Ask the Pastor…. Strengths and Weaknesses of Postmodernism?

Dear Pastor,

In your opinion what brings the greatest concern with postmodernism and especially with the new generation Z.

Do you see any strengths of Postmodernism?

Thank you,

Bradley

Dear Bradley,

Good questions.

I.) Pomo’s Strength

1.) It not only deconstructs meta-narratives we know are true, it deconstructs meta-narratives that need to be deconstructed, such as Darwinian Evolutionary pseudo-science. Darwinism has been savaged by the Pomo’s and has really lost its status as the narrative of the West.

2.) Pomo reminds us of our creatureliness and that as creatures we cannot get outside of the universe in order to observe the universe and so know the universe. As such, there is always going to be subjectivity in our knowing. Creatures are subjective by definition and as such it must be admitted that the knowledge that we have of the objective has a tacit quality. Our knowledge is not only subjective as the pomo’s insist but neither is our knowledge only objective. See the works here of Michael Polanyi.

II.) Pomo’s weaknesses

1.) First, some would argue that pomo remains modernism but as on steroids, and there is a good deal of truth in that. Pomo like modernism interprets the world apart from God. As such pomo like modernism creates it’s own truths. The difference is that pomo admits it while modernism refused to admit it, choosing instead to embrace the nonsense of some kind of objective reality that can be posited by some kind of fiat act of the will via one kind of logical positivism or another.

2.) Pomo insists that there is no such thing as capital “T” truth but in doing so they demonstrate that Pomo’s capital “T” Truth is that there is no such thing as capital “T” Truth and that is every bit as much as a capital “T” truth as what modernity or any other meta-narrative ever wanted to offer. As such the broad claims of the pomo’s are myths.

3.) Pomo is irrational. So is modernism but Pomo doesn’t care and so doesn’t hide it like modernism does. Pomo’s today (self-conscious or not) embrace the most egregious and bald contradictions without caring one whit. They are irrational, and they love it so.

4.) Because Pomo’s think that they don’t care about capital “T” truth it is harder to get through to them with the Gospel or any true Truth in my estimation. When witnessing what you typically get is, “Well, if that works for you that’s nice.” As such to reach pomos you really have to understand that making them angry is the only way of doing so. (Angry because you have to really break up their worldview furniture before you catch their attention.) Even then they may not care. I’ve known more than one person I’ve engaged with who has said, “Yeah, I know I am in contradiction but I don’t care.”

5.) Pomo’s have no core in terms of character. If reality is what you make it then you can make up a new character and new reality every day. People who lie to themselves like this are sick people.

Thanks Bradley for the question,

Pastor Bret

Rev. McAtee contra Rev. Dr. Keller on Good Doctrine Being a Problem in Today’s Western Church

Starting @ the :52 second mark and ending at the 1:29 point

“I actually do think some people make an idol out of doctrine because there are sectors of the church that say if you have your doctrine straight, and if you have your doctrine right then you’re pleasing to God and  then you are part of the solution, not the problem and you’re not like all these other parts of the church that are very heretical.

There is a pride and a smugness about having good doctrine that, to me,  puts doctrine almost in the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and so it becomes an idol.”

Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor
Redeemer Presbyterian PCA,
New York City, NY

Rev. McAtee responds,

 

Rev. McAtee responds,

1.) Certainly, we must concede that as anything can be turned into an idol and so even doctrine can be turned into an idol. However, if and when that point has arrived the question that must be asked is whether or not the doctrine is the problem or whether the idolator is the problem. Of course, the problem is not the doctrine since it is only doctrine which will rescue the idolater from their making doctrine an idol.

2.) Keep in mind that if someone really has straight and right doctrine then it is not possible to be involved in idolatry since straight and right doctrine, by definition, is not compatible with idolatry. Indeed if one is making an idol of doctrine their doctrine certainly is neither straight, good nor right.  This is a large part of the confusion inherent in this statement by the Rev. Dr. Keller.

3.) Keep in mind that the only solution for those who have turned doctrine into an idol is to tell them to return to doctrine. Since the problem is not with the doctrine but with the idolator the only thing that is going to solve their idolatry is more doctrine. As the problem isn’t the doctrine the only solution is doctrine. If someone has turned doctrine into an idol they can only be reached by giving them true doctrine. As such, contrary to the Rev. Dr. Keller, the doctrine isn’t a problem.

