* POSTMODERNISM (NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN)
This, our first issue of a new year, is addressing the subject of postmodernism. What is that, you ask? It is the new and latest cultural worldview.
I was first introduced to the term back in 1994 when Christian News carried a review of the book “Postmodern Times–A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture” by Gene Edward Veith. I proceeded to order the book. Its back cover says: “Current Issues: Postmodernism–The Worldview That Denies All Worldviews.” It further explains: “Just what is postmodernism? The average person would be shocked by its creed: Truth, meaning, and individual identity do not exist. These are social constructs. Human life has no special significance, no more value than animal or plant life. . . . ”
Those comments alone are enough to disturb. As far as a conservative Lutheran church and/or synod like ours is concerned, flares erupt at these most basic premises: truth does not exist and human life has no special significance.
Let’s back up a minute. Postmodernism succeeds modernism, the secular worldview in vogue when I first entered the ministry in the ’60’s. Modernism too was antichristian. Modernism, however, did not quite deny that truth existed; rather, it said that truth was what could be proven by reason and/or by scientific experimentation. Subsequently, according to the modernist (secular or religious), the Bible had to be “demythologized.”
Where else did the worldview of modernism lead? To this: man was said to be the measure of all things, supreme and inherently good, a product of progressive evolution; not surprisingly, according to the modernist, the only moral standards were those commonly accepted out in the world.
Familiar thinking? It is, if you are one of the “over 30” crowd.
Now, however, modernism is dead.
Good, right? Not so fast. Satan has succeeded in foisting an “updated” worldview on our society and culture. Modernism’s new sister, postmodernism, says that truth doesn’t exist, period.
That’s right; there are no absolutes; there is no such thing as truth at all. That means one religion is as good as another; whatever works is true; what you want and choose for yourself is true. In the area of morals, there aren’t any. There are no rules, standards, God’s or man’s (which means, for one thing, sin doesn’t exist). The new catchword is “tolerance”; the postmodern password is whatever–the ultimate in tolerance.
As for man, under modernism “humanists used to think man is the measure of all things–now man isn’t worth anything at all” (Gene Edward Veith, quoted in an article titled “Secular anti-humanism“, WORLD magazine, Aug. 15, 1998). Follow that through, and where does it lead? Certain ethicists are becoming “more and more explicitly pro-death. Abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, and other ‘compassionate ways of weeding out people’ are held up as the highest moral principles'” (WORLD).
While we call it new, postmodernism–like modernism–is in the final analysis as old as the hills. It’s only a new twist 1) on Satan’s “Has-God-indeed-said?” ploy in the Garden of Eden which got Eve and Adam to question God’s truth (Gen. 3:1); 2) on Pilate’s sarcastic rejoinder “What-is-truth?” in answer to our Savior’s comment about those being of the truth who hear His voice (Jn. 18:37f).
How can or should those who wish to live in and for the Christian faith in a postmodern society respond? See the article “What Is Truth?” in this issue of the Spokesman. It was written thirty years ago by–then pastor, now Professor–David Lau of our Immanuel Lutheran Seminary faculty. Though the professor’s analysis and comments were originally written to call attention to the inroads and dangers of modernism, his good words apply equally today to modernism’s ugly and equally dangerous new sister, postmodernism.
Also in this issue find Pastor Klatt’s article “Your Word Is Truth.” The writer takes us back to biblical basics–the best response to any and every antichristian worldview Satan would foist upon the world.
* ON LETTERS TO THE EDITOR & (LACK OF) RESPONSE
Dear reader, we have a story to tell–and an alarm button to push–and hope you will follow us through.
A number of articles supportive of biblical creation and critical of the evolutionary hypothesis have appeared on these pages from the pen of Dr. David N. Menton, an associate professor of anatomy at Washington University, St. Louis, and a member of our CLC’s Faith Lutheran Church, Ballwin, Mo.
Dr. Menton is eminently competent in his field. He lectures nationwide–even worldwide (he was a speaker in Turkey a year or so ago)–on the subject of creation/evolution. He is on the board of more than one creation society in this country. His writings have appeared in a variety of secular and religious magazines and newspapers nationwide.
The Lutheran Witness, official magazine of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, carried an article by Dr. Menton called “Is God an Evolutionist?” in its July 1998 issue. The lengthy article–more a scholarly essay–was, in fact, featured on the magazine cover and was the lead story. For ten pages Dr. Menton went on. He set forth, in his scholarly manner with which Spokesman readers are familiar, how true science and the biblical doctrine of creation need not and do not clash. (Unfortunately, the article is too long to print in its entirety; see the box for a flavor of the article, and its conclusion.)
