Postmodernism Doesn’t Work

by | Oct 11, 2016 | Josh Sommer

I would like first to dedicate this article to two wonderful women who provided excellent editing attention to this article. They are two ladies whom I work with. Neither of them believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Let’s pray that they be included in the body of saints one day, and may they stand amongst us as the angels sing “Holy, holy, holy” to the Lord Most High in that glorious heavenly congregation.

 

 

Our generation, and the generation before us, have largely grown up within a postmodern context.

The ideologies espoused within postmodern thought are, for the most part, incompatible with reality itself.

The idea that truth is relative to a person’s desires is totally incoherent and cannot even be carried out, no matter how much we would like it to be true.

The idea that there is no objective, or concrete, standard of morality is often exalted as the golden calf of our society. It is thought that if morality is relative, then we are free to pursue our happiness, whatever that may be.

However, no one really lives like this. In all people we can find the search for objective truth and the affirmation of objective moral values, whether they would like to admit that or not.

The Driving Force

The driving force behind this type of thought, I believe, is largely a brand of hedonism. Hedonism is that philosophy which states that people ought to pursue the highest degree of pleasure. That, it is believed, is really the purpose of our existence and the best thing for humanity.

So, what we end up with is a postmodern hedonistic society. This boils down to a society which doesn’t believe truth exists and thinks that the pursuit of pleasure is the ultimate goal. One could just ask, Is it true that the pursuit of pleasure is the ultimate goal?

And really, if hedonism can be shown to be incorrect, then postmodernism falls. If postmodernism falls, the thought process of the majority of my generation and the last, is flat wrong.

Challenging Hedonism

Is happiness our greatest pursuit? “Do what makes you happy!” it is often said. Moreover, is it wrong to deny someone else’s happiness?

And if it’s wrong, why is it wrong?

According to the postmodern hedonist, there is no objective “wrong”, so how could they say something is absolutely wrong?

Furthermore, what if it makes me happy to deny someone else’s happiness?

Is it starting to become clear why this just doesn’t work?

Some Pertinent Examples

One example would probably be transgenderism. Transgenderism is rooted in hedonism. Some, it is thought, are born with such a condition wherein they desire to identify with the opposite sex. But, is being born with an inclination an indication of its moral quality? In other words, does “being born that way” make it right?

Could it still be wrong?

A person without a moral standard may convince themselves that, really, anything goes. If a person wants to have a sex change, let them do it, right? In fact, we could legislate its legalization because it’s not really hurting anyone, is it?

Now we’ve introduced yet another philosophical bias, which tends to go unargued. This philosophy is called pragmatism. Pragmatism states that the ends justify the means. In other words, there is really no ethically proper way to get from point A to point B, we just get to B from A by doing whatever works. If there is only one way to B, and that way involves killing people, we kill people to get to B.

That’s pragmatism in a nutshell. There’s no “right” road to the destination, so to speak.

Our generation has largely been taught to think this way as well. But, again, we don’t live our lives this way.

Not in all cases anyway.

The means, in the above example, is basically a sex change, and the end is happiness. Happiness justifies the sex change.

This is all okay, it is believed, because hedonism reigns. If hedonism is true, happiness as an end is totally acceptable, and even encouraged.

This is the predominant mindset today to varying degrees.

Another example might be abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, most abortions take place as the result of some perceived inconvenience. Mothers want to continue school, their career, etc. Some feel they aren’t in a financially stable position, and therefore, must terminate their pregnancy.

Whatever the reason, babies die because the parents conclude that a child wouldn’t be in their best interest at a given particular time. It’s interesting to note that abortions which result from rape aren’t even significant enough to make the stats.

Now, this is all well and good if postmodernism, pragmatism, and hedonism are all true. But if they aren’t all true, then what?

 We have shown above how postmodernism is in a state of internal conflict. Internally speaking, it can’t be consistent. The reasons for this are given above, but we can briefly restate them here. In short, truth can’t be subjective. Truth can’t just be something which comes out of our mind or feelings.

If I say, “I feel like it is true that abortion is right” and then another person says “Well, I feel like it is true that abortion is wrong”, which is true? The fact that we can even ask “which is true?” demonstrates that truth is not subjective.

