This is the second post in a series.
The last post urged the reader to be strong and courageous and not fear in the midst of these dangerous times. And knowing that we do not wage war against flesh and blood, I’d like to spend this time talking about how to kill the enemy, or at least one enemy in particular.
According to Scripture, we should take the following precaution:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
I assume you have already read the previous post where I explained what that word “spirit” means in greater detail.
However, in this case, the issue of empty deceit and philosophy is raised. Believe it or not, this is quite relevant to the current moment. The subject is Postmodernism, and it has recently grown exponentially in its strength and power to influence the thoughts and actions of men.
My claim is not that the philosophy of Postmodernism is the only enemy we have. Not at all. However, I do claim that as of late, it has a particular pernicious effect on the Christian faith and our public discourse. As of late, it has been the motivating factor for several riots, and it currently threatens the cohesion and peace of our society.
So let’s get down to business.
The Source of My Information on Post-Modernism
I have researched Postmodernism for several years at this point, and this is my report.
My information on Postmodernism comes from several sources. I have read a book by Stephen Hicks, called Explaining Postmodernism. Additionally, I have read “Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction,” by Christopher Butler. I have explored the legal realm of Postmodernism in fields like Critical Race Theory. I have seen Postmodernism at work in local churches and in large denominational associations. I have seen effects of Postmodernist thought in Christianity in movements like the Emergent Church, which now consists mostly of people who are no longer Christians.
As for the way that Postmodernism has been able to wed itself to Neo-Marxist thought and incorporate it into our politics, this video of Jordan Peterson explaining the phenomenon from his perspective is both very helpful and quite chilling, regardless of whether you agree with what that man has come to represent. I have also read the works of postmodernists and “anti-racists” (another post-modernist term), including “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibraim Kendi.
There are many things evil about this philosophy, including an outright strategy to lie and deceive. That will obviously take some work to prove, but just hold on, and I hope to show why I say that.
My Caveat to Christians
Now, there are many Christians who have some post-modern tendencies, and I do not wish to say that this philosophy stains and removes their salvation. That is not true. But while I wish to be truthful and specific, I must offer the strongest possible warning: To the degree you are post-modern, that is the degree to which you cannot be Christian.
I also believe, based on my observations, that to the degree that Postmodernism is accepted in society, that is the degree to which that society collapses.
The most basic level of Postmodernism is that it does not believe in objective truths. If there is a Postmodern artist, they will reject traditional notions of form and beauty, etc., and instead will use their art to “critique” the very medium they claim to be in. Gone is realism or even impressionism, and all of their forms. In its place is something like the artist Banksy, who does “street art” and occasionally auctions off a painting for $1.4 million dollars only to have it self destruct as soon as the auction gavel fell. That may be a funny prank if it was just a prank, but it’s not. That’s the philosophy. The Postmodern artist is sarcastic, nihilistic, and sees no real meaning in the discipline of art except “criticism,” which is a nice way to say “destruction.”
What Happens When You Do Not Believe in “Truth”
As a Christian, I have been quite frustrated when Christians in the past have discussed Postmodernism, because they have not understood it. In fairness, one of the reasons Postmodernism is not understood is that it deliberately tries not to be “understood.”
A running theme is that Postmodernist reject “labels,” not because a particular label is “wrong,” but because the very idea of connecting words to things in the world using “labels” is a way to communicate “truth,” which of course does not exist in Postmodernism.
Therefore, someone like the late Ravi Zacharias in this link has commented on Postmodernism in the following way:
Postmodernism is a mixed bag. There are some very dangerous elements to it where absolute truth became conditioned and relativism took hold. But you really don’t want a relativist in the land. You don’t want a relativist as a pilot. You don’t want them to say “I know that’s what the tower is saying and I know what the instruments are saying, but I’m going to fuse my own meaning into these readings.” So life cannot be lived on the postmodern cutting edge.
One thing postmodernism has done which is constructive is that it has a hunger for community. And that’s where I think the church should rise.
In contrast to this somewhat dismissive and “mixed-bag” Christian take on postmodernism, hear the claims of Jordan Peterson (whose academic work is the psychological underpinnings of totalitarian societies) about Postmodernism in the way it is playing out in our society today:
So you can think that there’s a postmodernist philosophy, that we’ll talk about a bit, that really came into its vogue in the 1970s after the traditional Marxism, especially of ht economic type had been so thoroughly discredited that no one but an absolute reprobate could support it publicly anymore . . .
