Postmodernism- Facilitator's Guide
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This Facilitator’s Guide is intended to assist the facilitator lead the discussion of a group on the following topic. It is not meant to give an exhaustive review of the topic, but rather give pointers from the Bible. To that end we have inserted a few comments and Bible verses that are relevant to the discussion – this may help get the discussion started. For a more comprehensive study of this topic see the related online resources at the end of this guide.
"Postmodernism" is a worldview. Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/) defines "worldview" as:
The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
Everyone has a worldview. A "worldview" is often used synonymously with "philosophy" or "belief system." It is what reality is perceived to be. Because the prevailing "worldview" forms the basis of the way life is ordered and conducted in a society, an individual frequently accepts that worldview without examination. That is, it is assumed to be true without critical consideration of the validity of its postulates. One worldview in vogue in the western world today is called "postmodernism." This Bible study guide will lead you to critically examine "postmodernism" from biblical principles.
(It is recommended that before beginning that you first study the guide entitled "The Authority of the Bible" – volume 1, number 4.)
What is the "postmodern" worldview? The trunk of the tree of postmodernism is the proposition that "truth" is not absolute (or if it is, it can't be known). That is, "truth" does not transcend cultures or eras. "Truth" is what an individual or group (such as community, culture, society, club, nation) makes it. Consequently, what is "true" for one person may not be for another. As the nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in The Will to Power, "There are no facts, only interpretations." Anyone claiming to know "the truth" is trying to control others; he is seeking power over other people. Postmodernism has led to multiculturalism (the belief that no culture is better than another) and to "cafeteria religion." ("Cafeteria religion" means that a person's religion is composed of beliefs selected from different religions. For example, a person may believe in reincarnation, genuflect before a crucifix, read the Koran, and dance to honor the Great Spirit, all the while not being bothered by the fact those religions, from which those varying practices originate, conflict with one another.)
1. Why is tolerance such an important value to postmodernists?
· Postmodernists, believing that interpretation and opinion are as close as one can get to truth, then see that because this truth is not obtainable, everyone's interpretation and opinion is just as valid as anyone else's. Why? Because the only thing that proves an opinion wrong or an interpretation wrong is a fact. If there are no absolute facts, than all we have are opinions. Because of this, all opinions can then be accepted as equal because there is no way to gauge the accuracy of an opinion without fact. This is why tolerance is such a central theme to postmodernism. Postmodernists realize that if no opinion can be shown to be better than another opinion, then humans must be tolerant of every opinion and interpretation.
· In a postmodernist's mind, if truth cannot be known, than absolute right and wrong cannot be known, and must be decided on by the individual or society. The death penalty, though we all may feel differently about it, has been accepted by our states in the U.S. or declined by our states depending on what a majority agrees on, because they cannot perceive an absolute truth. Mankind has rejected God, thus has rejected the ability to be led by absolute truth. Without God, thus, without absolute truth, mankind has attempted to regulate itself by interpreting right and wrong for itself, using rules and opinions that are agreed on by a majority or by leadership.
The hierarchy of Postmodern Thought would look something like this:
1. Truth and Facts (if they exist)
Many postmodernists do not consider "ultimate truth" to be obtainable, so they must use some other means of creating legislation and maintaining order.
2. The opinions that a majority or body of leadership agrees on (in a society, community, etc.) The majority or an educated body of leadership would create rulesto regulate the common people and maintain order. These people's power or education allow their opinions to become the deciding factor in right and wrong.
3. Individual opinions
The opinions and interpretations that people feel on an issue, regardless of if others deem it to be correct or incorrect.
2. Can you give an example of a "cafeteria religion" held by someone you know?
3. Explain the inherent contradiction in the statement, "There is no absolute truth."
If there is no absolute truth, then no statement can be deemed "absolutely true." For this reason, the statement "there is no absolute truth" cannot be accepted as "absolutely true" if there is no absolute truth. How can one be expected to believe that the only completely true statement is that there are no completely true statements? The argument is flawed.
4. Other than multiculturalism and "cafeteria religion," what other beliefs might come from a postmodern worldview?
Deconstructionism is an interpretation of art and literature that stems from postmodernism. It is the idea that any book, story, poem, sculpture, drawing, etc., can be interpreted in any way, thus the art form's meaning is individually decided and created. This not only erases the author's or artist's intent when he or she created it, but this idea makes words and images meaningless. When words and images can mean anything, then they no longer serve a purpose. For example, if a sentence can mean anything, than those words no longer have a job, for the sentence you read can have the same meaning as a sentence with completely different words. If those words no longer have meaning, then the arrangement of letters no longer has any purpose. For example, if "cat" can be interpreted to mean anything, than why not use the made up word "waqre" to mean "cat?" When interpretation takes the place of fact, there no longer remains a purpose for any form of structure or language to explain or create meaning.
