What is Truth: Part 1 image. One Way.

Postmodernism and The Reality

In Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone12 Comments

“…every man did that which was right in their own eyes.”  Judges 21:25 (KJV)

It’s crazy what gets my noodle going. One day when I came home from work, I slipped the wrong key into the lock of door. And when it didn’t open, my mind started thinking on this notion of exclusivity.

Earlier that day I was accused of arrogance for not only believing in one real “Truth” and path to God, but also in claiming that I’d found it! As I stood there in front of my door with the wrong key, it became oddly interesting that the lock on my door required one pattern of key to unlock it. I thought, Perhaps this door is arrogant for not letting me in!

Silliness, I know. Doors don’t have feelings, I know. They can’t be arrogant. Equally silly is the notion that someone could be angry at an “audacious” door that dare not allow me to get in with any key I choose to use to unlock it. How rude! If I were to lay a slew of similarly shaped keys on the ground, each of us might perceive a different key to open the lock on my door. But only one pattern will work.

And yet, the society we live in is a society that embraces the idea that anyone can decide anything is true. Any notion, any thought, any belief. Everything perceived truth and reality… is truth and reality. Any key can open any door, as long is I think it will. Any highway will lead me to any place in the world, so long as I believe it is so.

How we intellectually arrived to such a place, I have no idea. It’s the biggest slight-of-hand in history. It’s both baffling and frustrating. I can Satan telling his cronies with a slithery grin, “I’ve got a way to get them to believe anything we want them to.”

I think of those scenes in cop movies when a witness is standing behind a dark glass while a parade of suspects come walking in with little number signs held across their chest. Only one of those guys actually committed the crime. How the witness remembers it, who it thinks he saw, none of that changes the fact that of these suspects, only one did the crime. There is only one correct answer.

One. Correct. Answer.

This is the idea of exclusivity – the idea that a thing can be set up to have only one entry point, one key pattern, one combination for entry. One reality. One truth. And it is this idea that has turned off so many in what is an increasingly postmodern society – a society that challenges any notion of absolute truth.

PostModernism

Such a sophisticated, intelligent sounding word, Postmodernism is the opposite of exclusivity. And often, like the guy in my conversation, those who hold to a postmodern worldview attack throw around words like arrogant to describe those who are not. A postmodern worldview essentially says there is not one key pattern for my door, but many key patterns, as long as I think so. Postmodernism says the witness can choose the wrong suspect in that dark room, and still be correct simply because they believe they are telling the truth. Skepticism is at the heart of postmodernism. It fuels its rejection of exclusivity. It refuses to settle on any one idea as good enough for all. It says each person can reveal their own truths, their own realities.

And to that, I ask simply this. If there is not one truth, then how many are there? Infinite? If so, does that even make sense?

Listen, I know conversations surrounding postmodernism can feel intense and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. To debunk the ideas behind postmodernism, you need only think back five minutes. What were you doing five minutes ago? Watching TV? Reading a book? Perusing this article?  Now, what if someone said you weren’t doing that? They’d be wrong. Despite what they think, despite what they perceived, they’d be wrong. And there you have it folks, absolute truth.

Truth is not in the eye of the beholder (and I may be able to make the case that neither is beauty, for that matter.) There is only one reality. There is only one truth. And frankly such a notion is so easy to prove that I don’t understand why we have to engage in a conversation about it at all.

It doesn’t matter how many religions and dogmas exist in the world, there is only one true meta-narrative. Maybe we’ve found it. Maybe we haven’t. But because we can’t be absolutely certain, does it mean we should swing open the door and allow all comers? No. There was only one beginning, and there will be only one end. We should be careful not to, in the name of tolerance, invite and settle in on a pluralist worldview that borders on the ridiculous — that basically says any and every key will open any and every door. Such skeptical tenets of postmodernism shrink the needle of truth and tosses it into a haystack that never stops growing. It’s no wonder the real truth is so hard to find.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this. If we accept all answers as true then we can accept none of them as true. Your truth would cancel out mine, and ours the next man’s. And that is the trick of the devil. The greatest lies are not simply false, they also cast doubt on the one real truth. They set themselves so similar to The Truth that it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference. In this, The Truth becomes invisible or indistinguishable from the other lies.

Our perceptions do not define The Reality, it only defines our individual, perceived realities. The Reality is much like time. It is a force that cannot be tampered with. Unchangeable, rigid, and unable to be manipulated. The Reality simply is. Truth is tied to The Reality. Thus The Truth, too, simply is.

Our perceptions are a matter of awareness, not reality. Very seldom are our knowledge and understanding products of the bird’s-eye view needed to understand reality as it truly is. So I commend postmodernism for its open mind to the awareness that we may have misunderstood, or have not fully grasped The Truth. But to take the stance that there are no absolutes kills the search for Truth before it begins. Or, it at least makes for a very short journey. There must be a process of elimination. There must be wrong answers. There must be exclusivity.

The Bible says that Jesus is the Truth. And while I have not yet made the case that He is, I hope to have at least laid the groundwork for the idea of exclusivity. The idea that all is not relative. That truth is an unalterable, unchangeable single force that we must become discover, not create.

What are your thoughts on the idea of exclusive, absolute truth?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
12 comments
@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Oh, and I like the prodigal son example, too.(though I can hear the postmodernists offer some complaint with it). The one truth has to do with what is the source of love. Both of the other sons thought it was work Hence "I'll just be a slave" from the one, and "how come I don't get appreciated" from the other. They are both operating on the same love economy (perhaps this is what the father had shown). But their perception of the father's position was incorrect. Anywho... you said it well, so I won't rehash. Thanks for the comments!

