Post Truth

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Contemporary man postulates not the emptiness of truth, but the danger of truth (Chantal Delsol)

Unless we are defending the faith at the point where it is being attacked in our generation, we are not defending the faith (Martin Luther)

 

The title of this essay is the new “word of the year” as chosen by The Oxford Dictionary. It is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. This is a perfect representation of where our society has traveled in its post modern maturity. The generation known as The Nones are known for their lack of belief in any objective truth, much less biblical truth. They see danger in anyone who believes they hold truth or truths that devalue, or are intolerant of, or invalidate all beliefs. (We will discuss the contrasting views of the new versus the old definitions of tolerance in a later essay). How or what you feel become the measurement of truth.

Joseph Buttom, in First Things Magazine writes,

The pre-moderns said that without God, there would be no knowledge, and the post-moderns say we have no God and have no knowledge.

Are we to understand that we have “progressed” from post-modernity to post-truth? Have the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault finally taken hold of our entire culture and vocabulary and the way we define who we are? Hardly, but they do add to the need for a biblically orthodox apologetic that has and can answer the biblically antithetical viewpoint being argued.

Gresham Machen, in his seminal work of the early 1900’s, Christianity and Liberalism, argues

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture.

In other words, arguing for the biblical view in our culture is the primary commitment we need to make as believers.

This battle is not new, nor is it a threat to a biblical point of view. The Enlightenment was seen as a threat, the Scientific Revolution was seen as a threat, and even the Industrial Revolution was seen as a threat. When we began the Twentieth Century relativism, modern philosophies, and atheism were not the only threats to orthodox christianity. Liberal theology and theologians were also complicit of the “threat” to biblical orthodoxy. Barth and those of similar ilk, along with the modern philosophers, sought to remove the supernatural from the Bible.

More recently, we have seen the focus shift to attacks on objective truth. Foundations have been destroyed through a philosophical deconstruction of truth and knowledge. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, in his book, Intimations of Postmodernity, states,

The postmodern mind seems to condemn everything, propose nothing. Demolition is the only job the postmodern mind seems to be good at. Deconstruction is the only construction it recognizes.

By deconstructing the idea of objective truth, what we feel and believe become more important than foundational truths of any kind, much less biblical truth.

The proponents of “post truth” do not want objective truth to be an option for society, but they propose “nothing” by arguing feelings and emotions are more important.

In the Bible, the primary word for truth conveys that one can actually know truth. It is not something just to rely on or trust. Modern man, in seeking to devalue truth as a concept, also argues against holding real knowledge. Gone is the idea proposed by Descartes, I think therefore I am. Without a foundation of knowledge man cannot comprehend his own reality.

In postmodernism you either assume there is no truth, or that you cannot know it. For the proponent of post truth, not only is there no truth, and therefore no absolute(s), we also have no real ability to know. How then do we reach out to a culture that revels in relativism and obstinance? As Carl Trueman writes,

The church is a culture and the West is now an anti-culture…to engage a culture there must first be a culture to engage.

Here, over a century later Truman says the culture Machen speaks of no longer exists. And yet, our task remains the same.

The church must apply its understanding of biblical orthodoxy to its apologetic. Christians need an understanding of modernity, postmodernity, culture, and philosophical and theological ideas within the evangelical church that have weakened our biblical foundations.

Our Identity in Christ

 

What does it mean to find our identity in Christ? How do we live our daily lives with the knowledge that our identity is to be found in Christ? It is a deep question with an answer that must be biblical for it to be truthfully and fully complete. Jerry Bridges, in his book, Who Am I, Identity in Christ , states

“We must remind ourselves that God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ, and the love which the Father has for his Son flows over to us because we are in him.”

Bridges raises two important points here. First, we are “in Christ”, which describes our union with him through his death, burial, and resurrection. We will look at this later in more depth. Secondly, the Father’s love for us comes to us through his son. This is another important point to understand. We have done nothing to earn God’s love. Just as faith is provided to His elect to believe (Eph. 2:8-9), we cannot earn anything from God.

Our acceptance by God comes to us because of Christ’s sacrifice. We have a good description of this in I Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All of humanity is “in Adam” because of the Fall. And, with Christ’s sacrifice, those whom God chooses, are “in Christ”. All humans, in God’s eyes, are found in one of the two Adams.

Again, in the same chapter, Paul adds to this thought,

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Those who are “in Christ” find themselves the recipients of Christ’s life giving spirit. Remember the quote above, “…not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ.”

This being true, how was it accomplished? Once again, Paul describes how we are “in Christ” in Romans 6:5-11

For if we have been united with him in death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The word used for “united” in these verses means that we were “born together with”, or have “a joint origin”. This is how the Bible describes our union with Christ, both in His life and death. In his Romans commentary, John Murray makes an important statement regarding this verse

The death of Christ was not a process and neither is our conformity to his death a process. We are in the condition of having become conformed to his death.

As we see in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…”. Justification of our life in Christ is immediate, while sanctification is an ongoing, daily relationship with Christ, through His Spirit. It is our continuing in the Spirit, via our union with Christ, that both provides us with our new identity, and confirms our salvation. We have been delivered from who we were, in Adam, to who we are now and forever, in Christ.