4.) Obviously, we are pleasing to God only as being in Christ and coming under His protection and covering. However, that is a doctrine that I must have straight before I am pleasing to God. God is pleased when we by searching the Scriptures look to see what it is that we should believe (doctrine) in order to honor God. Now, while as a judge God is either pleased with us or not, as a Father God is more pleased with His children who search out Christ wherein are the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge (i.e. — doctrine). That this is so, is seen in how the Lord Christ deals with the seven Churches in Revelation. All Churches are Christians. Five churches are condemned for some weaknesses that the Lord was displeased with while two were only commended. God was more pleased by their faithfulness to the true doctrine than he was with those who were not faithful to true doctrine.

5.) Would to God that every sector of the Church would connect increasingly straight doctrine with God, as Father, being increasingly pleased with us. What other option is there? Would we say that God isn’t increasingly pleased as we are led by the Spirit to increasingly get our doctrine straight? Is God non-plussed over whether our doctrine is increasingly straight or increasingly crooked?

6.) People with crooked doctrine are part of the problem, no matter their good intentions. In the same way, people with straight and right doctrine are part of the solution.

7.) Would the Rev. Dr. Kell have us pray that our doctrine would not be good so that we would not suffer from pride and smugness?

8.) Rev. Dr. Keller complains about doctrine being put in the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and yet the whole idea of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is a doctrine that we’ve been warned against as having right, straight, or good.

9.) Rev. Dr. Keller worries about pride and smugness and idolatry and rightfully so. However, each of those is an issue of improper orthopraxy (right behavior). As proper orthopraxy can only be present where good, straight, and right proper orthodoxy (doctrine) first exists we realize that we can never steer clear of improper orthopraxy (pride, smugness, and idolatry) unless we are good, straight, and right, in our orthodoxy (doctrine).

10.) Some sectors of the Church are indeed very heretical and they are heretical precisely because their understanding of the truth as it is found in Jesus Christ is severely deficient.

Some might say, “Come on Rev. McAtee, you know what he means.” To that my response is, “I’d like to think I know what he means, but I honestly am not sure.” The Rev. Dr. Keller has had his bell rung on certain doctrinal issues that are important and where he has been less than clear upon. Is this a complaint on his part that people who dare disagree with him on his doctrine are examples of those who are pride, smug, and idolatrous?

Look, in our irrational age, it strikes me as passing odd to complain that one of the major problems of the Church is that it is over precise when it comes to its doctrine. This is like warning someone suffering from hypothermia that there is danger in sunstroke.

 

 

Lent … I Peter 5 … Humility & Repentance


I Peter 5:6 
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I am positing this morning that the call for humility, in order to be hearkened to requires also a spirit of repentance. We can not be a humble people if not repentant and where there is no repentance there can be no humility.

Scripture itself yokes the idea of humility and repentance together as it often associates repentance with humbling oneself.

Examples,

I Chronicles 7:14      If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I Kings 21:27ff — It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”

Isaiah 57:15 — For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite

Proverbs 15:30: — He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof
Will dwell among the wise.
32 He who neglects discipline despises himself,
But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,
And before honor comes humility.

And so a humble people are characterized as a people who are familiar with repentance. This is why Luther could offer as #1 in his 99 Theses

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Of course, the virtues of both humbleness and repentance are byproducts of living before the face of God. I seriously doubt the ability of anyone to be adorned by these character markers who do not believe in the God of the Bible.

Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible have no sure foundation for either humbleness nor repentance. Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible live with themselves as the center of their reality and if anything approximating humility or repentance is pursued it is pursued with themselves at the center of their actions. How do I know this?

Well, men apart from Christ can only live with self at the center. Self never denies self. Self, by its definition, is anti-humble, and anti-repentant. Self, by definition, is proud and assertive. And so only the Christian man or woman is concerned for a Scriptural humility and repentance that reflects their “in-Christness.”

This call that Peter gives for humility and, by way of extension, repentance is a call for God’s people to become increasingly epistemologically self-conscious about the fact that our audience in all our living is primarily God. God is the one before whose presence we live in all our doing. God is to be the primary backdrop that should condition and inform all of our behavior. It is because of the reality of God that we can be a humble people.