@timmcgeary
@timmcgeary

There are a lot of elements to this post that over simplify what I think you are trying to get at. That isn't to say that ultimately there isn't truth here, but oversimplifying often does a disservice to your argument. First off, I would say that you are extremely oversimplifying postmodernism. It's isn't motivated by moving away from absolutes into relativism. It is, however, moving away from the enlightenment motivation of modernism and into a distrust of the meta-narratives that one must agree to in order to become "enlightened" to truth. A good read on this is "Who's Afraid of Postmodernism" by James K.A. Smith, who analyzes postmodernism from a Christian perspective. Second, I think we oversimplify God and His creation. If we truly believe that God has created the whole world and everyone in it, then we need to believe that God has created each person's uniqueness, and that God has created that person within a specific family, within a specific culture, within a specific time period, within a specific gender, etc. God's handiwork is weaved in and out of the whole world, and God creates his beings to reflect His image. That's a broad spectrum of God's work that doesn't seem to limit God's power. Just as important, it is well defined that if I were born into a Arabic family, I would grow up within the Muslim faith, the Muslim culture, and would be making the exact same argument as here, except with a diametrically opposed one-truth. We have millenia of historical conflicts that show how this "argument" between the greatest followed one-truths has played out. So in our discussion, where do we go next? To me, it is to the love of God exemplified by Jesus. What does that love require us to do next? Not to pursue verbal or written arguments; not to pursue physical confrontation. Neither of those has worked out for either one-truth. I believe this love requires us to meet others like the father does with his lost sons in Jesus's parable. To the younger son, he runs to meet his son on the road, not giving him a chance to justify why he came back into his father's presence. He clothes him, he accepts the son back into the family, and he celebrates fully. To the older son, he also goes out to him, and invites him to the celebration. But the older son is holding onto a one-truth, a one-truth that doesn't have room for his younger son, or for the father for that matter. In this case, the only one-truth that really matters, that blesses all within the story, is the father's one-truth. The father, and the two sons, each have their own one-truth perspective. But Jesus clearly shows us that the one-truth of the father, his love, matters, because the father is the one who can offer that love, can give that love, can invite the sons into that love. So, I'll end with my own oversimplifying statement: God's one-truth is all that matters to me, and like the younger and older sons, I cannot comprehend or understand it at all.

@DrPastorMichael
@DrPastorMichael

Excellent post....very thought provoking. We must fight for the ONE truth, the truth found in the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura

DrPastorMichael
DrPastorMichael

I see the views of "sosnovsken" to be very dangerous. Post-modernism does not "see the world in color", post-modernism denies the ability for absolute truth and really is a denial of truth. If I am a true Post-modernist, then the gospel is not really the gospel, no one really knows what the truth of the gospel is anymore. If we "swing the door wide open" for all people, then we also swing it open for all their ideas of truth, especially if someone denies the reality of absolute truth. In Post-modernism, truth is whatever you think that it is. I preached a message one time in which I said, "I do not care what the Scriptures mean to you and you should not care what the Scriptures mean to me; I care about what the Scriptures mean". I am thankful that when I stand in the pulpit each Lord's Day, I am giving my people the only truth because I am giving them the Scriptures. We are not on a search for truth' we have the truth, we have all of it; the Holy Scriptures. Any deviation from that is not truth.

sosnovsken
sosnovsken

Interesting post. I agree with some points and disagree with others... but will say this. I think that for a lot of people, post-modernism is not a wishy-washy, "let's swing the door open for all people" philosophy. You see, many people are just tired of the black and white lens in which modernism is so quick to view things from. In doing this we tend to define absolutes that put God in a box, when in reality he transcends everything. Post-modernism attempts to see the world in color... which really ends up putting God in a bigger box. Maybe it is futile... but I think people will always seek to find richer definitions of God. Some find this heretical... some find it liberating. I'm not sure what camp I am in. Just my two cents.

Rob
Rob

love the key analogy. right on!

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Good word! The issue usually comes in how we interpret the scriptures.And this is where there is a possibility for a form of postmodernism even inside Christianity. And this is where expository teaching/preaching is paramount (which I assume is what you mean when you we "what the Scriptures") -- rightly dividing the word of truth. That, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit will lead us to all truth. Thanks for your comments.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

I hear what you are saying sosnovsken, but the deal is this... reality is black and white. Either something is or it isn't. Either something happened or it didn't happen. Perceptions vary, truth is exclusive. That said, I agree that we should be careful about putting God 'in a box', unless of course there is a box God has placed himself in (i.e. Jesus voluntarily "boxed" himself in human flesh). Too, we should be open to new Truths God reveals about Himself and us as we grow closer to him. Or even, that we could have been wrong to begin with. But the rejection of absolute truth is a rejection of reality, which will ultimately lead to a rejection of God and the gospel of Jesus' sacrifice.

sosnovsken
sosnovsken

I agree with you when you say that there is truth. I really believe that there is truth and that God sees and understands things perfectly. When I say that reality is not black and white, I am speaking of our perception of reality. Here is an example. There are quite a few different atonement theories (Sub. Atonement, Ransom, Christus Victor, etc). Each of them has biblical support. Each of them fails logically in one way or another. Instead of declaring one as truth... we should recognize that each of these atonement theories give us valid insights about God. Yes there is a truth about how Christ saved man. There is a black and white about it... from God's perspective. We, however, are left grasping at theories that don't quite account for everything that Christ did. Thus we should view each of them as a window in which we view Christ's death through. Each "window" gives you a different perspective, yet none are as good as walking outdoors and truly seeing without barrier. So is there truth? Yes. Is some of it black and white as we see it? Yes. Is all truth black and white as God sees it? Yes. Is all truth black and white as we see it. Emphatically no! And that is why I am a "post-modernist."