Theism in a Postmodern World by Billy Bush Religious Worldviews RELS 402 Professor W. C. Calhoun June 22, 2009 Abstract In today’s postmodern world, ideals of being consumed with self and self appropriated ideas of truth leave God forgotten and to them, God is dead. This same thought process see’s no reason or logic to bring God into the picture let alone into their lives. The pervasive postmodern worldview today includes precepts such that self decides who we become, as well as, is not necessary to have a God who should be in control of our lives.
It is difficult for a Christian to live out his theistic worldview in today’s postmodern world, but it can be done because of our beliefs in God. Like every leaf that falls to the ground, the Lord also knew of all the worldviews that would come into existence and yet He still gave the command to, “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… ”(Matthew 28:18-20, NIV). God is not dead but rather simply ignored and rejected by the proponents of postmodern thinking in today’s world.
It is our charge as Christians to put on the armor of God, stand firm in Him, and go forth boldly into postmodern world proclaiming the good news we are taught. Theism in a Postmodern World Christian theism, at best, can very loosely be compared to postmodernism in that both have established a worldview. Each also has a set of ideas to which the follower adheres to, in order to live a fulfilled life. However, these set of guidelines, if you will, are vastly different and lead to different ends. Christian theism principles are based upon the existence of God while postmodernism principles are based upon individual and/or personal reasoning.
Sire goes as far to state, “…Theism is a complete worldview because it has a basis for metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology” while “…postmodernism is more than, and less than a worldview” (Sire, 2004). So how do we promote Christian theism over postmodernism? How can one be persuaded to pick one view over the other? People are still thinking and searching, therefore it is imperative to understand the underlying thoughts of theism and postmodernism. Christian theism used to be a worldview acknowledged, followed, and lived by many.
In the Reformation period everyone chose to believe God was the creator of the universe and true knowledge or wisdom was found only by knowing Jesus. This is not to suggest everyone believed in Him as their personal Savior, but rather, there was an acknowledgement and appreciation or respect of Him. Sire makes an assertion about theism, in particular, theism “is the foundational view, the one from which all others” developed (Sire, 2004). This would make sense because God has existed since the beginning of time, and because of God’s eternal existence, theism is a worldview totally complete in its ideas.
A cornerstone idea in Christian theism declares “God is infinite and personal [triune], transcendent and imminent, omniscient, sovereign, and good” (Sire, 2004). Simply translated, God existed before time and will continue to exist for all of eternity. As much as He is personal, He desires each individual to search for Him and to have a relationship with Him. Another important aspect of Christian theism is how “God created the cosmos ex nihilo to operate with a uniformity of cause and effect in an open system” (Sire, 2004).
The lesson in this is simple because it shows us God created this world out of nothing, therefore, the idea of a big bang is something of a falsity. God created this world in an orderly fashion which took Him exactly six days because He rested on the seventh. Easy to see is how God represents order and how He would never promote anything chaotic, evil, or be compared / confused with the big bang theory. Christian theism believes, “Human beings are created in the image of God and thus possess personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, morality, gregariousness and creativity” (Sire, 2004).
God has given everyone, not just Christians, the ability to know and understand the differences between right and wrong, as well as, have the intelligence of making sound decisions. Instead of being influenced by the thoughts and views of other people we should be able rather think for ourselves and search out the meaning of real truth. In Christian theism, “Human beings can know both the world around them and God himself because God has built into them, the capacity to do so, and because he takes an active role in communicating with them” (Sire, 2004).
God wants all of us to personally know Him which is why He gave us His word, the Bible, for us to learn more about Him. “Christian faith stands or falls on the idea that God’s self-communication has been realized in the word and God has reconciled all things to Himself” (Forte, 2003). Christian theism also involves the assertion, “Human beings were created good, but through the Fall the image of God became defaced…God redeemed humanity and began the process of restoring people to goodness, though any given person may choose to reject that redemption” (Sire, 2004).
Every individual born into this world is with sin because of the sin committed by Adam and Eve. But, God is a good and just God and provides a way for us to be redeemed, forgiven, and ultimately, have a personal relationship with Him. After all, He did give us His only son to die on the cross to make the payment for our sin. (John 3:16, NIV). Many people ask “If God is just, why is there evil? ” (Forte, 2003). The answer to this is simple, evil exists because humans choose to disobey and fall into sin. The disobedience of man is the original cause and current cause of evil in this world, not God.
Christian theism includes what happens to a person when they die. “For each person death is either the gate to life with God and His people or the gate to eternal separation from the only thing that will ultimately fulfill human aspirations” (Sire, 2004). Inevitably, there are only two destination choices; either we will go to heaven or hell. Hell was not only created by God for Satan and those angels who chose to defy God’s will but also for those who have chosen to reject Christ’s love and to follow Him.
Christian theism defines how ethics relates to the role of humans. “Ethics is transcendent and is based on the character of God as good [holy and loving]” (Sire, 2004). Theism teaches the universe is moral and there is an absolute standard by which we should all judge things. God is “the” standard and all issues should be judged next to His standard. Christian Theism teaches us, “History is linear, a meaningful sequence of events leading to the fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity” (Sire, 2004). History, as we know, began when God created this world.
