Maybe God is more post modern than we thought? Pt. 1

postmodern art

The Prophet Isaiah declares;

Isa 40:10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
Isa 40:11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Isa 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
Isa 40:13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel?
Isa 40:14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

Scripture speaks of God as mighty, caring, immense, wise, all knowing; but today the God of scripture is charged with being immoral, uncaring, weak and ignorant. Why? It seems the postmodern mind has determined God does not fit the mold of their conceptions of good or evil. For the post modernist, God is really weak because his claim to unlimited knowledge doesn’t jibe with their inability to reconcile why supposed innocents are left to the slaughter of lunatic gunmen, insane terrorists, exploiting greedy men while God seemingly does nothing about it. For others God is a buzz-kill a party spoiler. To these postmodernist thinkers God represents the fly-in-the-ointment or wrench inside the gears. God gets in the way of a happy conscience that will have all it wants and whatever it wants with no feelings of guilt. “Let no one guilt trip me about homosexuality or about gay marriage”, others say “there is no objective truth, its what we make of every situation, how we describe it, how we define it, we create our own morality and in turn our own ethic, there is no need for ancient standards to invade the individuals freedom”.  For them to jettison ancient standards is to invite freedom from ancient oppressors. What is the upside? Freedom from guilt, freedom from scrutiny, freedom from accountability to others, freedom from adherence to truth statements that are mere perspectives framed in words used to categorize and oppress those who do not agree with those in power.

To other postmodernists, the God of scripture is unable to identify who he/she is. The postmodernist believes they are evolving as a person, changing and moving from idea to idea, need to need; each day and each moment presents to them the school of what it means to be who they are. Situational-ethics is more than a chosen moral act of the moment, its a progression of being, it’s learning what it means to just be themselves in the face of myriads of moral and ethical dilemmas. For some, morphing is necessary part of who they are.  The question arises, how can God know me, I don’t know myself? How can God judge me, I am still learning, still evolving and what I was, I am not now, what I will be has not yet appeared?

The postmodernist worldview is not liberal or democratic per-se, it uses liberalism or a political party as a vehicle to further the individuals own happiness. Much the same way Christians will use the Republican party as a vehicle to pursue modernist and conservative philosophies that are conducive to a Christian lifestyle. Political platforms and philosophies are vehicles, they always have been vehicles. Ask anyone who is thinking about the world, their own place in it and how attitudes and culture affects them and they will tell you that making the whole world liberal is not the goal, making the whole world conservative is not the goal. What is the goal? Its to find a place and a people where they may be free to live as they truly are and express themselves without fear of reprisal. In short, its a place and people that will love and accept them for what they are.  The Postmodernist is seeking community, but community not built upon constraint but freedom, love not hate, tolerance not intolerance, expression not repression. The meta-narratives of the world do not answer the desires within them, religion or atheism can be a vehicle but not in itself the answer. For the postmodernist, they have found that in the past others have sought the same community, but they failed. Why? The postmodernist concludes that the modernist mindset that presupposed the meta-narratives of the past was the poison that eventually killed genuine community.

What were the supports for the meta-narratives? In short, the postmodernist pulls out the main 4 pillars that give the modernist meta-narrative the power to stand . Those four I believe are contained  in this. Personal fulfillment, Objective truth, Historical interpretation, Human identity 1.  Allow me to show you how it appears to work. Personal fulfillment is the acting out of our own personal desires, whereby what we do is loved and appreciated, not just for the act itself but because I am doing it and it represents a clear expression of myself in some form. Any meta-narrative that prohibits or denies my freedom of expression sexually, morally, verbally or in acts or deeds through art, literature, invention or some form of creativity is an enemy to me.  The postmodernist says I am trapped and condemned by such a narrative. When objective truth is used, it is generally regarded as not objective but subjective and therefore oppressive. The truth is again just another form of containment, but this time it’s built on words and ideas that may have nothing to do with me or my world. Truth, becomes the law of the oppressor, the prison guard that forbids expression of all that is contradictory to that so-called ‘truth’. The postmodernist says “who wants truth that is nothing more than a verbalized power play”? Historical interpretation again deals with the idea that language does not convey truth to the postmodernist, but an interpretation of events tailored to give one side advantage over another. The postmodernist says “I don’t agree that history can warn me of a future event, or that it has relevance to my way of living.” Finally human identity used by the modernist is for categorizing people into various ‘kinds’ that do not necessarily fit me and it again is simply a way to corral people into groups for the benefit of others.

Hopefully through some of this, I have represented the postmodernist mindset. No doubt it will not fit all and it might even be errant in some respects considering I am not a postmodernist myself. I do hope that I have at least offered a usable sketch that can take us where I am attempting to go.

Now let us transfer some of these traits of postmodernism to what God has said about himself. It’s fair to give God a hearing, the postmodernist believes he/she should be heard on the mere basis that what they think and feel is important, so too, God should be given the same respect and audience.

