We now live in an age when many of the ideas of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment are quickly being deposited in the dust bin of history. It seems that most people no longer have faith in the idea that truth can be known. The belief that reason will lighten our paths is fast fading. Modernists believe that truth not absolute. Reason can not possibly lead you to truth because truth is relative, it comes in various forms and
presents itself differently to different people.
I'm reminded of a moment of the Dick Cavett Show years ago when the host was entertaining Jane Fonda and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop said, "Jesus is the Son of God, you know." Fonda's quick answer was, "Maybe he is for you, but he's not for me." The Archbishop's response was profound, "Well either he is or he isn't."
Jane Fonda's response is post-modernism is a nutshell. Modernism was a child of the Enlightenment and it promoted the idea that reason and intellect, applied with great diligence, could eventually lead us to truth. Post-modernists (Jane Fonda) have given up on that idea. They believe there is no absolute or universal truth. Truth is whatever you desire for it to be. Post-modernists eliminate a common source (God) and measure (Holy Scriptures) by which to measure our actions and morals. The result is a moral confusion because "what is right for you may not be right for me and what is right for me may not be right for you."
Doug Groothius makes reference in his book, Truth Decay, regarding a bumper sticker he once saw, "I've given up on reality and now I'm looking for a good fantasy." When truth is no longer objective reality presents a problem. So, postmodernists lean toward eastern mystics who question the existence of reality. The Chinese philosopher Chuang Chou framed this way of thinking with this story, "Once upon a time I dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awoke, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man." Chou taught that one day we would all awaken and realize that what we once thought was our reality was really just a dream. The failure to embrace absolute truths makes it necessary to eliminate reality.
This post-modern philosophy is a result of the influence of our culture. Our modern world calls more for transition rather than tradition. My grandfather worked for the Erie Railroad his entire adult life. My father worked for the Post Office most of his life. But today the average American stays on the job an average of only 4.1 years and will have as many as seven to ten jobs in a lifetime. We try constantly to change our reality. If you don't like the wrinkles on your face you can have plastic surgery. The remote control allows us to switch channels every few minutes. If we don't like truth, we just change it to suit our own fancies.
I am amazed as I watch modern day celebrities reinvent themselves throughout their careers. Madonna, Mick Jagger and many others come to mind. As the culture changes they change their style and their music to suit the tastes of their fans. The post-modern God has become a sort of smorgasbord God, a creation of our own. We might make him 2 parts Christian, one part Hindu and 2 parts Buddhist.
The Christian God is not a god that can be formed or created by frail men with finite minds. God spoke to Moses in the wilderness and said, "I am who I am." He is eternal and immutable. He does not change nor does his truth change. He is what he has always been and he shall always be what he already is. Truth is absolute because the source of truth is absolute.
The use of relativism in post-modern thought is troubling. We naturally apply facts in every facet of life to find truth. If we take our car to a mechanic and he says, "You need a new transmission" we will probably take it to another mechanic for a second opinion. We naturally wonder if the mechanic is telling the truth. If a second mechanic says, "Your transmission is fine" we would never say, " what is true for one mechanic may not be true for another mechanic and that is okay". That is un acceptable. The truth is that one mechanic is telling the truth and the other is not.
This illustrates the absurdity of what Jane Fonda said to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her idea that Jesus may be the son of God to the Bishop but not to her is absurd. Jesus said, "I and my Father are one." He also said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) Either Jesus lied or he told the truth. Either he is the Son of God or he is not. Truth is not a diamond that can be cut or formed to satisfy our own whims.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.