Peter’s counsel here begins with the call of submissiveness to the Elders. But even this call of a proper submissiveness for the young was presaged by Peter’s teaching that the leadership should not be haughty with those they were to shepherd (vs. 3).

nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

This is why in vs. 5 Peter can start with the word “Likewise.” The Elders are not Shepherding as those who are “Lording over those in their charge,” and youth are in turn also being submissive to the Elders.

A brief excursion here.

We must add that this necessity to be submissive to your Elders adds credibility to the necessity to be in a congregation where you share a common confession and a common worldview with those who are Elders. If you are a Biblical Christian in a Church that is ruled by Elders that are Historical-Critical Christians you are setting yourself up for the necessary inability to be submissive to your Elders. There will be little capacity to be submissive in a Christ-honoring way if you are part of a congregation that does not share your core beliefs.

And practicing a lack of submissiveness, even as the needing to do so might be necessary is not a good thing to practice because it lays down a lack of humbleness as a principle of your life.

So, make sure you’re part of a Congregation where being submissive isn’t an automatic issue because of conflicting confessions and worldviews.

When Peter uses the word “elders” here it may be a reference to the leadership in the Church. More likely it is referring to seasoned saints in general.

This call for respecting of age is not without parallel in the Scripture. Paul can advise Timothy

“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father…”

From this call to the youth being submissive to Elders Peter then moves to a call for a spirit of mutual submissiveness and to be clothed with humility.

Of course, human relations in Churches and in general work better where people are preferring one another. This idea of mutual submissiveness is consistently called for in Scripture.

Phil 3:3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 12:10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.

However, we must keep before us that this call for being humble and mutual submissiveness does not eliminate proper hierarchy in the Scripture. For example, the fact that we are to be submissive to one another does not mean that parents are to be submissive to their children in terms of their proper roles.  Submissiveness looks different according to the different stations and rank wherein God has called us.

What is being called for here is a spirit of humility in general.

Peter then, quoting from Proverbs 3:34, then provides the reason for humility,

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”

James 4:6 also cites this scripture.

6.) “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”

Humble yourselves — The necessity to be pro-active about the matter

Might hand of God — Refers of God’s providential dealings.

6b.) The promise that God has not forgotten — (He may exalt you in due time.)

7.) Casting all your care upon him, for He cares for you

Of course the only reason we can be confident that God cares for us is because we are located and anchored in the finished work of Christ. We can obey this call to humility because we are safely ensconced in Christ.


 

International Woman’s Day with Eta Linnemann … Identifying Historical-Critical Methodology

I thought in honor of International Woman’s Day, I would spend some time reading a female theologian. I am sensitive to these kinds of special days as I am always trying to find ways to fit in. In light of that,I am finishing up Eta Linnemman’s, “Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology?” Linneman was trained by some of the best known Historical-Critical “theologians” on the Continent (Bultmann, Fuchs, Gogarten, Ebeling). After writing a couple books using this methodology she was, by her own testimony, converted. In this book, she examines her former “theology” from a Biblical foundation. From the outset Linnemann lets her mind be known,

“Today, I realize that historical-critical theology’s monopolistic character and worldwide influence is a sign of God’s judgment (Romans 1:18-32).

Eta Linnemann
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 18

She has confirmed for me that the Historical-critical hermeneutical school is characterized by the following,

1.) Historical-Critical theology presupposes that the supernatural is not true. Now, they may talk about the supernatural and they may talk about God but in their worldview “God” is defined in one of two ways. God is either defined as non-transcendent so that he is completely immanent

“A scientific historiography arose which first excluded God as an active agent in the historical process by introducing ‘a god of the philosophers’ who conveyed awareness of himself immanently in the course of history. This pseudo-god soon turned out to be superfluous, but he had served to eliminate the possibility of the true God’s real and ongoing activity in human history. In this way there came to be a totally atheistical historical ‘science.'”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 30

Or God is so transcendent that His transcendence is beyond the ability for the creature to know anything about himA God this transcendent ends up being no different than a God who is completely immanent. Any talk of the “supernatural” for this kind of theologian finds such supernatural as the result of the outworking of the Geist in the historical process. This remains a completely immanent process.

