For postmodern philosophers and theologians, searching for truth is like chasing a rainbow—a journey with no real destination. They believe “the truth is out there” but they’re comfortable keeping it that way—perpetually beyond reach.
Yet there’s nothing actually new or innovative about their pseudo-quest. They merely echo what Pontius Pilate said two thousand years earlier: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
The tragic part about Pilate’s question is that it was only rhetorical. Like skeptics of all ages, including contemporary postmodernists, Pilate despaired of ever finding universal truth (worse still, standing before him was Jesus Christ—the way, the truth, and the life). And the belief that no one can really know anything for certain seems to be the one dogma postmodernists will tolerate. Uncertainty is the new truth. Doubt and skepticism have been canonized as a form of humility. Right and wrong have been redefined in terms of subjective feelings and personal perspectives.
Those views are infiltrating the church too. The Emerging church began as a self-conscious effort to make Christianity more suitable to a postmodern culture. Emergent Christians were determined to adapt the Christian faith, the structure of the church, the language of faith, and even the gospel message itself to the ideas and rhetoric of postmodernism.
Some in the movement openly questioned whether there is even any legitimate role for preaching in a postmodern culture. “Dialogue” is the preferred method of communication. Accordingly, some Emerging-style congregations did away with pastors altogether and replaced them with “narrators.” For obvious reasons, an authoritative “thus saith the Lord” is not welcome in such a setting.
Of course, the first casualty of that way of thinking is every kind of certainty. The central propositions and bedrock convictions of biblical Christianity—such as firm belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, a sound understanding of the true gospel, full assurance of salvation, settled confidence in the lordship of Christ, and the narrow exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation—do not reconcile well with postmodernism’s contempt for clear, authoritative truth claims.
Listen, for example, to how Brian McLaren sums up his views on orthodoxy, certainty, and the question of whether the truths of Christianity are sound and reliable in the first place:
How ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down here next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope’s, whoever’s) is orthodox, meaning true, and here’s my honest answer: a little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text, and culture . . . I’d have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong. McLaren suggests that clarity itself is of dubious value. He clearly prefers ambiguity and equivocation, and his books are therefore full of deliberate doublespeak. In his introduction to A Generous Orthodoxy, he admits:
I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity. Postmodern theologians seem to presume that if we cannot know everything perfectly, we really cannot know anything with any degree of certainty. That may be an appealing argument to the postmodern mind, but it is entirely at odds with what Scripture teaches: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
That is not to suggest, of course, that we have exhaustive knowledge. But we do have infallible knowledge of what Scripture reveals, as the Spirit of God teaches us through the Word of God: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The fact that our knowledge grows fuller and deeper—and we all therefore change our minds about some things as we gain more and more light—doesn’t mean that everything we know is uncertain, outdated, or in need of an overhaul every few years. The words of 1 John 2:20–21 apply in their true sense to every believer: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”
The message coming from postmodern evangelicals is exactly the opposite: Certainty is overrated. Assurance is arrogant. Better to keep changing your mind and keep your theology in a constant state of flux.
By such means, the ages-old war against truth has moved right into the Christian community, and the church itself has already become a battleground—and ominously, precious few in the church today are prepared for the fight.
(Adapted from The Truth War.)