Monday, November 1, 2010

Postmodernism and the Search for a Good Experience

Our postmodern age is, at best, deeply suspicious of any truth statements; at its worst, this age denies that there is any such thing as truth. Instead, many of the new religions have opted to fill the void with experiences and feelings.

Oprah, for one, has boldly proclaimed that “God is about a feeling experience, not a believing experience.” In a more scholarly way, the Emergent Church echoes Oprah’s sentiments. Emergent guru, Tony Jones, has written:

• “The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.”
(The New Christians, 234)

According to Jones, all of our beliefs about God are futile and idolatrous. What then is left? Relationships, feelings and endless discussions which, by his own statement, must lead nowhere!

In contrast, the Bible asserts that what we believe and know is bedrock for our ultimate relationship, as Jesus stated:

• “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
(John 17:26)

We approach God through what we understand about Him. Belief is like a rudder of a boat. As the rudder directs the boat, so too does belief direct our entire lives.

Thinking determines all aspects of living – how we live, spend our money, and how we treat our fellow humans. If our correct thinking directs us to salvation, our incorrect thinking directs us in the opposite direction, as Paul has written:

• “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons...They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”
(1 Tim. 4:1-3).

Abandoning the faith was a matter of giving heed to the wrong beliefs. Sadly, this inevitably happens as we give heed to the teachings of Oprah and Tony. Although they both demean the thinking or believing aspect of relationship, everything that they say communicates that they not only have their own beliefs, but they also are very concerned about influencing what others believe.

We all have beliefs. Not having beliefs is like not having thoughts and feelings. We host a steady stream of these items. If this is the case, the only question is “What are our beliefs and do they lead our lives into desirable feelings and experiences.” For lead they will!

But why should God care about our beliefs? Oprah reasons,

• “Do you think that if you never heard the name of Jesus but lived with a loving heart…you wouldn’t get to heaven?”

She seems to have a good point. God certainly wouldn’t overlook our “loving heart!” The trouble with her logic is this – none of us has such a heart. Oprah tragically over-estimates our goodness and deservedness before God. Instead, we deceive ourselves about our self-importance. Paul reasons:

“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:3)

We are not the people we have always told ourselves that we are. Instead, God’s trajectory is to show us what we are really about. He therefore placed His moral standards upon our heart (Romans 2:14-15) to reflect back to us our true status:

• “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
(Romans 3:19-20)

If we are truly in touch with ourselves, we will come to the Savior as a little child or a sinner who realizes that his condition is hopeless without the mercy of God. In this regard, I like what Andrew Murray had to say:

• "There is not a more difficult lesson in the Christian life than to come to a true knowledge of what the flesh is. Its terrible power, its secret and universal rule, and the blinding it exerts in keeping us from the knowledge of what it is, are the cause of all our sin and evil."

This knowledge is essential but rare. It leads us to cry out to God and to find mercy in His Messiah (Jeremiah 29:13). However, it is no longer the problem that this knowledge is just difficult to find, the gurus of this age have caused us to despair of the possibility that there might even be any truth to seek. Therefore, eat, drink, be merry, and drive yourself to utter distraction for tomorrow you die! At least you can be certain about these realities!

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