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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Other Postmodernists

But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.--James 1: 14-16 NIV

The First Wave

Last time, I spoke of postmodernism as a movement in the public consciousness. That is how it began--an entirely worldly (finite, human) pattern of thought, brought about by the terrible experiences of several major wars throughout the last century. Postmodernism is almost a natural (though misguided) reaction to looking into the face of your enemy and realizing that he is not much different from you. Some men and women involved in the wars came back confused and bewildered by this, because all of their culturally-based opinions of the enemy had been shattered. It had been easy to imagine the enemy soldiers as cruel and inhuman, but it was no longer easy once they saw that the other men had sweethearts and parents, and dreams of their own. What dividing line could they draw between people, any more?

Well, like I said in the last post, the lines that cultures draw are pretty much arbitrary. However, all human beings subscribe to a higher standard of right and wrong. They also, universally, expect everyone else to measure up to this standard, while they personally allow themselves a few "outs" from the rules. In other words, humans are universally hypocritical, while objecting to the hypocrisy of others. More often than not, what we call "culture" is really just a network of "exceptions" a group of people have allowed themselves, reformulated into a set of "absolutes" that they feel should dictate human behavior.

No wonder the first postmodernists came back confused! They had rejected (or been denied the knowledge of) the real, almighty God in their own lives, and now they had nowhere else to turn. They had seen through the veil of lies they had always believed, and now they were unwilling to seek the truth. They had nothing absolute to stand on, so they set out to tear down the lies in everyone else. Unfortunately, they attacked the truth with the lies, and tried to dismantle the absolute rules that God had established. This was to their discredit.

I know, you're thinking, "When is she going to tell me what she means by 'the other postmodernists'?" Well, I'm getting to that.

The first postmodernists were distinguished by their (rightful) hatred of cultural "absolutes" like so-called racial superiority. They also were notable for their outright rejection of God, and absolute and unchanging standards of right and wrong. The first postmodernists were not Christians, and didn't claim any alliegance to the movement.

In a way, I feel sorry for them, because they've put out of their sight the one lifeline that could help them make sense of it all.

The Second Wave

The second postmodernists, their children, were practically born searching for some kind of stability in a world that seemed to them to have no stable foundation. Barring all acknowledgment of God (they were still not ready to recognize Him, possibly because of the strident voices of their parents), they decided to commit to a philosophy they called committed relativism. In essence, they believed there was no absolute standard of behavior, so they decided to just arbitrarily pick one, whether or not it was the best one. Humans, naturally, desire a sense of order and security (but more on that later). Theirs was a sort of self-imposed morality, fragile by design. In a way, I feel sorry for them, too. They must have felt like terrible hypocrites, but they needed something to steady themselves on.

The Third Wave

This second generation gave birth to a third kind of postmodernist, which I will call the religious relativist. They are my peers and colleagues, and they are coming of age now, in this first decade of a new century. They have taken their parents' committed relativism to religiously fervent levels. Unlike their parents, who had a mild, patronizing attitude toward "absolute thinkers," such as Christians, they have become so accustomed to the bottomless world of their parents and grandparents that they want to make the whole world experience it. They now want to smash such "backward" thinking and move the whole world forward--into the future mentality, based on arbitrary assignments of moral value, and passionate understanding and acceptance of everyone but the "absolute thinkers."

But who are they, really? Have we ever seen such third-generation postmodernists? Definitely. Their parents, in choosing a committed relativity, chose to enter every religious persuasion on the planet. They entered synagogues, mosques, monasteries, and churches, with an "egalitarian" idea that they were helping these groups "expand their understanding and tolerance" of other cultures and religions.
So far, their efforts have not been without success, especially in religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, which were already very relativistic and accepting. Unfortunately, in the opinions of the new religious relativists, their parents' progress is just too slow, and now needs to be forced by using established cultural means, such as legislation and peer pressure.

So now, coming into their own in this "brave new world," the religious relativists are changing long-established truth in the church, and daring anyone to object. In fact, their best method is to tell resistors that they are being "unchristian" to object to the new truth--even if, deep inside, they know that it isn't the truth God established. To make matters worse, too many of these traditional, absolute-believing Christians are so unprepared for the challenge that they cower in the fold and let the wolves in sheep's clothing push them around.

Make no mistake--even if an individual and his or her family has been part of the church for many generations, this person is a religious relativist if he or she does not acknowledge the absolute authority of God's righteousness over human behavior. Such people, even if they are pastors or deacons or teenage friends in Sunday school, are not Christians, because Christians follow God, and not the new philosophies of the world.

For awhile, I'd begun to despair that the third-generation postmodernists were "winning" somehow. They certainly have a lot of people cowering, either unable to challenge them, or too afraid of what might happen if they did. What can they do, really? Hurt us? Destroy our standing in the community? Does it really matter? Is real truth worth fighting for, or are we so uncommitted ourselves that we can't take the risk to stand for what we say we believe?

I said, earlier, that I'd return to the idea that all humans need some sort of stability to cling to in a world of crumbling foundations. Well, stability is only found in following Christ. As a follower of Christ, I'm not a committed relativist, because I don't recognize any other kind of truth besides the one I have found. I have examined these new truths of "God", such as pudding-headed acceptance and integrity-sacrificing meekness, and I've found them to be lies, like any other cultural attitudes based on human agendas. What are they protecting, other than someone's pet sins?

The truth I subscribe to (and indeed, any true, absolute-believing Christian subscribes to) looks the same, year after year, situation after situation. It doesn't change; it is a stable foundation of rock. There is nothing like God and His righteousness, the whole world over. I've seen it for myself, and I will not easily be tempted and led away into death. God is what every human being needs to cling to, but so many out there are afraid that they will lose a part of themselves if they do. Sure they will--the part of themselves that is enamored with lies and convinced of deceptions.

So which will you choose? A relativity with no stability, a committed relativity with hypocrisy, or a religious relativity with the smell of death but the appearance of health?