameful lust”, “unnatural”, and “evil,” they negate it because the validity of the Bible has been usurped.
In a recent Q & A session Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, asked Dr. John MacArthur, president of The Master’s University, what the church should be doing in response to the sweeping cultural ideology of Postmodernism, to which he said “double down and preach the gospel more”. Al Mohler similarly stated nine years ago, “that the apologetic task has never been more pressing and urgent,” and if it was urgent then, how much more urgent is it now when we see culture becoming more and more unhinged?
This movement is a reminder “that we are deeply embedded in cultural and linguistic systems that shape and influence our thinking” (Al Mohler) and that an unexamined life infests an already unstable foundation on which someone’s entire worldview either stands or falls. The church is at a crossroads. We are being forced to choose between being intellectual or spiritual. Busenitz said, “It comes down to conviction. The absolute conviction that we will not compromise on biblical truth, even if it means we lose respect. We are going to do whatever we can to be the best historians, scientists, doctors, fill in the blank, that we can be. We want to do good work. We don’t want to do sloppy scholarship, which to me, is what defines anti-intellectualism, a sort of sloppiness or a haphazardness that is worthy of being criticized. We want to avoid that but on the flip side we will not compromise on our biblical convictions which goes back to 1 Corinthians 1, the wisdom of God will look like foolishness to the rest of the world. In the end, we want to be right in the eyes of God and whether or not we are right in the eyes of men is secondary to that. One day in the future all will be put right.”
We know the promises of the Lord, what will come of those who delight in his law rather than scoff at its ‘anti-intellectualism’. David in Psalm 1 compares them to a “tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season and whose leaf does not whither”. The very lie culture sells us, that to believe in the Bible is synonymous with foolishness and lack of success or esteem, is exactly the opposite of what God promises. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord”, they are called blessed and “whatever they do prospers”. “Not so the wicked!” David continues to exclaim, for he knows the end of those strangled and suffocated by the weeds of false doctrine and compromise, “they are like chaff that the wind blows away” dried up and dead, “therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment, nor sinner in the assembly of the righteous” their way is that of destruction. These strangling weeds of postmodernism are destroying the beauty of the garden God intended to be the Christian testimony. Uproot those weeds. This is why The Master’s University stands on the absolute foundation of Christ and Scripture and will never compromise that.