I will ask a few basic questions.

1. Is it not fair that God has the right to express himself as he wills?

2. Cannot God who created the world and all that is in it, determine to do what he wills with what he has made without being condemned by those who do not share that same power?

3. Can God know something we do not know, act upon it then proceed to alter the course of multitudes based upon information that we do not have?

4. Is it fair to condemn God according to our standards of morality when postmodernism permits many various expressions of morality and applauds itself for doing so?

5. How can we who do not have the power to know the future or shape our lives with certainty lay claim that God is weak when in fact his actions at any moment are not easily discerned?

6. Why do we humans presume to judge God on the morals and mindset that we have now, when in years past God would have been applauded and vindicated?

7. Is postmodernism saying its the ‘culmination of wisdom and fairness’ for all generations?

You are free to answer these questions for yourself. As a postmodernist its very modern to set the judgment bar to where you judge God cannot jump over it. But is that what postmodernism is about? Is it about making God a villain in order to pretend we are bigger, smarter and more powerful than is reality?

More about God and postmodernism to come.

1. Take from Kevin Vanhoozer’s work mentioned in Alister McGrath’s book Mere Apologetics Baker Books pg.33-34.

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Post Modernism and Epistemic ignorance

I was reading the responses to a woman who wrote an article on post-modern relativism. The idea behind its “true for you but not for me” is itself a self defeating argument and is symptomatic of erroneous thinking by folks who hold that view. Now, its really just a conversation-ender so no uncomfortable awkwardness arises from disagreement. But for those who want to wrangle about the issue it tends to point at the moral argument for God. But, as some would have it, their claim that no moral absolutes exist are defended vehemently and they argue for that position. Whats really interesting is that to argue for one position or the other demands a right and wrong, a right and wrong logic or conclusion. In short, for the relativist to make his case he must use the absolutists tools to make the case. If it were true that the world ran on relativism, one would not need to argue to begin with because right or wrong would never arise as a necessity to coherent thinking and doing. This is where relativism is betrayed by his adherents. They argue for non-absolutes with an unsaid absolute paradigm that there are no absolutes. confusing?

The question arises; why defend a position that is intrinsically relative? Because to be right and logical is a characteristic of good reasoning which demands absolutes. So, how does this correlate to moral absolutes? Simple; right and wrong, good and evil exist because they are not mental constructs; nor are they ethical conclusions based on consensus. Murder, theft, lying, adultery, coveting are always wrong and they eventually emerge in every known culture. Even if the ethics of the Nazis held to the murder of Jews, the rest of the world recognized that such murder is reprehensible and immoral. Lying, the willful deception committed by one person to deceive another is always wrong where there is harm to another. Im discounting magic tricks Therefore contracts are made to stipulate conditions so that the chances of deception or mistakes are minimized. These are recognized the world over and have been recognized since the beginning of mans existence.

The question arises; where did these morals originate? The scriptures claim that God created them. He created them in two forms, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the revelation of Gods word to his chosen people. The first deals with mans knowledge of good and evil as he acts in a rebellious autonomy alienated from God by wicked works and evil thoughts. The second by specific truths revealed by God on who God is, what man is, and how man may serve both God and man acceptably. No matter which direction man may go, he cannot escape the origination of good or evil as defined by God.

Nature or materialism cannot supply ethics or morals for the thinking man. Materialism has no way of producing the dilemma of “should I lie or should I not?” It cannot provide even the hint of a concept of “who is the true God”? Nor can it provide the slightest insight into logic or mathematics. There are no abstractions contained within a materialist world. Man is forced to take for an absolute that the transcendent exists, that other beings exist outside of himself whether he agreeably acknowledges them or not. It is because of this epistimological mountain the Atheist and Skeptic must remain in the valley of irrationality. They must deny what everyone else knows and need not prove. Because of that, denial of moral absolutes requires suppressing what is understood among all men and claiming that morality is just a human construct incapable of extending beyond the consensus of like minded individuals.

The history of the world has shown situational-morality to be a monstrous lie and the avenue to genocides, murders and national catastrophe. Immorality may have its day in the sun, but its remembrance is held in infamy.

via Marvin Torgeson – I was reading the responses to a woman who wrote….

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

By Dave Jenkins.

In part 1 we learned what it means to engage worldviews. In part 2 we learned about Paul’s use and methods in Apologetics, and today we conclude our series on Apologetics by learning about the use of Apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel.

