Postmodern thinking surrounds us.

And it has incredible potential to sway us as we swim about in its waters. While the dangers are many and the temptation to accommodate or assimilate is great, the gravest danger presented by the postmodern worldview is a radically altered view of truth.

Postmodernism at its heart is a foundational rejection, not just of what things may or may not be truth, but of what constitutes truth itself.

The postmodern world has made peace with a very poisonous view of truth – an untrue view of truth.

For them, there is no longer truth but “truths” which may be accepted or rejected with little or no personal or social impact in the world. At the end of the day, this view of truth and the postmodern world will be weighed in the balances and found wanting.

Since Christianity is not just a nice set of ideas or theological concepts but is rather fundamentally grounded in truth, the view of truth offered by postmodernism has profound ramifications for how the church is to present the “truth” – both propositional truth and ultimately the Person of Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.

When the very foundation of our faith is being destroyed, what shall the righteous man do?

The answer to this question set in the cultural shift of postmodernity has spawned a plethora of books, articles, and periodical literature. Every scholar has his/her solution for the church to survive and thrive in a postmodern world.

However, the contemporary church must understand that neither the problem nor the question are new to this age. The people of God have always had to survive and interact within a hostile cultural context diametrically opposed to its teachings and dedicated to the purpose of subverting, minimizing, and destroying its righteous impact on the world.

God has had His enemies in every age, but He has also preserved His people in every age – people who have successfully confessed their faith and carried out His purpose in their day.

So it must be for us. We can’t ignore or retreat from the cultural onslaught or we will risk becoming irrelevant. Neither can we accommodate and accept our culture or we risk syncretism and perversion of the Gospel. We must instead engage our culture as Jesus and the early church engaged theirs.

  • They did not retreat from their cultural context – isolation.
  • They did not embrace or accommodate to their cultural context – syncretism.
  • They engaged their culture by entering into their context as God’s representative – as insulated ambassadors for God and his truth, as Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 5.

To continue with Paul’s word picture, they were ambassadors – citizens of another country who considered themselves to be aliens in this world.

As such, their mission was to accurately represent God and His truth to a world that was both diametrically opposed to and desperately in need of truth. Their mission was to be in the world but not of the world – accurately representing God and expending themselves in an effort to accomplish the ministry of reconciling men to God.

In their generation men operated under the pre-modern worldview. In succeeding generations, men lived under the modern worldview. Now, the world operates from a post-modern world view.

In the midst of a changing world from age to age, the one constant has been the truth of God.

Where that truth has been presented accurately, powerfully, personally, and redemptively it has always resulted in changed lives.

Contemporary believers have been used to serving Christ in a culture where the basic tenets and categories of the Gospel have been known even if they have been rejected. In this new setting, we have a new task – we are called to bring the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ to a postmodern culture.

The people in this culture are not merely hostile to our message, in the majority of cases, they are totally ignorant of the Gospel. To use our ambassador analogy, they have never visited the country we represent nor do they accept the authority or even existence of the government for which we speak. Others find it difficult to see how the policies of our king have any relevance or application to them. Increasing numbers of the inhabitants of this new culture question whether there is even such a thing as our policy and have relegated the authority of our king to the status of one among many other good options. Some would agree that the policies of our king do exist but they seriously doubt whether we can accurately represent and interpret those policies for them.

And yet, the embassy is still open and our task remains before us – we are to go into the world of postmodernism and reconcile men and women to God.[1]

What shall the righteous do when the foundations are being destroyed? This ancient question was asked and answered in Psalm 11:3. The psalmist answers this question by reminding the reader that “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (11:4).

What can the righteous do in a pluralistic, relativistic, postmodern society that has destroyed the very concept of truth?  We can rely on God, represent Him to this world, and reconcile postmodern people to Himself.

[1] Some of this material was drawn from an essay by Colin S. Smith included in Telling the Truth, pp 175-191.

Sam Horn

Posted by Sam Horn

Dr. Sam Horn is the EVP for enrollment and ministerial advancement at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Prior to BJU, Sam served at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Northland International University, and various churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Sam and Beth have two children – a son in college and a daughter in middle school.