They played sort of slight-of-hand game, in some sense, and re-branded themselves in the postmodern guise. And that’s where identity politics came from. And that spread like wildfire from France through Yale University and into the rest of the American universities. . . .
And so they started to play a sleight-of-hand, where instead of pitting the proletariat, working class, against the bourgeoisie, they started to pit the oppressed against the oppressor. And that opened the ability to pit the oppressed against the oppressor in any number of groups and continue the same narrative under a different name.
It was no longer about economics. It was about power. And everything to the postmodernist is about power. And that’s why they’re so dangerous. Because if you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who believes nothing except power, all they are motivated to do is accrue all the power to them. Because what else is there?
Or take the discussion between Jordan Peterson and a researcher in this video, where they make the following observation:
Researcher: So I got out a textbook, and it’s called “Race, Class, and Gender,” and it’s an anthology that’s used in cultural studies courses, women’s studies courses, so I’m told. And I’m reading it and — so I turn to page 14, and I can tell you it is page 14, because I was so astounded by what I found, and it said “Objectivity as found through rational thought is a Western and masculine concept that we will challenge throughout this text.”
Peterson: It’s too bad that you’re shocked by that.
Researcher: I couldn’t believe it! So you want to go for “irrational”!?
Peterson: The PC types have been saying exactly that since the 1970s. Make no mistake about this. . . . This isn’t something they’re secreting in. The whole notion of logic and coherence and empirical data for that matter —
Researcher: Evidence! They object evidence!
Peterson: “Let’s question the definition of evidence,” because the underlying idea — remember — the underlying idea here is that all hierarchies are predicated on power. So if the reason that I put forward something as evidence isn’t because it’s “evidence.” It’s because it’s evidence that I get to have that position of power. And so if you’re a postmodernist and you say “I’m going to question your evidence.” What you think you’re saying is “You’re going to question my claim to that arbitrary power.” The whole idea that there is evidence outside of arbitrary claims to power? The postmodernist dispensed with that in the 70s. That’s Derrida. That’s exactly what he said.
Researcher: And all this time, I’ve been trying to get samples of thousands so that I could say “You know, this is a little bit– or– we can say something– generalize”
Peterson: No, no. That just demonstrates how thoroughly entrenched you are in the reigning patriarchal ideology.
. . .
Researcher: How do they fall into these thoughts?
Peterson: We don’t want to fall into the mistake that this hasn’t been thought through. People aren’t just “misunderstanding” what evidence is. That isn’t what’s happening at all. When they say they want to question the definition of evidence, that’s exactly what they mean. Whenever they say they want to question the definition of evidence because the current definition of evidence currently supports the scientific power structure in Chemistry – say – and that’s fundamentally dominated by – say white men, we can go after the definition of evidence itself! And that’s how we’re going to bring it down.
This is the frightening thing about not believing in truth. “Evidence” in a modern sense is a way to find “the Truth.” But in Postmodernism, since “Truth” doesn’t exist, Evidence is a weapon that you use to conquer. Conveniently for the Postmodernist (but not the ordinary person), the Postmodernist’s evidence doesn’t need to be true, (because that doesn’t exist anyway, remember).
How Certain People Not Believing In Truth Have Changed Our Society
So if that sounds wildly crazy, let’s go down a short list of examples about how things can get strange when “truth” doesn’t matter.
- Remember Matthew Shepard? The gay teen who was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay?
- Do you remember how much of a social cause the death of Matthew Shepard had in the country’s moral understanding of LGBT rights?
- Did you know he was actually killed by one of his occasional gay lovers and that Matthew Shepard was his Meth dealer? (I don’t even have a separate link, as it’s all right there on the same Wikipedia page).
- Remember “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”? The battle cry of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Michael Brown?
- Remember Kim Davis? The Kentucky Court Clerk who did not want her name to appear on a gay marriage certificate for reasons of religious conviction?
- Have you ever wondered about how the definition of “racism” changed?
- Do you remember how it used to be “the belief that that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
- Do you ever wonder how “racism” is now somehow an expression of a power dynamic?
- Have you ever wondered how at one point, “sex” was biological and “gender” was the expression of certain categories, but now “sex” is only “sex assigned at birth” and has no real existence?