What is truth?
JOHN 18:38 – "Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'"
1. At what other time in history does the Bible indicate that people doubted one could know "truth"?
In Judges 17:6, the Bible speaks of a time in the history of Israel when the people who once followed God, who establishes truth and righteousness, left His guidance and "did what was right in their own eyes." In Romans 1:18-32, Paul discusses what happens when mankind chooses for himself what is right and wrong, mentioning that when we depart from God and the immutable truth that God established, we suppress God's truth in unrighteousness (v. 18). In doing so, mankind became futile in its thoughts (v. 21), so God gave these people over to a debased mind (v. 28).
2. Why do you suppose people doubt a person can know the truth?
Truth is a basis on which one can build an understanding of right and wrong. Truth is what should influence our choices, so that one choice is favored over the other wrong choices. If there is no truth, than no one can call someone else's decision a wrong or right choice. However, a truth-less society creates the grounds for allowing people to choose and act any way they want, and hurt as many people as they want to, and no one can say that it is wrong for them to do so because in an absence of truth, right and wrong are subjective to the individual making the decision. This way leads to pain and anguish in the lives of the decision makers and those that they affect.
JOHN 17:17 – "….Your word is truth."
3. What did Jesus say is truth? Was Jesus quoting scripture? Read Psalm 119:160 and answer.
NOTE: Psalm 110:160 does not exist. The intended scripture was probably Psalm 119:160.
It could very well be that Jesus is quoting scripture. David proclaims that the word has been true from the beginning, or, as some translations read, "the sum of your word is truth," meaning the sum, the grand total of all words spoken, is completely and purely true. God does not lead astray or tempt (James 1:13), so all His words can be accepted as truthful.
4. Where does one find God's word? Consider 2 Timothy 3:16.
The Bible is composed of the inspired writings of God's servants. The books contained in the Bible were worded and composed according to the direction and inspiration of God.
NOTE: For a more in depth analysis of the authenticity and authority of the Bible, feel free to read these on-line booklets:
How to Understand the Bible
Is the Bible True?
PSALM 119:151 – "You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth."
5. What else composes truth?
Not only are the commands and guidance of God true, but His promises are true and will be actualized, for God can not lie (Hebrews 6:17-18).
JOHN 14:6 – "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life….'"
6. What did Jesus mean by saying He was "the truth"?
Jesus lists three aspects of Himself, stating that He is the way, truth, and the life. He then goes on to say that, "No one comes to the Father except through me." This brings meaning to the three attributes which Christ had already named by connecting these three aspects with reaching the Father. In order to come to the Father, you must come through Jesus, for He is the way by which you reach the Father, the truth, or the true means by which to be brought to the Father, and the life that is shed so that we may take part in the relationship, while also being the example of life and how we should live our lives.
Nature of Truth
MATTHEW 11:2-5 – "'And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.'"
1. How was John to learn the truth about who Jesus was?
John would learn that Jesus was the Messiah by not only the miracles that Jesus performed, but by the message He preached and the example that He set. Everything He did had to be in accordance with God and the truth in order for Him to be the Messiah and not a false prophet (see John 5:30).
Comment: Truth corresponds to reality and reality consists of all there is—seen and unseen. Since there is more to the universe than just individual people, truth must correspond to what exists outside of a person's own body, his own brain, his own thoughts, his own feelings. Hence when Jesus answers John's question, He tells John to look for the truth by looking at the evidence, to look at what was occurring in reality.
2. Why did Jesus mention those particular acts? Why should those acts convince John that Jesus was truly the Christ (Messiah)?
It was prophesied that the LORD would heal the blind, the lame, and the deaf when God dwelt with man in Isaiah 35:4-6. However, while The Word, Jesus, did dwell with men and do these things, it is important to remember that the passage in Isaiah 35:4-6 has prophetic events yet to be fulfilled. The miracles done by Jesus were so numerous that John wrote in his gospel that he supposed that if they were all written down, that the world itself could not contain all the books that could be written (John 21:25). Miracles this numerous were a unique spectacle that do not appear to be as prevalent preceding the life of Christ, and that fact in and of itself may have been intended as evidence to John that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
PSALM 100:5 – "…His truth endures to all generations."
PSALM 117:2 – "…the truth of the LORD endures forever …."
3. Postmodernism claims truth is relative, that it doesn't exist through the ages. What does the Bible say about the accuracy of that claim?
Jesus Christ, who is part of the Godhead alongside the Father, "is the same yesterday today and forever" (Hebrew 13:8 ESV). As dedicated Christians, we should take comfort in the fact that our role model is not given to flaws, but has set for us a consistent example. God established a consistent truth, for "it is impossible for God to lie," thus making it impossible for God to establish anything that would be truthful at one time, and then wrong at another. By this we know that truth has existed through the ages.