Much more can and has been said on this topic, but this is a simple answer to a very important question. Who am I?

 

Philosophy Friday

The term for today is Pantheism. Pantheism is the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe.
Hinduism, Celtic spirituality, and Native American beliefs are three of many religions that hold pantheistic beliefs. In the last thirty years “New Age” beliefs have also held pantheistic beliefs.
The belief itself is rather fragmented in what is believed, and how it is practiced. Traditional theism believes and teaches the omnipresence of God. A view that states that God, as Creator, is everywhere, and oversees all things. Antithetically, pantheism states that God is everywhere in everything. As the Creator, there is no necessity for God to be in His creation.
Pantheists view the universe as infinite, but do not allow for an infinite deity as its creator. Well known figures who have espoused pantheism are Spinoza, Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, and Einstein.

Philosophical Friday

Our philosophical term for the day is naturalism. There are a variety of ways of defining naturalism. We will use the philosophical definition of “methodological naturalism”.
“Methodological Naturalism” asserts that religious commitments have no relevance within science-natural science itself requires no specific attitude to religion, and can be practiced just as well by adherents of religious faiths as by atheists or agnostics. Alvin Plantinga, a leading christian philosopher, disagrees with this definition. He believes that religious doctrines do make a difference to scientific practice, yet are defensible for all that.
The majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject “supernatural” entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the “human spirit”.
Proponents of naturalism in the early nineteenth century included John Dewey, Sidney Hook, and Ernest Nagel.

Nihilism

Nihilism is the belief that traditional morals, ideas, beliefs, etc., have no worth or value. It also believes that a society’s political and social institutions are so bad that they should be destroyed. In the 20th century, nihilism encompassed a variety of philosophical and aesthetic stances that, in one sense or another, denied the existence of genuine moral truths or values, rejected the possibility of knowledge or communication, and asserted the ultimate meaninglessness or purposelessness of life or of the universe.

Friedrich Nietzsche argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” (Will to Power). In the twentieth century, it’s the atheistic existentialist movement, popularized in France in the 1940s and 50s, that is responsible for the currency of existential nihilism in the popular consciousness. Sartre, Camus, and Jean-Francois Lyotard combined their existentialism and post-modernism with nihilism to bring meaninglessness as a philosophy into our day.

Philosophy Friday

Our word for this week is  existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.
Most attribute the philosophy with Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher from the early nineteenth century. Friedrich Nietzsche is also considered a proponent of the philosophy, although he connected more with Nihilism.
In the twentieth century Jean Paul Sartre, is considered to be the philosopher who provided a foundation for the philosophy in all areas of life. Karl Jaspers, Martin Buber, and Martin Heidegger were also part of an existential cultural movement in Europe during and after World War II.
Liberal theologians, most notably Karl Barth, sought to make Christianity compatible with existentialism. However, there is no real Biblical connection that could exist between the two. There is a wide variety of philosophical, religious, and political ideologies that make up existentialism so there is no universal agreement in a set list of ideals and beliefs.
Here are a few differences between existentialism and Christianity:

Existentialism states that the world is absurd, and there is no hope. Christianity states that the world is absurd, and it is a wonder there is hope.

Existentialism is opposed to rationalism and traditional Christianity is not.

Existentialism asserts that man is free from imposed moral values. Traditional Christianity believes in God’s transcendent universal moral values.

Existentialism asserts that each person is their own authority concerning truth. Traditional Christianity insists that God is the absolute final authority over His creation and all things.

Existentialism believes that existence precedes essence. Traditional Christianity believes that a person’s essence is predestined from God and precedes existence.

It is essential for believers to know and understand many of the historical and cultural worldviews for us to be able to correctly and effectively defend the Biblical worldview. Continue to follow this series on Fridays, and our Theology Tuesday every week also. Please leave comments or ask questions below.

A New Series Begins This Week

This week I will begin a series of posts on Tuesdays and Fridays. I will define and discuss a theological term on Tuesdays, and a philosophical term on Fridays. I hope to make this a regular feature for the near future.
Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or make suggestions of terms and topics you would like to know or understand better. So, be looking for the posts, “Theological Tuesdays”, and “Philosophical Fridays”.  And leave your comments and questions.

The Nicene Creed

The church has a history. The problem is too many Christians do not know it, and are not really inclined to learn it. And this is one of many problems with the modern church today. We have forgotten, we know we have forgotten, but it is not important. It happened hundreds of years ago, and it doesn’t affect me today.

The Nicene Creed is one such forgotten and unimportant historical document. Never mind that it focused the church on the Trinity, set the foundation for theology within the church, and argued against the heresies of the day. If you really believe that it is irrelevant to our life as Christians, and to the life of the church, read it. You will see the necessity of the thoughts involved, and the theology stated. We need this theology today. We cannot emphasize it enough in our worship services, and in our own daily lives. Yes, the Bible is always primary, but the creeds are taken from the scriptures. We need the creeds to remind us of God’s Word, our history, and our ties to that history. For hundreds of years the church has recited this creed in worship, and we need to remember who we are, and from where we have come.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.