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

Dr. Mohler President of The Southern Baptist Theology defines apologetics as the task of setting forth the truth claims of Christianity and arguing for the unique truthfulness of the Christian faith- must inform every preacher’s understanding of his task in a postmodern age.[i]

Acts 17:16-34 serves as a model of Great Commission proclamation matched to an apologetic argument-an argument in defense of Christian truth. In that passage Paul is standing at the center of apologetic ministry in the first century- Athens. Athens was the most intellectually sophisticated culture in the ancient world, but its glory was retreating. Even though Rome held political and military preeminence, Athens stood supreme in terms of cultural and intellectual influence. The centerpiece of Paul’s visit to Athens is his message to the court of philosophers at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill. Several principles as it relates to preaching and apologetics become evident in considering Acts 17:16-34.

First, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins in a provoked spirit (Acts 17:16). Paul observed the spiritual confusion of the Athenians and was overcome with concern. The sight of a city full of idols seized him with grief, and that grief turned to gospel proclamation. Paul records that Paul experienced paroxysmos, a paroxysm, at the sight of such spiritual confusion. Athens was intellectually sophisticated- the arena where the ancient world’s most famous philosophers had debated. This was the city of Pericles, Plato, and Socrates, but Paul was not impressed with the faded glory of this city. He saw men and women in need of a Savior.

This text reminds us that the proper view of Christian apologetics begins in spiritual concern, not in intellectual snobbery of scorn. Christians preach Christ not because Christianity is merely a superior philosophy or worldview, nor because we have been smart enough to embrace the gospel, but because we have met the Savior, we have been claimed by the gospel, and we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Christians preaching is not a matter of intellectual pride but of spiritual concern. A dying world languishes in spiritual confusion.

America is a nation filled with idols of self-realization, material comfort, psychological salvation, sexual ecstasy, ambition, power and success. New Age spiritualties in a quest for personal fulfillment and self-transcendence. The ancient paganisms of nature worship have emerged once again, along with esoteric and occult practices. Journalist Walter Truett Anderson observes, Never before has any civilization made available to its populace such a smorgasbord of realities. Never before has a communications system like the contemporary mass media made information about religion-all religions-available to so many people. Never has a society allowed its people to become consumers of belief, and allowed belief-all beliefs- to become merchandise.[ii]

America has become too acculturated, too blind, and too unimpressed with the paganism and idolatries all around us. As Christians, we betray a comfort level that Paul would see as scandalous. Instead of this, Christians should be gripped by the realization that millions of men and women are slaves to the idols of our age, and learn to have the courage to confront the idols all around them.

Second, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is focused on gospel proclamation (Acts 17:17). Moved by the city full of idols, Paul went to the synagogue and to the marketplace each day, presenting the claims of Christ and reasoning with both Jews and Gentiles. The goal of apologetic preaching is not to win an argument but to win souls to Christ. Apologetics separated from evangelism is unknown in the New Testament, and is foreign to the model offered by the apostle Paul. The great missionary Paul was about the business of preaching the gospel, presenting the claims of Christ, and calling for men and women to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

For many evangelicals the study of apologetics is reduced to philosophical structures and rational arguments. This is not Paul’s method. Paul is not merely concerned with the justification of truth claims, but for the justification of sinners. Every true theologian is an evangelist, and every true evangelist is a theologian. The Gospel possesses content and presents truth claims that demand the preachers keenest arguments and boldest proclamation. The Gospel is to be received. Paul moved by the sight of idols preached Christ and called for belief.

Third, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture assumes a context of spiritual confusion (Acts 17:18-21). Paul’s gospel proclamation brought confusion to the Athenian intellectuals. The Epicureans, the forerunners of modern secularists, and the Stoics, committed to pantheistic rationalism accused Paul of teaching nonsense.

To the Athenians- and to the modern secular America- the preaching of the authentic gospel sounds strange. The Athenians said, “You are bringing some strange thing to our ears.” The Christian preacher hears the same thing today. In postmodern American, the Christian gospel is strange in its whole and in its parts. Most Americans assume themselves to be good and decent persons, and are amused at the notions that they are sinners against God. Grace is alien concept in American culture. Sin is almost outlawed as a category, substitutionary atonement sounds unfair, and God in human flesh is too much to take. Yet that is what Christians preach.

The Athenians and their tourists loved to spend their time telling or hearing something new- but what Paul preached was too much. Americans today are just like the Athenians. Consumers of meaning just as much as they are of cars and clothing, Americans will test-drive new spiritualties and try on a whole series of lifestyles. To many, the gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, and too exclusive. To contend for the gospel and biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for “hate speech.” The Christian must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is often now a hostile confusion. The Gospel sounds not only strange but threatening to the local deities.

Fourth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is directed to a spiritual hunger (Acts 17:22-23). Paul’s observation convinced him that the Athenians were a religious people. A deficit of religiosity was not the problem. Judging from the statue Paul noticed, the Athenians seemed to be fearful lest they miss any new philosophy or neglect any unknown deity.

