Is Postmodernism a Myth? (Sean McDowell)

Is Postmodernism A Myth?

Sean McDowell

 

In the early 1990s interest in postmodernism exploded in the church. Books widely appeared as bestsellers and conferences featured seminars about doing ministry in a postmodern world. While people disagreed about exactly what was meant by “postmodernism”-and they still do!-there was considerable agreement that the world was leaving the modern era behind and wading into the unknown waters of the postmodern matrix.

 

In Postmodern Youth Ministry, for example, Tony Jones argues that postmodernity is the most important culture shift of the past 500 years, upending our theology, philosophy, epistemology (how we know things), and church practice. It is an “earthquake that has changed the landscape of academia and is currently rocking Western culture.” (p. 11). Thus, to be relevant in ministry today, according to Jones and other postmodernists, we must shed our modern tendencies and embrace the postmodern shift.

 

For the longest time I simply accepted that we inhabit a postmodern world and that we must completely transform our approach to ministry to be effective today. But that all changed when I had the opportunity of hearing philosopher William Lane Craig speak at an apologetics conference not too long ago. “This sort of [postmodern] thinking,” says Craig, “is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture.” (“God is Not Dead Yet,” Christianity Today, July 2008, p. 26). He argues that the idea that we live in a postmodern world is a myth. This may strike you as awfully bold. How can he make such a claim?

 

For one thing, says Craig, postmodernism is unlivable and contradictory: “Nobody is a postmodernist when it comes to reading the labels on a medicine bottle versus a box of rat poison. If you’ve got a headache, you’d better believe that texts have objective meaning!” (Reasonable Faith, 2008, p. 18) Craig speaks to tens of thousands of (mostly non-Christian) college students around the world every year and his conclusion is that we live in a cultural milieu that is deeply modernist. Reason, logic, and evidence are as important today as ever (although he’s careful not to overstate their importance, too).

 

Postmodernism and Apologetics

 

But this is not all Craig has to say! In the introduction to Reasonable Faith, Craig provocatively claims, “Indeed, I think that getting people to believe that we live in a postmodern culture is one of the craftiest deceptions that Satan has yet devised” (p. 18). Accordingly, we ought to stop emphasizing argumentation and apologetics and just share our narrative. Craig develops this idea further:

 

And so Satan deceives us into voluntarily laying aside our best weapons of logic and evidence, thereby ensuring unawares modernism’s triumph over us. If we adopt this suicidal course of action, the consequences for the church in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality, while scientific naturalism shapes our culture’s view of how the world really is (p. 18-19). 

 

In a personal email, Craig relayed to me that he believes postmodernism is largely being propagated in our church by misguided youth pastors. While he meant the comment more to elicit a smile than to be taken as a stab in the back, I can’t help but wonder if he is right.

 

If our culture were so profoundly postmodernist, why have the “New Atheists,” as Wired magazine dubbed them, been so influential? Popular writers such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins have recently written bestselling books attacking the scientific, historic, and philosophical credibility of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their writings have wreaked havoc on many unprepared Christians. If our culture were postmodern their challenges should have fallen on deaf ears.

 

Postmodern Youth

 

While studies show that youth are significantly relativistic when it comes to ethics, values, and religion (e.g., Soul Searching, by Christian Smith, Oxford Press, 2005), they are not relativistic about science, mathematics, and technology. When discussing morality and religion, I have heard many young people say things such as say, “That’s just your truth. I have a different truth.” But I have never heard a young person say this about a claim in the realm of science or math. Modernists believe that science is the sole purveyor of truth while religion and ethics belong in the private, subjective sphere. It seems to me that the thinking of young people is more influenced by modernism (and specifically naturalism) than postmodernism.

 

Nevertheless, there does seem to be some postmodern influences in our culture. There is a latent cynicism about knowing truth, a deep suspicion of authority, and an awareness that bias affects people more profoundly than we would like to admit. But ultimately I think Craig is right-the claim that we live in a postmodern culture has been greatly exaggerated and oversold to (and by) the church.

Can God Create a Rock So Heavy He Cannot Lift It?

The answer to that question is no.

God cannot create a rock so big that He cannot pick it up.

Let me explain: God’s omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything. Let me give you an example: God cannot lie (1 Sam. 15.29, Hebrews 6.18). That God is omnipotent does not mean that God can lie. God cannot do immoral things because they go against His nature.

There are other things that God cannot do: He cannot do illogical things. He cannot make 2 + 2 = 5. He cannot make a cause follow an effect. He cannot go beyond these rules because they are part of His nature. God is a good God and He is consistent and honest. Because God cannot lie, He cannot make 2 and 2 = 5 because 2 and 2 = 4.