So why comment here? Because a Spokesman reader sent us a copy of the article, together with two pages of letter-responses the article provoked from readers of The Lutheran Witness (cf. September 1998 issue of The Lutheran Witness). Our reader suggested: “Editor Fleischer, maybe you’d like to comment in your magazine.”
We will comment indeed, and show why. (Dear reader, are you still with us?)
Of eight published letters to The Lutheran Witness on the subject of Dr. Menton’s article, five expressed appreciation. One pastor wrote: “The article on evolution by David Menton was clear, concise, covered all major issues, demonstrated the theological consequences of theistic evolution, and affirmed science while acknowledging its limits. I intend to use it in catechism classes. . . . ”
But three of the eight letters were critical. Said another pastor: “There are many Christian scientists who see God’s intelligent design in the universe but who do not agree with Dr. Menton on matters such as the age of the universe, the meaning of the fossil record or the role of a universal flood in fossil deposits. For the sake of intelligent discussion, I hope that The Lutheran Witness will offer more balanced articles in the future.” A layman, critical of Dr. Menton’s writing, wrote: “I find it unfortunate that so many believe that our Lord does everything at the snap of a finger like some magician. If this were so, the Lord would not find it necessary to teach us patience.” And more was written at odds with Dr. Menton’s presentation.
What was most disturbing to our Spokesman reader (who by the way was a one-time member of the Missouri Synod) was that The Lutheran Witness printed the “critical letters” without comment. “Doesn’t that say something,” our reader suggested, “about the Missouri Synod and where it is today?”
A perceptive Lutheran Christian indeed! What printing such letters without comment says is the subject of the following remarks:
“It is tragic to see how the loss of confidence in the clarity of Scripture renders a church powerless to ward off the corrupting influence of unionism. The story of the Missouri Synod over the past 20 years has been a pathetic record of increasing incapacity for resistance to the trend that seeks compromise with error rather than doctrinal discipline and the isolation of orthodoxy. The earmarks of this trend in a church body are a distaste for polemical theology, and the development of vague, ambiguous doctrinal pronouncements. These have both become conspicuous in Missouri’s publications, the Concordia Theological Monthly and the Lutheran Witness, which often publish without comment the unscriptural doings and teachings of other church bodies. To be dogmatic, that is, positive, in affirming the truth and castigating error, is difficult only when it has become necessary to question the clarity and sufficiency of the Word.” (The Writings Of Prof. Egbert Schaller, Booklet No. 3, p. 41: “The ‘Status Controversiae’ Within The Synodical Conference”–essay for the Minnesota District Pastoral Conference of the Wisconsin Synod, April 1958. For information on the availability of Schaller’s booklets, see the December 1998 Lutheran Spokesman.)
It can only confuse the Christian witness for a synod’s official magazine to publish conflicting, contradicting writings (letters). This is not insignificant in our postmodern day, or any day. The apostolic warning says: “For if the trumpet make an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8)
In short, there is a battle going on. Dr. Menton is one of many waging that battle for God’s truth. So is our Spokesman reader who, out of concern for the clear trumpet sound of the Scriptures, sent us Dr. Menton’s article and the Letters to The Lutheran Witness.
And you and I, dear reader, are participants in that war. May God in His grace help and strengthen us for it! In our truth-denying age God keep us from succumbing to the postmodern idea that all views on a given subject are worthy of being heard–and worthy of expression without comment–regardless of the fact that those views call into question the clarity and sufficiency, the authenticity and reliability of the divinely inspired Holy Scriptures.
Onward, Christian soldiers!
From “Is God an Evolutionist?”
. . . The Scriptures tell us that “by sin, death came into the world,” and that “the wages of sin is death.” Evolutionists, however, vigorously deny that sin has anything to do with death, but rather that death is natural. Life, they insist, would be impossible without death.
Certainly, evolution would be impossible without death. Death, in fact, has been called the “engine” of evolution. Carl Sagan said: “Only through the deaths of an immense number of slightly maladapted organisms are we, brains and all, here today.”
Evolutionism inevitably breaks the relationship between sin and death, thus negating the need for a Savior who would save us from sin, death and the power of the devil.
Finally, when the Lord returns in glory on the Last Day, and the dead are raised from their graves, will scholars attempt one last naturalistic explanation for even this? Or will we finally concede that God does miracles beyond our understanding? Will we finally be still before the throne of God, and let God be God, though every man be found a liar? We will indeed! –Dr. David N. Menton