True be or not true be?

22 Jun

Previous: Christian: “Jesus is the truth!”; Postmodernist: “…whatever” (in attempt to get the complete picture it is strongly advised that you’ll read the previous article before moving on to this one.)

For decades modern approach of Enlightenment period was exhaustively rational in its way of dealing with reality and the world around us. Science was considered to be the sole measure of truth, where knowledge was certain, objective and good. Postmodernist does not believe any of those things. Actually, also here could be established another common ground as Christian believes that some truth lies even beyond reason and cannot be accessed by reason, secondly we find ourselves in a historical and cultural context and thus cannot work as external agents uninfluenced by it, thirdly the knowledge being perceived as intrinsically good can only hardly hold in the light of the past nuclear events that ascribe to knowledge possible future Armageddon that would never be possible without scientific discoveries around splitting of the atom. Thus, confident reason that suggests definite solutions alone would most likely be unwelcomed by many also in the sphere of apologetics.

Figure 1 – Retrieved from Kinnaman, D. (2011). “You lost me: Why young christians are leaving church..and rethinking faith.

Yet another issue signaled by this chart is the direct opposite. Frequently Christians completely neglect the duty to involve themselves in intellectual debates whereby positive conflict could be stirred and are left with bullet-proof social tolerance of postmodernism. To illustrate how serious this problem is in this generation I attached one more diagram made by Barna Group in 2009.

Figure 2 – Retrieved from Kinnaman, D. (2011). “You lost me: Why young christians are leaving church…and rethinking faith.”

Thirdly, new methods were offered that strive to contextualize our approach to such an extent that they suggest we too should abandon the notion of objective truth and merely focus on our action in the world that will alone raise the question in those around us. Phillip Kenneson in his chapter called “There’s no such thing as objective truth, and it’s a good thing, too” recommends the following:

“I realize there are plenty of Christians who think it makes good sense to say that the proposition “Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe” is objectively true; that is, our temptation is to insist that this is simply true whether we or anyone else believe it or not. But succumbing to such a temptation is deadly for the church… giving up on the notion of objective truth will force the church to take responsibility for its judgments about the way it sees, understands and acts in the world. This means that what will give our testimony authority will not be that what we say is “objectively true” such that any reasonable person would be required to take us seriously. Rather, what will lend our testimony authority is that by the grace of God we live in such a way that our lives are incomprehensible apart from this God.”

It seems to me that by giving up objective truth we might lose more than gain, for without it, it is only very hard to show why Christianity is different from any other religious mysterious lifestyle. Moreover it is difficult to find basis for biblical imperatives stemming out of preaching that draw upon the authority of the truth breathed in the biblical text. At last this view appears to be rather idealistic, for after considering the doctrine of Hamartiology, we can see that due to our sinful nature, while in our human bodies, we are not able to live a life that would alone speak unequivocally for Gods existence and His redemptive activity on the cross.

This fallen condition however equally influences our intellectual capacities as well, which are not only limited, but also deceptive (Romans 1:21-28).

Thus I believe conclusion does not lie in a revolutionary method but somewhere on the middle way. Here, both reason and personal example walks co-operatively in humble apologetics, persuading people to make an informed decision for Christ always relying on the power of Holy Spirit in the Gospel. “Such a persuasion does not have to be perceived as propaganda” for as Chan points out: “Despite postmodernism’s pronouncement on the demise of reasons, we maintain that interpersonal persuasion of a reasonable sort continues to be practiced in everyday life. Sellers seek to persuade potential buyers that their products are superior to those of their competitors. Schoolteachers appeal to the reasoning faculty of students, while government leaders defend the rationale for their policies. Even enthusiastic relativists who are out to convince others of the superiority of their philosophies of life do so by turning to the tools of persuasive speech, reasoning with their listeners or readers.”

In this age it is the last two adjectives of 1.Peter 3:15 that presumably matter more than ever before for such a balanced approach addresses both obstacles presented in the beginning. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,…” (NIV)

What arguments?

As stated above, the market is open for virtually any argument available for use, yet some might serve better than others. Probably the most controversial argument that will hardly leave anybody indifferent to the conversation is the Moral argument for its imminence to people’ behavior and opinions.

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. 
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Here Pluralists are often deeply committed to premise 2 thinking that it is objectively wrong to impose views and values on others. Even if this argument is not directly brought about, it is likely that a Christian will sooner or later face questions and comments that will require a reasonable response. Second most common argument is the Problem of Evil and Suffering due to natural questions raised by the enormous amounts of afflictions we can now witness through internet and television all around us. Thirdly, historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection answers common questions that seek to find out why Christians seem to be so arrogant by proclaiming that Jesus is the only way to God, when there are so many other religions in the world. And at last I believe Pascal’s Wager can one more time be put to use, for it wonderfully shows that even if nothing was really true, then taking this decision is markedly beneficial, and if such a “truth” is ultimately useful then through the eyes of post-modernistic pragmatism this ought to be the best possible option. Other arguments might assist to support our case, however alone they might be perceived as too abstract without a real attachment to daily reality. As Francis Schaeffer pointed out, (post)modern man distinguishes a universe that consists of two floors. The lower one, in which life is absurd and the upper one where there is meaning, value and purpose. Since there is no ultimate meaning for a (post)modern man, he aims to live happily in the lower floor, accepting that life is absurd reaching out to the upper floor only to express his thoughts about meaning, value and purpose for which he has no right, since in his opinion “life is absurd”. Arguments that have an overarching effect over both floors are, I believe, those that can cause people to start asking some more serious questions.

We have gone through the basic elements of postmodernism, its barriers and openings, suggesting proper way for the Christian witnessing with a special attention to apologetics. Lastly, bifurcated nature of the world of postmodernist was sketched for which I proposed a few suitable arguments. Now, looking at the quote I began with, I must ask “Who is it that reaches out from falsehood towards truth on just one occasion?” A Christian who founded his home on God’s truth or, as Schaeffer propounds, a modern man that built himself a second floor which he uses in a few debates, but else he keeps it locked, like a vault, so it would not remind him of the complete absurdity of his life.


Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Ethics, Mission, Reasonable Faith


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2 responses to “True be or not true be?

  1. Prayson Daniel

    July 3, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Worthy of reading, rereading and pondering. Thank you Pierce.


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