What is really happening here is that opinion is masquerading as truth.

Opinion is not always truth, and truth is never only an opinion. Truth, it is said, is that which comports (or agrees) with reality. We could then ask which it is: “Abortion is right” or “abortion is wrong”? Or, “transgenderism is right” or “transgenderism is wrong”?

Which one properly describes reality in their respective instances?

Now hedonism is in our crosshairs.

Instead of just asserting that pleasure is the ultimate pursuit, we now need to ask, Which pleasure is right? Which pleasure agrees with reality?

If we don’t care about this question then we could just live in a fantasy land. But, in that case, your life is meaningless (nihilism). Keep that in mind as we investigate difficult ideas.

Could we, if we wanted to, rationally sustain hedonism?

On one hand, the vehicle which hedonism is able to survive in, postmodernism, has been found to be utterly irrational and so it’s gone to swim with the fishes. The hedonist could just appeal to postmodern thought, if it were a sufficient basis for their ideology. That is, if postmodernism were true. But, they can’t do this since it’s been found to be illogical.

Hedonism stands alone, and makes the bold claim, “Your own pleasure is the goal!”

But what reason do we have to believe something like this?

Well, there is no real good reason at all.

Within the Christian worldview, or system of Christian theism, it makes total sense to believe actions are actually right or wrong. It makes sense to say something like, “People have equal rights” within the Christian worldview, but it doesn’t make sense to say any of that and mean it outside of that context.

This is because Scripture commands us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt 19:19; Mk 12:31).” Moreover, this command comes from the God who created the universe. This is a God which, by virtue of His very nature, makes things to be what they are. Murder, for example, is wrong because it’s in opposition to God’s nature. Adultery is wrong because it opposes God’s nature, and so on and so forth.

In postmodern, hedonistic thought, something is right or wrong just, well… just because! Because a person’s mind decides it is.

There is no objective or absolute ground in which we can place right or wrong. It all just becomes a matter of opinion, and no one is obligated to follow someone else’s opinion.

THE ALL-SUFFICIENT ALTERNATIVE

We are, however, obligated to conform to our Creator. Since He’s the One who created us, we owe all things to Him.

Moreover, Genesis 3 tells us that humanity fell as the result of rebellion against God. From this point on, we became sinners.

If you ever hear the question asked, “Why do bad things happen at the hands of evil people?” you now know the answer. Sin entered the world and plunged the cosmos into a state of rebellion.

This entrance of sin is the result of human rebellion against the standard of God’s righteousness. That’s what sin is, in essence: a violation of God’s righteousness. The Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20, reveal to us something of God’s nature, something of His gold standard.

If we violate God’s standard, we are liable to be judged by Him, notwithstanding what we think is fair or not. We are sinners, God is sinless, and therefore, His standard is to be trusted above all others.

Since God’s justice is pure, He can’t just let us off the hook in some act of unqualified mercy. No, His justice must be satisfied.

Could you imagine if a child molester stood before a judge, and that judge just decided to let him off the hook, thus effectively compromising sound justice? Wouldn’t that be a bad judge?

God is a better Judge than any human judge out there.

His justice must be satisfied. Jesus Christ is God’s Son who served as the chief Sacrifice, to take upon Himself the fullness of the Father’s just wrath. It was in Christ that God’s justice was fulfilled.

However, if we are not in Christ, if we reject Him refusing to repent of our sin and place our trust outside of Him in other things, we have no Sacrifice for our sins. Thus, we remain under the judgment and wrath of God unless we repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

If we repent and believe in Him, we share in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are united with Him, our old self dead to sin, and our new self living for Christ, waiting for His return. At His return, we will be glorified in Him, and we will receive new, resurrected bodies, in which we will live forever to the praise and the glory of God.

Recommended Resources

Confounding the Postmodern Mind from Ligonier
The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World by Tim Keller

Co-founder, editor, and contributor of The Reformed Collective. He is a member and pastoral intern at Word of Life Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO. He has co-coordinated the evangelism ministry at Grace Bible Church in San Diego, CA. At present he is pursuing a B.A. in Biblical Studies as well as an M. Div. He currently resides in Overland Park, KS with his wife, Christina.

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