- Have you ever wondered how biological men can claim they are women and then go on to dominate women’s sports events?
- Do you need for me to go on?
This is the practical real-world effect of not believing in “Truth.” When truth doesn’t matter, “evidence” isn’t chosen because of its ability to point to “the truth” (which doesn’t exist). It’s chosen because of its ability to affect society and redistribute power (which is all that exists). Similarly, words don’t change because of natural development of language. Instead, they change for the purpose of gaining power. Statements are not made because the correspond with “the truth” (which doesn’t exist, remember). Instead, they are made for the purpose of building a narrative that accumulates power.
That is Postmodernism at work in society. Can you see examples in society?
The Non-Postmodernist Caveat for Society
Now, of course there are some very non-Postmodernist reasons for being in favor of LGBT rights, like “What does someone’s private life have to do with me?” or “If it’s not hurting me, why should I stop them from doing what makes them happy?”
These are not reasons that stand up very well in the light of Scripture, but they are significantly different than the very real Postmodern reason LGBT rights are with us, namely:
“The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” Obergefell v. Hodges
Only Postmodernism is capable of saying something so absurd that persons may define their “identity.” Otherwise, what makes a fake ID fake? A person’s identity is a statement of truth, which now, of course, does not exist. Now, instead of liberty being an objective state of justice in society, it is what people define and express.
Additionally, there are some very non-Postmodernist reasons for believing that “racism” is bad. Because… well… I hope I don’t have to explain. But what Postmodernism does is take that ordinary “truth” (which doesn’t exist, remember) and changes the meaning of the word in order to gain power. No longer does “racism” signify a belief or actions or intentions. Instead, it references what one group of people have – “privilege” – at the expense of another group of people.
When Truth Does Not Exist, but Power Does
There are many videos of riots that I could use to express what happens when “truth doesn’t exist, but power does” is put into practice, but some of them are too violent or troubling to link here. I don’t like watching videos of people dying or failing to defend their wives from violent mobs. Go find a Tucker Carlson monologue for that.
If you want a comical view of how lies are used to change people’s spirits, take a look at an example of failed execution to see how it works:
It’s funny until you realize that this is how riots start. The point of video and the light of day is to show “the truth,” but the truth doesn’t really exist, these opportunities are used to build “a narrative” of peaceful protests and wicked oppressors.
But when darkness falls, that’s when “truth” is no longer needed, and you see the final form of Postmodern philosophy. Look at this video to see what happens when the night comes, since I don’t want to display videos of people literally being murdered by mobs:
That’s what happens when Postmodernism comes out of the classroom and into the streets. This approving bystander wonders why his window was broken, screaming “We’re on your side! We’re on your side!”
What’s the point of that broken window? It’s just like Banksy’s artwork joke. The destruction IS the point. It’s a critique of the system. It is a critique of power structure. Don’t you get it? If you’re in the safe apartment or in the rich auction house, you’re a part of the power structure unless you join the mob in the streets.
When Postmodernism Comes for Christianity
And for all my Christian readers, have you seen the narrative of the “power structure” applied to certain things in the church? I have.
For example, here is a montage of the provost of a conservative seminary describing his emerging understanding of the concept of racism, which he explicitly says comes from outside the church:
When we talk about race, we’re not talking about biology, we’re talking about ideology. . . . It’s a currency. It has to do with power. It has to do with status. . . . I am a racist. So if that freaks you out, so if you think the worst thing that someone can call you is a racist, then you’re not thinking Biblically. Because I’m going to struggle with racism and white supremacy until the day I die and get my glorified body and a completely renewed and sanctified mind. Because I’m immersed in a culture where I benefit from racism all the time. . . .
Racism is actually the whole system built upon allocating privileges, power, opportunities, in inequitable ways on the basis of race. And that helps you understand “Okay, I don’t think I hold onto any racist ideology where I think ‘I’m better than people,'” but once the lights kind of come on and you realize that racism is a lot bigger than just that.
This is theologically monumental. Can you imagine the pastor of a large church saying that he is going to struggle with embezzlement until the day he dies? Why would we let him continue in his position?
And if you believe there is at the very least a grain of truth to these claims about oppression and injustice, then I say that’s the point. The most convincing lies are the ones that contain a grain of truth.
Examples of Postmodernism at Work in the Christian Church
In Christianity, the act of true confession and repentance is the act of a sin ceasing to occur. Since we can always fail again, we have a continual mindset of repentance.