Comment: Mankind does "look through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV) at some matters, so mankind's knowledge may not be total, with the result that we may not see reality with complete clarity on some matters. This is certainly true with scientific investigations. However, postmodernism extends this view of truth to the realm of morals and ethics. God is eternal and has created all that exists; therefore, His definition of truth is everlasting. Since God has inspired the Bible, we can know some things that are absolutely true.
PROVERBS 14:12 (16:25) - "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
JEREMIAH 10:23 – "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps."
DEUTERONOMY 30:15-20 – "'See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish…. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers … to give them.'"
4. Does the Bible agree with postmodernism concerning man's ability to know the truth about how to live? What about the belief that what is true for one person may not be for another?
The Bible is quite clear: God is a required part of our lives, and only by His direct intervention can we ever hope to be guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. Mankind falls short of being able to discern properly what is right and wrong, for all cultures and societies are in flux over the interpretation of many aspects of morality. Since God has established Truth, there can be only one truth: The truth he established. Therefore, what is true for God must be true for each individual—no matter what society he or she lives in. See the above scriptural reference (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) in which God told Israel that if they obeyed Him, they "may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you."
5. What is likely to happen when one discounts revealed truth in the Bible?
When we reject scripture, we reject the words and guidance of God. Paul recorded in Romans 1:28 that God gave up those who would not retain Him in their knowledge to follow their debased and evil mind. To prevent this, James records that we are to submit ourselves to God, and thus, resist the devil, that he might flee from us (James 4:7).
DEUTERONOMY 4:5-8 – "'Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them…. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? ''"
6. Postmodernism says that truth is relative to each culture. Does the above scripture agree with that assessment? Why or why not?
This scripture does not support the Postmodern assessment of truth. This scripture clearly shows that there is an absolute in understanding, which God would teach to the Israelites.
DEUTERONOMY 12:29-32 – "'When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.'"
1. Postmodernism sees every culture as morally equivalent, and that one should not judge the culture of other peoples. Is God happy with every culture?
In the context of the cultures and ways of Samaria and Sodom, God rebuked those who participated with them, for "Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways" (Ezekiel 16:47). This is an outright condemnation of their involvement with the cultures that were contrary to the ways of God.
COMMENT: A postmodern believer, in order to be consistent, would have to accept child sacrifice as a legitimate activity.
PSALM 19:7 – "…The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple"
ISAIAH 8:20 – "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
2. What does God say about the reliability of His inspired Word? Is it the wisest basis for determining behavior?
God inspired Paul to record the fact that scripture is able "to make you wise for salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15). His word is the guide and the instruction that prepares us for our jobs as Christians.
3. How should you regard activities in any culture that conflict with God's law?
As Christians, we should not participate in the activities that conflict with God's law. How are we to be a "light unto the world" (Matthew 5:14) if we go along with what everyone else is doing? In fact, we should do the opposite and set the example of participating in wholesome activities that would not offend God.
1. Can one worship the true God in any fashion, with any ceremony and have it accepted by God? How do you know?
Matthew 15:9 clearly shows that God considers certain forms of worship to be unacceptable, thus it is not possible to worship God in just any manner. We should worship Him in the ways He has requested.
JOHN 4:23-24 – "'But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'"
2. What is the only acceptable way to worship God?
John 4:23-24 – "'But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'"
We must become baptized followers of Jesus Christ. We must partake of the Holy Spirit, live our lives by walking according to the Spirit, and live according to the truthful scriptures.
ACTS 4:12 – "Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
3. How many religions teach that Jesus is the only way to salvation?
This concept is unique to Christianity, but even in Christianity, there are some denominations that believe in alternate means to salvation, such as salvation through the “Virgin Mary.”
4. A common belief is that all religions worship the same God. Is that true? How do you know?
This is not an accurate belief, for God Himself reveals to the church in Corinth that the gentiles (non-Jews) were not worshiping Him, but would "sacrifice to demons and not to God" (1 Corinthians 10:20).
1. What expressions have you heard that you think fit with the postmodern worldview?
"Do what is right in your own eyes."
"Everything is up for individual interpretation."
2. What is "truth"? Does it transcend cultures and time? How does it relate to the outside world?
Truth is everything that composes reality, be it seen or unseen.
Truth is not subjective to culture or time.
The outside world supports individuals doing as they see fit, as opposed to finding guidance from the scriptures and relying on God.
3. How must we worship God?
We must worship God by dedicating our lives to constantly working on the development of godly character while keeping all that He commands us to do. As a designed part of the creation, God has set up commandments and a life style that is specific to helping us live in a manner that yields happiness and blessings. Since God designed us, He knows how we should live in order to enjoy life and His blessings, so we put our faith in Him and His ways.