Postmodernism and Christianity

Last week I listened to a teaching from a Ligonier Ministries conference that absolutely destroyed me. I mean “destroyed” in the best possible sense. I had to listen to it twice to really let the implications soak in and allow the Holy Spirit to pinpoint conviction in my heart. It was awesome.

The title of the teaching is “Postmodernism and Christianity” given by Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. at their 2007 National Conference. You can download and listen to the full teaching for FREE here. I highly recommend it. In fact I highly recommend any and all content from Ligonier ministries, they are a goldmine of Gospel knowledge. Credit for all major thoughts and themes in this post goes to Dr. Sproul.

He begins by suggesting that the craftiness of the devil is often craftier than we’d like to give him credit for. We think that the devil is out to trick all the non-Christians in the world into staying non-Christians by deception and temptation. But he suggests that the devil is not so much out to keep lost people confused, but to assault the church. He says, “The serpent is not interested in taking blind, unbelieving humans and gouging their eyes out.” The serpent is after the bride of Christ. I think this is supported biblically. Paul says in 2 Cor 2:11 that we should forgive one another “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” And Paul tells the church in Ephesus to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). The serpent has schemes and it is our responsibility as Christians to be aware of them, not so that we can writhe in fear or hide out within our churches, but to be able to stand firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13) and contend for truth when deception starts to creep in and confuse God’s word, like the serpent did with Eve in the garden.

We (I) shouldn’t be content to sit in our churches as if they were grand stands from which to watch how confused and hopeless the world is and not do anything about it. This was one of the points on which I was very convicted. I feel like I can see very clearly how modernism and postmodernism is rotting the minds and the faith of the upcoming generation, but this doesn’t give me a license to simply talk about it, blog about it, and do nothing. Our awareness of the serpent’s devices should prompt us to action on the offensive, not just the defensive.

The heaviest conviction that came from this teaching was the point where Dr. Sproul pointed out the very subtle ways that modernist and postmodernist thinking has crept into the church. He says:

To the modernist the greatest sacrament is education. If we teach our children all the right things, then we will have paradise on earth. The postmodernist just puts a new twist on this and says, “We want everyone to believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe because we believe that will lead us to paradise.” Despite Romans 1, we think people are lost because they don’t have enough information. We embrace the idea that stringing together sound arguments will change the world, when our book tells us something different.

How true this is! Just this weekend I was speaking with a lady in our church about marriage and how difficult it is when you’re first starting out to know exactly what to do. She adamantly asserted that what needs to be done is for someone to write a book about how to be married – a Marriage Manual. She is going to write this book and is convinced that it will help a myriad of people. I’m not saying that education is bad, or that discipleship within the church shouldn’t happen, these are good things. The problem was the overarching thought process that educating people alone would solve their problems. This lady is a nurse and made the statement, “I went through almost 6 years of schooling to be a nurse, and went to 6 weeks of pre-marital counseling to be a wife.” In the church if there is a problem, we tend to throw education at it. But the Bible doesn’t say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything start an educational program.” (misquote of Philipians 4:6). No friends, we are supposed to be praying, seeking the Lord, and leaning on our hope in Christ. Knowledge is not our savior. R.C. Sproul Jr. says it this way, “I’ve checked the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 multiple times. Smart is not one of them.”

Another point that Dr. Sproul made that rocked my world was the fact that postmodernism makes uncertainty and humility synonymous. He is absolutely right, and I had never thought about it before. In all my secular education, the more uncertainty a teacher allowed in the classroom, the more “down-to-earth” the he was. The more a teacher defended one side of a moral or ethical issue or stood for a single worldview, the more “arrogant” he was. I noticed it most in my education classes, when we had entire units devoted to diversity and tolerance. The point of the unit was not to understand that we must respect the diverse cultures and backgrounds of students, but that we must accept, encourage, and promote any and all lifestyle choices of our students and their parents. Tolerance, to the postmodernist, means embracing all worldviews – which of course is impossible because they conflict. Even though it’s irrational, a postmodernist says, “We won’t say we know which way is right, so we will include all ways. And that makes us right.”

The way the all-inclusive postmodern mindset slips into the church can be through Bible studies where everyone explains what a Bible passage “means to them” rather than exploring what the text was originally meant to say and then applying it. This is a pretty obvious irrational mistake. A text cannot actually have multiple meanings. Also, our testimonies tend to focus on the story of our lives more than on the person and the work of Christ. Postmodernism says that everyone has a story and so no ones story can be false. If we depend only on our story to win unbelievers to Christ, we are coming at evangelism from a postmodern perspective. Finally, we are postmodern when we shy away from standing up for the truth of scripture because we don’t want to appear arrogant for having “cornered the market on truth.” This was the point that really convicted me. I have shied away from standing up for Biblical truth because I didn’t want to be arrogant. And that’s the crazy thing, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to appear arrogant – it was because I truly believed that saying I thought I knew what was true actually did make me arrogant. And I knew the Bible says not to be arrogant or prideful. I had bought into the lie of postmodernism.

But it is a lie. Standing firm in the truth of the Gospel is not arrogant. Ok, you can be a jerk if you try hard enough (don’t do that). But the point is that in the garden when the serpent asks, “…Has god indeed said?” It would actually be pride and not humility that would say, “I’m not really comfortable with answering definitively. I don’t want to behave as if I’ve cornered the market on truth. I don’t think Jesus would want me to present the truth all tied up nicely with a bow.” And when people ask us what we believe about God, Christ, the church, heaven and hell, abortion, and homosexuality, we ought to stand firm in the truth and say, “Yes, God has indeed said.”

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:14-15

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