RPM, Volume 12, Number 13, March 28 to April 3 2010


By Scott Schuleit

* Please note that this article was written a few years or so, before I had even met my dear wife. I no longer flirt — except with my wife.

"Sir, I can check out your items over here if you'd like."

Turning, I encountered an attractive young woman.

"Oh … o.k. … uh … sure," was my dazzling, eloquent response.

Did I detect some attempt at a flirtation in her actions? It was more than just her question which had brought me to consider this possibility, but the total, mysterious complex of at least several subtle expressions conveyed through her body language.

Yes, I think I did, though I could have been either deluded, (history verifies this possibility) misinterpreting a simple act of kindness, or merely massaging my ego. Part of the basis for my conclusion in the affirmative was supported by the fact that she had repeated the same scenario when I was in the store a week or two ago.

She then led the way to a different section of the store (a health food store) and proceeded to check out my items. The last time this occurred we had engaged in some small talk and she seemed to be waiting for me to talk to her again. I then (to my shame) began to flirt right back, incorporating the timeworn humorous approach to begin a conversation. Her smile and immediate response seemed to support my earlier conclusions concerning her interest.

While amidst a lively conversation concerning philosophy and literature (the latter being a subject I had studied at the same college she was currently attending) she asked me where I worked.

"A ministry." She wasn't sure what I meant by this.

"A Christian ministry," I clarified. At this point one could say the conversation grew somewhat livelier. She immediately informed me that she was Jewish. And soon after, she asked me a pointed question. "Do you really believe in the existence of hell?"

"Yes," was my quick response, "yes I do." This firm assertion opened up the door to another topic.

Though she was Jewish, she informed me that she didn't believe in much of what an orthodox Jew would believe, and she proudly proclaimed that she was a postmodernist and a feminist. In light of the college she was attending, this failed to surprise me. At the heart of the philosophical movement known as postmodernism, is the belief that truth is not universal, but derived from and dependent upon the separate beliefs of individuals or groups. Thus, they believe that there are many different, equally valid realities based on various interpretations of the external and internal worlds.

We then began to respectfully debate whether a relativistic worldview or an objective one corresponded to reality. Before she could be presented with the gospel and come to a belief in Christ, she needed to come to a belief in objective truth, or truth that is independent and universal, and is not derived from nor dependent on the beliefs of any creature or culture.

"There is no such thing as absolutes."

"You just framed your statement as an absolute …."

"I know, I know, there's contradictions, I'm still trying to figure it out."

She began to try and convince me of the absolute truth of her viewpoint that there is no such thing as absolute truth! She began to use the tools of logic and reason, elements stolen from an objective view of the universe to try and dismantle my objective, Christian worldview, and assert her relativistic framework. Postmodernists communicate the belief that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and then, in a flash, turn around and implicitly declare a belief in objective truth as being wrong! Here's a thought: if postmodernists really believe in a universe devoid of absolutes, why would they even bother to express their views since communication within such a system would be rendered meaningless. It's not too difficult to see that at a fundamental level, the postmodern outlook is grossly illogical. It immediately implodes through its own contradictions.

"Lenora, (her real name was different) it's been my experience that those who embrace a postmodern framework, are not even consistent within their own worldview, but merely particular in what they choose to believe corresponds to reality."

With regard to this statement, I think it's obvious that those who embrace the postmodern mood, whether they realize it or not, pick and choose from reality to suit their desires. For example, we don't see too many postmodernists who disbelieve in the existence of gravity and proceed to prove this by jumping off of buildings and flapping their arms in an effort to fly. I think it's fair to assume that most — if not all postmodernists — passionately believe that while out driving it's a rather sound idea to stop their cars at a red light. In short, relativists are almost never true relativists. Perhaps the only true relativists are those who live within the confines of an insane asylum.

I think it's interesting to note that questions lying within the category of ethics seem to get stressed by postmodernists as being relative — as being a matter of personal choice — more often than other aspects of existence. Ethics is a branch in philosophy that deals with understanding and establishing a governing system of principles concerning what is right and wrong for an individual or a body of people. This is an area of which, particularly in its Christian expression, often has the annoying tendency to clash with the insatiable desires of the flesh. Some of those (not all) who follow the philosophy of postmodernism are really sensualists, who are merely attempting to legitimize their sinful behavior through the comfort of a fashionable and licentious system of thought.

At one point in the conversation, I tried to convince her of the existence of a uniform, transcendent reality for us all, by giving an example of a universal, which is something that is true for all people at all times and in all places. It was an obvious, graphic example of an injustice committed against an old lady. Offering forceful narratives and concrete examples reflecting human experience (rather than focusing solely on abstract philosophy) can be particularly effective in reaching postmodernists since they exalt experience and narrative. I imagine this story had an affect on her, because within her worldview, if she wishes to remain consistent concerning her conception of the cosmos, namely, the belief that all personal perceptions are equally valid, then she must acknowledge the validity of actions committed by some of the most corrupt individuals and governments in history.

Among the vast assortment of negative consequences postmodernism produces, one of the worst is the isolation, fragmentation, and alienation brought about through the privatization of experience. Tragically, our culture (it's infected the church as well) is becoming increasingly like this, containing unmoored individuals adrift within their own tiny little worlds, running away from reality, constructing what they believe should be right and wrong. Perhaps actual cases of individuals indulging in the absurd fantasy of solipsism (the belief that only the self exists and reality merely reflects changes from within the self) will rise in years to come. Whether or not it will, some already live (in a way) as if they are the only individuals in existence. Our general culture is becoming increasingly composed of more and more separate, intensely personal subcultures. It's breaking down. Predictably, as a result, we have a nation where — as in the days of the judges of Israel, "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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