By Ben Swift
Reflecting on Nietzsche’s news of the death of God and the rise of Postmodernism, James Sire noted in his book ‘The Universe Next Door’ that the age in which we now live, finds itself afloat in a pluralism of perspectives, a multitude of philosophical possibilities, but with no true north for which to guide our compass and point us in the direction we ought to go.
‘The Postmodernism Express’ it seems, has taken us all for a ride, as we so often travel its line of thinking. “You can hold your perception of truth and I’ll hold mine.”
This way of thinking is nothing new, however. It can even be traced back to a conversation between Pilate and Jesus not long before the crucifixion took place.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37-38)
What is truth? Now that seems to be the question. It was then and it remains so today.
My concern, and I hope I’m not alone, is how this way of thinking has and continues to infiltrate the minds of Christians; darkening the eyes of souls created for the light of life.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23)
A commentary on Matthew’s Gospel found in the Interpreter’s Bible series, suggests that the eye turned Godward is sound; the eye turned earthward is diseased, as if by tumors or cataracts. If we are to follow Christ, we will need to ensure our spiritual eyes are good, focused on God’s truth, filling our souls with light until no darkness remains. This may involve some time under the surgeon’s knife as the cancerous tissues are removed from our lives.
Surely, we must keep this in mind during the discussions we have as groups of Christians on how to interpret passages of Scripture. How often do we hear questions such as, “How does this speak to you?” or “What do you think this means?” But are we, by asking such questions, taking the risk of losing our way, falling into a postmodern sinkhole of subjective interpretations of truth? Let’s be careful here, we don’t want liberalism sneaking in and widening the narrow door, bending doctrines this way and that until malleable enough to fit the world’s latest mold.
Now I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to know what Scripture is actually teaching and that often requires a combination of the Spirit’s illumination and the knowledgeable insight of experts in the area of biblical interpretation. And let’s not forget to test Scripture with Scripture. Saint Augustine, in his ancient masterpiece City of God, highlights for us the reason why:
‘The creature’s knowledge, left to itself, is, we might say, in faded colours, compared to the knowledge that comes when it is known in the Wisdom of God, in that art, as it were, by which it was created.’
Religions and philosophies that fail to seek truth in Christ, refusing to enter through the narrow gate, highlight just how far human ideas fade in comparison to God’s truth as revealed in Christ. While the Bible, through the work of the Holy Spirit, opens the spiritual eyes of those who belong to God, many have filtered and applied Scripture through their self-focused lens, only to darken the pages of history with their personal worldly desires. The link between interpretation and context surely matters and as Christians we mustn’t drop the ball when it comes to opening the eyes of our souls.
According to ABC journalist, Samuel Koehne, Hitler’s favourite Bible passage spoke of Jesus cleansing the Temple of the money changers (Mark 11), which he saw as an early model for his own perceived battle against ‘materialistic’ Jews. He even went as far as to reduce the mission of Christ to, “It is only the means that change over the course of time; what was earlier a whip is today a blackjack [a leather-covered hand weapon used for bludgeoning].”
This example alone highlights just how much context and correct interpretation matters.
As the ‘Postmodernism Express’ continues in its attempt to derail the idea of objective truth – that rock on which Christianity is anchored- will we, the Church, go along for the ride or will we listen to what God has to say through the eyes of those illuminated by his Spirit, gifted experts in interpreting Scripture and always willing to test out what they have to say under the exposing light of The Word?
What is truth? Truth is everything. Not my truth, but Christ who is truth; the light that shines in the darkness. Let us walk in this light.