However, in Postmodernism, there is no “true” confession confession and repentance (because that doesn’t exist, remember). Instead, those things are the way one group admits its sins to another group. The other group then uses this to obtain “power” but never grant forgiveness. For example, while I don’t know the back-story here, note the cameras, the visual, and the audio of this:
Did you hear that? “We ask for forgiveness from our black brothers for years and years of systematic racism.” Also, why pray that when some black brothers are standing over you as you kneel? Also, note that he does not ask forgiveness “for my own wrong actions” or “our false beliefs.” He asks for forgiveness for something “systemic.” Neither this man nor the ones he prays for are “the system.”
I don’t want to impugn the motives of this man, but he did not ask for forgiveness from God for “systemic” problems. He asked for forgiveness from a group of activists who stand in front of him as he and his flock kneel before them.
A Theological Question for Postmodernism and Christianity
In light of this, let me ask a question: When in Protestant Christianity have we ever recognized sins that are both unconscious and unintentional, and which also do not reside in the individual; When have we ever recognized and confessed sins dispersed among the entire population, which only arise in the aggregate?
What would it even mean to “confess” those sins? In such a case, how is “confession” different than “accusation”? Remember that Satan is both a liar and the accuser of the Church. (Revelation 12:9-11)
If Jesus says the following:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
How can that coexist with a philosophy that does not believe in “the truth”?
Also, let’s remember the example of Peter, who had zeal and activism, but did not stand with the truth:
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (John 13:37-38)
When Peter denies being a follower of Jesus, even though he is literally following Jesus (see John 18:15), does that align with a philosophy that doesn’t think the truth matters or one that does think the truth matters?
As Peter showed, it is one thing to know that the truth is knowable. It is another thing to actually know it.
My Caveat to Non-Postmodernist Motivations in the Church
Now, OF COURSE there are non-Postmodernist reasons to care about many of the things that Postmodernists champion. Many are explicitly commanded by Scripture.
But I would be willing to bet that the manner in which it is done is very different. Think for a minute, Christians: Have you seen narratives of “power” and “privilege” and “oppression” applied to “the poor,” or “minorities,” or “immigrants,” or “gay and lesbian,” or “trans,” and any number of groups? Why not approach these issues with Biblical categories like “truth,” “justice,” “fairness,” “sin,” “iniquity,” “charity,” “forbearance,” “forgiveness,” “peace,” “patience,” etc.
The Connecting Thread in the Spiritual War Against Our Society
Regardless of any of the underlying merit to the claim of “oppression” and “oppressor,” isn’t it strange how the same pattern of social argument seems to repeat itself, even with strange new terms like “able-ism, “the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’”? Isn’t this all WEIRD?
Is it even possible to connect subjects as disparate as gay rights, the definition of certain pronouns, racial strife, criminal justice, economic redistribution, categories of sin and theology, supposed beauty in art, and the standards of evidence both in science and law? If the thing that must connect them is “truth,” then probably not. But, you see, as “truth” doesn’t even exist, but “power” does, it is very easy to connect these disparate things that happen to have converged in the past few years, and especially in the past week.
That is a perfectly consistent explanation as to why a protest about the death of a black man could lead to broken windows, burning cars, and the destruction of poor and working-class people.
Though the thing in the news is rioters, remember what I said in my previous post. We are fighting a “spiritual” enemy:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:11-13)
So know your enemy, but most of all, seek the truth. As Christians, we know that the truth will set us free (John 8:32). We can stand confident that Jesus Christ in his person and spirit is the way we should go. He is the truth that we seek. He is the life that we desire. (John 14:6) Walk in the light, as he is in the light, (1 John 1:7) and remind yourself that there is no truth that allows one to break a window, vandalize a street, or burn a business.
Therefore, we cannot have fellowship with people who do not believe in the Truth. For we have been warned:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
But as always, we should carefully distinguish between those who capture and those who have been captured. Instead, I urge you, brothers, to admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)
Therefore, do not let your thoughts about right and wrong or even our ordinary and mundane systems of justice and peace be twisted by Postmodernism.
Instead, be watchful and alert, because our enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) If he catches you, screaming “We’re on your side! We’re on your side!” will not save you.
Next up is a call to action for ordinary citizens in these dangerous times.
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