Is objectivity a myth, as postmodernists want you to believe?

The writer is the pastor of the Kingston and Ocho Rios congregations of the Church of God International. He has been associated with the Church of God for the past 29 years. A newspaper writer on development economics, international relations and religion as well as a talk-show host whose celebrity-interview program Profile is also seen in New York on cable channel 37, Mr. Boyne has done graduate work in mass communications. He reads widely in philosophy and theology.

By Ian Boyne

KINGSTON, Jamaica--Just when the orthodox Christian church was settling down to a set of apologetic methods suited to counter the Enlightenment view that admits nothing supernatural in a naturalistic universe and that nature is all there is and there is no grand design behind the universe, just when God was making a comeback against such views, the philosophical high priests have revamped their dogmas.

The modern Enlightenment view is that religion is human self-projection and that only things that can be proven through reason and experimentation are true. Reason, proclaim the modernists, is all-sufficient, and man is the measure of all things.

But over the last few decades a word has cropped up frequently in the learned philosophical and theological journals as well as scholarly conferences and symposia: postmodernism, or deconstructionism.

Postmodernists vs. modernists

Postmodernists smash the modernist view by proclaiming that objectivity is a myth, that our language could never describe or correspond to reality and that we have no sure way to know who or what is right or wrong.

The Western scientific view, revered by the intelligentsia, is just another narrow, biased, culturally conditioned view, not inherently superior to the "premodern" religious view.

So the Christian who agrees with the modernist that there is objective, knowable reality and that our minds are capable of grasping truth, which exists independently of us, finds himself at odds with the people who increasingly define the intellectual ethos.

Postmodernism is a mixed bag to the Christian apologist because, positively, it dislodges the arrogance of the modernist view, which proclaims the Western scientific method as the only reliable method for determining truth and which closes the door on any other domain of truth.

Postmodernism opens the door to metaphysics and religion by challenging the epistemological imperialism of the Western view of truth. But, by rejecting the view that man can know truth, and by rejecting the correspondence view of truth, postmodernism undercuts any universal-truth claims of Christianity. That is, in opening the door to all and in saying there is no way we can decide what really is truth, it renders the Christian apologist dumb.

Hence Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism, by philosophy professor Douglas Groothius.

Truth Decay is a well-written apologetic challenge to postmodernism that could also help the philosophically uninitiated navigate the uncharted waters of postmodernism.

Published by Inter-Varsity Press, this 299-page work highlights the problems in accepting the presuppositions of postmodernism, as even some evangelical thinkers are doing. Professor Groothius demonstrates that Christians' acceptance of postmodernism represents a failing of intellectual nerve; a failure to honestly accept that the Christian project is a disaster and ought to be abandoned, rather than rescued through postmodernism.

In other words, biblical Christianity makes bold, exclusive claims that are falsifiable: They are either true or false; they can't be neutral.

Yet renowned evangelical theologians disagree, such as Alister McGrath, who says: "It is a travesty of the biblical idea of truth to equate it with the Enlightenment notion of conceptual or prepositional correspondence, or the derived view of evangelism as proclamation of the correctness of Christian doctrine."

Dr. Groothius marshals excellent logical arguments against that view. He does a fine job in Truth Decay of acquainting readers with the leading proponents and sympathizers of postmodernism, usually offering cogent rebuttals.

What is truth?

If one cannot speak definitively about truth, how can one condemn the bombing of the World Trade Center or genocide in Bosnia or Rwanda or speak contemptuously of Pol Pot's reign in the former Cambodia? How can we condemn Hitler or rape or forced female circumcision if truth is merely a social construct?

Christians perhaps have more in common with the Western scientific view than with postmodernism, and, once one purges the Western scientific enterprise of its arrogance and misguided assumptions, one finds that it is compatible with the Christian notion of truth.

Professor Groothius's Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism does a fine job of reinforcing that point. Knocking the growing trend in evangelicalism to elevate experience over truth and emotion over doctrine, he writes, "The very idea of worshiping God 'in spirit and in truth' is lost on most postmoderns, given their predilection for image over reality, feeling over truth and entertainment over edification."

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