History is not simply a story seen as possibly or potentially true, depending upon from who it was heard, but rather, purposely true. Christian Theism is a complete worldview and affords each individual the opportunity to see the world as God would have him see and thus enables Christians to live life according to God’s word. To reinforce this point (speaking about Christians), “We believe that God, at least, can communicate what is in his mind with understandable words. Few of us believe that our own subjective perception controls meaning” (McQuilkin and Mullen, 1997).
The postmodernism world is not as easy to define because it comprises so many different areas of the modern world and yet many who are postmodern thinkers do not agree upon the ideas of postmodernism. Because of this lack of agreement, the term postmodern is hard to define but, there are some basic characteristics which allow us to understand its effects. The first thing to recognize is, “The premise of postmodernism is to question all premises” (Jones, 2001). Postmodern society is full of skeptics and cynics who reject the ideas of absolute truth in order to find truth.
Jones describes this postmodern society as one in which there is a great amount of questioning and deconstructing of all that is held to be truth. For example, in literature circles today the critics assert “…the text does not have an actual meaning because each reader imports meaning into the text” (Jones, 2001). Evidently, truth or meaning remains up to the individual and therefore self decides truth. For the postmodernist, there is no absolute truth as compared to theism, which is why truth is self determined.
The only absolute truth existent in the postmodern mentality is that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and as far as the postmodern scholar is concerned, is absolutely true. Postmodernism can also be seen as “…a shift in cultural legitimation…” which “…focuses on different facets of cultural and intellectual life” (Sire, 2004). Postmodernism touches various realms including religion, sciences, literature, history, fashion, and the list goes on. This said because of postmodernism’s concern with the meaning brought forth through language.
This goes back to the early mentioned literature critics and their assertion for text meaning to be deciphered by the individual. Language is important to postmodernists because they think their ideas are best told through stories (Jones). Similarly, Sire likewise affirms this position and believes stories have power if the individual who hears the stories finds them to be believable (Sire, 2004). Choices are good but a postmodern view has no accountability for the outcome of the choices, or so it seems.
This view focuses on individual ability to reason without truly knowing. This thought process is contradictory to theism because as Christians we believe the all knowing truth, knowledge, and reasoning are derivative of God. The postmodernism world differs from theism because of the formers belief of dead truth but also the idea of self is dead as well. The postmodernist thinker genuinely believes he is the one who makes him to be what he is. Whereas theism purports humans were created only in the image of God and therefore do not make themselves who or what they are.
Even though we are able to make such choices as occupation, what we want to eat, God is the one who directs, leads, and allows our successes. This thought process and line of logic is difficult for postmodernists to follow since they deny all existence of God, including, God created all of creation. Ethics is obscured as it relates to the postmodern world. Today, good is whatever the society deems as good or as Sire states “…truth is what we decide it is. Good is whatever those who wield the power in society choose to make it” (Sire, 2004).
Theists claim ethics to be founded upon God and His goodness, specifically, how He reveals goodness to us. Modern society seems to have no need to understand what God thinks is ethically right. Our nation’s highest court is a prime example. The decisions made by today’s court system as compared to those made in say, colonial times, are totally different. Since removing the Bible from our public schools and prohibited in the enactment of laws in this country, today’s courts are of postmodern thought (self thought) and contributing to the demise of ethics in our society.
To the general public and postmodern thinker God may be dead, but when our nation’s leaders think they are the ones who now tell us what is ethical, without even a single consult of God’s Holy Word, may God have mercy on their souls. God’s word is the standard by which our ethics should be measured and as previously stated, numerous times, modern society has no need for God and therefore, has made Him dead. Removal of Bible and prayer from public schools and religious symbols from any government buildings and decisions (separation of church and state) are a couple examples of how postmodernism is slowly bleeding society of our Creator.
In the end of times, after revelation comes true, it will not be God or His people who suffer but rather all those in opposition. In today’s postmodern society it is crucial for every theist to understand what he believes in, and more importantly, why he believes it. The theist’s duty is to teach the postmodernist there is absolute truth and to help guide him in his search for truth. While not easy, as Christian’s and representatives of the most Highest, we shall stand up for what we believe, why we believe, who we believe in.
Then, God can be brought forth again and not viewed as dead but alive and ready to accept and forgive those not believing in Him. Ever present in Christian practice, since my very early days was the term revival. Well, this entire land could be revived if people got off the fence and decided on view or another (theism or postmodernism). We are all here to carry His message forth into this world of doubt called the postmodern world. As Christians, we look to Him for the resources needed to witness to all those who oppose His nature and name.
Scripture cannot be watered down so it suits the will and needs of each person. Although it sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable, to come out of their element and conform to the life God wants us to live, this is God’s will. Oh, I believe very strongly this postmodernism world is in desperate need of a revival, but, that revival needs to start within each of us. References Forte, B. (2003). The Essence of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Bruce, 2002/? 2003) (Forte, 2003) John 3:16. Retrieved on 16 June 2010 from http://www. biblegateway. om/versions/New-King James-Version-NKJV-Bible/ Jones, T. (2001). Postmodern Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House Matthew 28:18-20. Retrieved on 16 June 2010 from http://www. biblegateway. com/versions/New-King James-Version-NKJV-Bible/ McQuilkin, J. R. , & Mullen, B. (Mr 1997). The Impact of Postmodern Thinking on Evangelical Hermeneutics. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 40(1), 69-82. Sire, J. W. (2004). The Universe Next Door (4th ed. ) [A Basic Worldview Catalog]. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. (Original work published 1976) (Sire, 1976/? 2004)
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