John F MacArthurJohn MacArthur has a new book, The Truth War, which he is adapting for a series of blog posts on his GTY — Grace To You — site.

On September 18, 2017, he wrote ‘Modernity to Postmodernity: From Bad to Worse’. It is a good summation of how we got to where we are with our 21st century thinking. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Postmodernism in general is marked by a tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth … Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything. Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive. Everyone is entitled to his own truth.

Postmodernism therefore has no positive agenda to assert anything as true or good. Perhaps you have noticed that only the most heinous crimes are still seen as evil. (Actually, there are many today who are prepared to dispute whether anything is “evil,” so such language is fast disappearing from public discourse.) That is because the notion of evil itself does not fit in the postmodern scheme of things. If we can’t really know anything for certain, how can we judge anything evil?

Therefore postmodernism’s one goal and singular activity is the systematic deconstruction of every other truth claim. The chief tools being employed to accomplish this are relativism, subjectivism, the denial of every dogma, the dissection and annihilation of every clear definition, the relentless questioning of every axiom, the undue exaltation of mystery and paradox, the deliberate exaggeration of every ambiguity, and above all the cultivation of uncertainty about everything.

If you were to challenge me to boil down postmodern thought into its pure essence and identify the gist of it in one single, simple, central characteristic, I would say it is the rejection of every expression of certainty. In the postmodern perspective, certainty is regarded as inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive—and therefore always wrong.

Postmodernism has resulted in a widespread rejection of truth and the enshrinement of skepticism. Postmodernists despise truth claims. They also spurn every attempt to construct a coherent worldview, labeling all comprehensive ideologies and belief systems “metanarratives,” or grand stories. Such “stories,” they say, can’t possibly do justice to everyone’s individual perspective, and therefore they are always inadequate.

Postmodernism’s preference for subjectivity over objectivity makes it inherently relativistic … Instead, truth, if acknowledged at all, becomes something infinitely pliable and ultimately unknowable in any objective sense.

Postmodernism therefore signals a major triumph for relativismthe view that truth is not fixed and objective, but something individually determined by each person’s unique, subjective perception. All this is ultimately a vain attempt to try to eliminate morality and guilt from human life.

And as we’ll see next time, eliminating rational thought is key to those objectives.

It’s a funny thing, postmodernism. A postmodernist will deny Christianity as being subjective or irrational. Yet, that same person will say that it is established science that diet soft drinks are bad for everyone and that climate change science is settled.

Postmodernists pick and choose their ‘truths’, generally alighting firmly on something that needs more research, the way a bluebottle eagerly lands on decaying rubbish to lay its eggs.

MacArthur’s next essay is called ‘Rationality Without the Rationalism’. We all know how atheists pride themselves on being rational, whereas, in their eyes, the Christian is irrational. Similarly, an increasing number of Christians eschew the study of philosophy, which they consider harmful because there is no Scripture involved.

However, MacArthur says:

Rationality (the right use of sanctified reason through sound logic) is never condemned in Scripture. Faith is not irrational. Authentic biblical truth demands that we employ logic and clear, sensible thinking. Truth can always be analyzed and examined and compared under the bright light of other truth, and it does not melt into absurdity. Truth by definition is never self-contradictory or nonsensical. And contrary to popular thinking, it is not rational to insist that coherence is a necessary quality of all truth. Christ is truth incarnate, and He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Self-denying truth is an absolute contradiction in terms. “No lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).

Nor is logic a uniquely “Greek” category that is somehow hostile to the Hebrew context of Scripture. (That is a common myth that is often set forth in support of postmodernism’s flirtation with irrationality.) Scripture frequently employs logical devices, such as antithesis, if-then arguments, syllogisms, and propositions. These are all standard logical forms, and Scripture is full of them—Paul’s long string of deductive arguments in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 being a great example.

MacArthur points out that what postmodernists object to about Holy Scripture and Christianity are propositional statements which are either true or false, with no middle ground:

The reason behind postmodernism’s contempt for propositional truth is not difficult to understand. A proposition is an idea framed as a logical statement that affirms or denies something, and it is expressed in such a way that it must be either true or false. There is no third option between true and false. (This is the “excluded middle” in logic.) The whole point of a proposition is to boil a truth-statement down to such pristine clarity that it must be either affirmed or denied. In other words, propositions are the simplest expressions of truth value used to express the substance of what we believe. Postmodernism, frankly, cannot endure that kind of stark clarity.

In reality, however, postmodernism’s rejection of the propositional form turns out to be totally untenable. It is impossible to discuss truth at all—or even tell a story—without resorting to the use of propositions. Until fairly recently, the validity and necessity of expressing truth in propositional form was considered self-evident by virtually everyone who ever studied logic, semantics, philosophy, or theology. Ironically, to make any cogent argument against the use of propositions, a person would have to employ propositional statements! So every argument against propositions is instantly self-defeating.

That is no doubt why so many established denominations are moving away from centuries-old dogma and doctrine. Whereas the ancient Church thinkers and, later, the Reformers repeated the same biblical truths, these have now become ‘offensive’ to many Christians, hence, the movement towards ‘all are saved’ and ‘Jesus loves you’. Yes, and no. Mankind must submit to God’s will in order to be saved. All mankind seems to do these days is to submit to addiction (including psychotropes) and/or depravity.

Although MacArthur acknowledges that there is more to Christianity than adopting a set of beliefs, we cannot claim to have our hearts and heads allied with the Lord unless we accept certain truths — which are propositional:

While it is quite true that believing the truth entails more than the assent of the human intellect to certain propositions, it is equally true that authentic faith never involves anything less. To reject the propositional content of the gospel is to forfeit saving faith, period.

Postmodernists are uncomfortable with propositions for an obvious reason: They don’t like the clarity and inflexibility required to deal with truth in propositional form. A proposition is the simplest form of any truth claim, and postmodernism’s fundamental starting point is its contempt for all truth claims. The “fuzzy logic” of ideas told in “story” form sounds so much more elastic—even though it really is not. Propositions are necessary building blocks for every means of conveying truth—including stories.

But the attack on propositional expressions of truth is the natural and necessary outworking of postmodernism’s general distrust of logic, distaste for certainty, and dislike for clarity. To maintain the ambiguity and pliability of “truth” necessary for the postmodern perspective, clear and definitive propositions must be discounted as a means of expressing truth. Propositions force us to face facts and either affirm or deny them, and that kind of clarity simply does not play well in a postmodern culture.

Hence the accusations of notional Christian ‘hate’ towards others. Fellow Christians accuse each other of that, too. We see it in the controversy over same-sex marriage in church, the Anglican synod being one example. Those who oppose it were shouted down as being haters or reactionaries. No, they are simply being true to Scripture. It also doesn’t mean they don’t want persons of same-sex persuasion banned from church. What they object to is the church performing misplaced wedding ceremonies.

It seems to me, from what I have seen, that postmodernism has produced a lot of unhappy people. Never before are there so many depressed, angry and violent men, women and children. They react negatively at the drop of a hat — over anything that even politely contradicts their little, individual worldview.

That includes churchgoers.

Clergy aren’t helping the situation by turning sermons into ‘addresses’ and making what should be worship of God into therapy for humankind.

I just reread a recent church bulletin I received. It mentions a new programme on the Bible which will be conducted in ‘a non-confrontational atmosphere’. It is sure to be steeped in postmodernist relativism.

When Christians, through the aid of prayer, open their hearts and minds to the truth of Scripture — all of which condemns man’s base, sinful nature — and see a good explanation of it, they will come to understand the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ and reject postmodernist thought.

That time cannot come too soon.