Now God’s omnipotence means that God can lift an infinite weight. That is not inconsistent with God’s nature and part of the nature of God: He can lift infinite weight.

For God to be able to create a rock SO heavy He cannot lift it, God would have to make a rock that weighs MORE THAN INFINITE. God cannot do this because it would be against His nature: to create something more than infinite is something God cannot do because it is illogical.

I hope I have explained this well enough,

Blessings,
Ben

Back From New Zealand (Ray Comfort)

Back from New Zealand-Ray Comfort

How can you demonstrate that you love someone? You could buy them an expensive ring. I’m sure that would help, because it’s tangible evidence of a sacrifice. Still, it comes back to belief. If the person you love chooses not to believe that you love them, there’s nothing you can do about it.

I was in New Zealand recently at a university where local Christians had organized a debate between myself and an atheist. Just before it started a tall outspoken man named Ryan enthusiastically approached me and said something like, “I’m honored to meet you. I have watched your videos on the Internet, read your material, and here I am actually getting to meet you. I am really excited about this debate.” As he was walking back to his seat I called out, “Which side are you on?” and he replied, “I’m against everything you stand for.”

During the question-time Ryan asked some good questions. The next day he showed up at another meeting at which I was speaking, then he listened to me again, for another hour or so at a church service. Afterwards, we chatted, I signed a book for him, we had our photo taken, and he even helped on the book table. I really cared about Ryan and was pleased to hear him say at the end of the evening, “Man, why are you so likeable!!!” The fact that he could feel my love and concern for him was more powerful than any argument I could give him for the existence of God.

Some of you who are atheists read everything I write as if I write in hatred. Yet I love and care about you. If I could have lunch with you, I would, and I would gladly pay the tab. But if you refuse to believe that, I can’t do anything about it.

You accuse me of making money from the sale of my books, but did you know that I have preached open air more than 5,000 times and never been paid? I do that because I love people and care where they spend eternity. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother with preaching, blogging, producing a TV program, or writing Christian books. I had a very successful business before I became a Christian and could have made a good living, but I chose to spend my life pleading with people like you to consider where you will spend eternity.

So think about my motive, and then please think of God’s motive for the cross: “But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us” (Romans 5:8, Amplified Bible). That’s the ultimate sacrifice. It’s up to you to believe it.

One wage packet you don’t want to collect

“Hey I just saw your new billboard on the 105 near my house. Thanks for clarifying for me that it is illogical to believe that things don’t just come from nothing ‘magically.’ Seriously, how can milk and honey just exist? Their mere existence proves that God exists since everything has a creator. I have one concern though, based on your logic. Who created God? Did He just magically appear? According to what your arguing, it’s silly to believe that. I mean, everything has a creator right? Things don’t just magically appear out of thin air. So who created God? Or is your brand of logic only applicable against what you disagree with? Thank you for solidifying my beliefs.”

Atheists often plead ignorance when it comes to the Initial Cause–as to what came before the Big Bang. Whatever it was that created the material for it to take place, had to be non-material (therefore free from the law of entropy), as well as dwell outside of the dimension of time (time logically demands that everything has a beginning and an end).

The Spirit of God qualifies for both (see Genesis 1:2). He is spirit (without a material body). He created time and is therefore not subject to it (revealed in the perfectly fulfilled Messianic prophecies).

You are right when you say that nothing “magically appears.” God is eternal–without beginning and without end, but He is also perfect in holiness. So whatever you do in this life, make sure you are right with Him because you don’t want to collect your due wages (see Romans 6:23). www.NeedGod.com

Keep it Simple

“You march ahead unchanged, repeating the same falsehoods. I’m not talking about reasonable differences in interpretation, I’m talking about outright misinformation (such as the bizarre idea that male and female have to evolve separately for each species . . . ” Euphimist

It’s difficult not to be repetitive with accusations such as the above. But here goes. There are an estimated 1.4 million species on the earth. Each species has both male and female (not counting worms and a few others). Let’s believe that each species did evolve. Let’s then zero in on the giraffe. After the big bang, there was a pre-giraffe animal. Millions (perhaps billions) of years pass until today, and now we have a male and female giraffe. Evolutionists believe that the two didn’t evolve separately. Such a thought is “bizarre.”

I know that you think I am intellectually slow, so please be patient with me and explain to me in very simple terms where you believe the female giraffe came from, and then explain how and why the other 1.4 million species ended up with both male and female.

I look forward to your comments.