American culture is increasingly secularist. The past century has seen the agenda of secularism accomplished in the courts, in the schools, in the marketplace, and in the media. Yet Americas are among the most religious people in the world. The emptiness of the secular wasteland haunts most postmodern persons. They long for something more. Many people declare themselves to live by scientific rationality, and yet they read the astrology charts, believe in alien abductions, line up to see bleeding statues, and talk about past lives. In America, even some atheists say they believe in miracles. Sociologist Robert Wunthnow suggests that Americans are particularly fascinated with miraculous manifestations of the sacred because they are uncertain whether the sacred has really gone away.[iii]

Paul had taken account of the plentiful idols and houses of worship found in Athens. He even noted they were hedging their bets, lest they offend some deity who had not made themselves known. Paul seized the opportunity. Brought before the court at the Areopagus, he referred to the altar he had seen that was dedicated to an unknown god.

The example of Paul here ought to establish a pattern for Christian preaching in a postmodern age. Christians must seek constantly to turn spiritual hunger toward the true food of the gospel of Christ. God had placed that hunger within lost persons they might desire Christ. Christians bear the stewardship of proclaiming the gospel, and therefore we must muster the courage to confront confused postmodernists with the reality of their spiritual ignorance. Paul never allowed this ignorance to become an excuse, but there can be no doubt that it is a reality. Americans, too, are feeding on a false diet of superstition and myths. The hunger is a place to start. Our challenge is to preach Christ as the only answer to that hunger.

Fifth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins with the fundamental issue of God’s nature, character, power and authority (Acts 17:24-28). Interestingly, Paul does not begin with Christ and the cross but with the knowledge of God in creation. The do who created the world is not looking for Corinthian columns and the Parthenon, Paul argued. The Lord does not dwell in temples made with human hands. The Lord is the author of life itself, and He needs nothing from us. Furthermore, The Lord had made humanity and is Lord over all nations. The Lord sovereignly determines their times and boundaries. The Athenians were partly right, said Paul, quoting their poets. All human beings are God’s children, but not in the sense the Athenians believed. In proclaiming God as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things and all peoples, Paul was making a claim that far surpassed the claims of the Hellenistic deities.

Paul established his preaching of Christ upon the larger foundation of the knowledge of the God of the Bible, Maker of heaven and earth. Every preacher of the Gospel must structure their proclamation of the gospel in this postmodern culture just as Paul did. People must first understand God the Creator before they will understand God the Redeemer.

John Calvin organized his systematic theology around what he called the duplex cognito Domini, the twofold knowledge of God. The preacher must start with the knowledge of God as Creator, but this is not sufficient to save.  John Calvin notes that it is one thing to feel that God our Maker supports us by his power, governs us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and attends us with all sorts of blessings, and another thing to embrace the reconciliation offered us in Christ. Seeing people come to faith in Christ the Redeemer begins with seeing them come to grips with the fact that God is their Maker.[iv]

Sixth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture confronts error (Acts 17:29). Preaching, apologetics, and polemics are all related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: Preachers ought never to not think false thoughts about God. The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”

False theologies abound no less in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God- the so called Gai Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment. Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.

Seventh, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture affirms the totality of God’s saving purpose (Acts 17:30-31). Paul brought his presentation of the gospel to a climatic conclusion by calling for repentance and warning of the judgment that is to come. He proclaimed Christ as the appointed Savior who will judge the world and whose identity has been clearly revealed by the fact that God has raised him from the dead.

It is not enough to preach Christ without calling for belief and repentance. It is not enough to promise the blessings of heaven without warning of the threat of hell. It is not enough to preach salvation without pointing to judgment.

Conclusion

Authentic Christian preaching both declares and defends the whole gospel. The center of the Christians proclamation is Jesus Christ the Savior, who was crucified for sinners, was raised by the power of God, is coming again in glory and in judgment, and is even now sitting and ruling at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christians must defend the truths of Christ’s deity, the virgin birth, the historicity of the miracles, the truth of the incarnation, the reality of His substitutionary death, and the assurance of His bodily resurrection. Yet Christians dare not stop at these affirmations, for we must place the person and work of Christ within the context of God’s eternal purpose to save a people for His own glory and to exalt himself among the nations. The task of preaching in this postmodern context is comprehensive, even as it is driven by the desire to see sinners turn to Christ in faith.

The postmodern world has no need of half evangelists preaching a half gospel to the half converted, and leading a halfhearted church. What is needed is a generation of bold and courageous preacher-apologists for the twenty-first century- men who will be witnesses to the whole world of the power of the gospel and who will proclaim the whole counsel of God.

[i] R. Albert Mohler, He is not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 123-124.

[ii] Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn’t What It Used to Be (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990), 188.

[iii] Robert Wuthnow: After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), 139.

[iv] John Calvin, Institutes, McNeill and Battles, vol. 1, 40.

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.8q1t0PsW.dpuf

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.dpuf