Yarbough offers in the introduction to Linnemann’s work,

“In the historical-critical hermeneutic, God as understood in historic orthodox Christian, thought is systematically ruled out of consideration and is replaced by human self-awareness and purely immanent forces; as the historical theology textbooks put it, anthropology replaces theology.”

Robert Yarbrough
Translator’s Introduction
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology — pg. 12

2.)  Historical-critical theology insists that the text must be approached by neither presupposing that it is or is not true or false. Complete neutrality as accompanied by a putatively presuppositional-less bias is the required approach. Of course, by not presupposing that the text is God’s authoritative Word the result is that man becomes sovereign over God’s Word in determining what is to be believed and what is to be eschewed. Of course, this is sold as the ability to be “completely objective,” but objectivity has been completely surrendered the minute that presuppositions affirming the truthfulness of God’s Word are surrendered. There is no reasoning from nowhere. Everyone approaches texts with faith assumptions. Surrendering proper God-centered presuppositions means embracing improper humanist centered presuppositions. Neutrality is a myth.

Linnemann offers,

“In Historical-Critical methodology, the research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (as if there were no God). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start, even if the researcher acknowledges that God could bear witness of Himself in His Word. The standard by which all is assessed is not God’s Word but ‘scientific’ principle…. Scientific principle has come to have the status of idol.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg. 84

3.) One sign of Historical-Critical theology is the tendency to read the varying human authors of the Scripture as if they are in contradiction with one another. As a random example, when one pits the “Theology of Luke” against say the “Theology of Peter,”  as if they contradict each other what one has done, whether they realize it or not, is to have embraced a paradigm that eschews divine inspiration. If God is ultimately the one author of all the authors of Revelation then it cannot be held that those authors contradict one another unless one is willing to say that God contradicts Himself.

4.) The Historical-Critical method tends to find a canon within a canon. This arbitrary canon then becomes the prism through which all other books of the bible are read.

Linneman again,

“In order to do justice to the claim of authority which the Biblical canon has for the church, and also for personal orientation, one seeks a canon within the canon. A few come up with little more than Romans 7, the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, and the parable of the final judgment in Matthew 25. For others, this ‘canon within the canon’ extends further. In either case, this standard is used to assess the rest of the Bible, and Sachkritik (a method in which what is deemed to be of central importance is used as a standard against which other parts of the Bible are measured) is employed, whether implicitly or explicitly.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg.  86

By using this Sachkritik methodology all that lies outside of or is in contradiction to the Historical-Critical “theologian’s” hobby horses are readily overturn.

5.) The art of Pseudomorphosis is ubiquitous. Linnemann informs us that Pseudomorphosis is when concepts are emptied of their meaning and then filled with a new content which has no more in common with the original meaning than the name itself.  In Pseudomorphosis Christian words and phrases, while being retained, have been hollowed out by the Enlightenment project. The ideas of the Endarkenment, from Deism to Transcendentalism – Romanticism, to Darwinism, to Existentialism – Nihilism to Postmodernism, all have been as so many ichneumon flies who laid their eggs inside their Christian host. On the outside, the host may look fine but on the inside, the larvae are eating out the host from the inside out. The outer form of Christianity has remained undamaged. We still use the same language and jargon. But the thing itself is dead, and what will soon emerge is the ugly offspring of the flies who successfully laid their eggs. What Linnemann offers as Pseudomorphosis others have labeled as “linguistic deception.”

6.) There is a distinction made between the words of the Bible and God’s Word. The Bible is the Word of God is exchanged for “the Bible contains the word of God and so may become the Word of God.” This forms the genesis of what became known as encounter theology. The Bible may well become the word of God for the reader in an encounter that results in a meaningful experience but Scripture itself is not the objective word of God.  Eta Linnemaan offers,

The Bible is no longer esteemed as God’s word in the way it is handled. It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s words are not identical. The printed matter between the two covers of the Bible is said not to be God’s word in and of itself. It becomes God’s Word only from time to time when it functions as through reading or preaching.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg.  85

Jesus as Che Guevara, or, Theology as Socialism

“Increasingly the younger generation of theologians is being infiltrated by socialism. God’s saving purpose and eternal redemption in Jesus Christ are replaced by human goals of world improvement. These goals are veiled in arbitrarily selected words of the so-called ‘historical Jesus,’ who is interpreted as social reformer or as revolutionary, depending on what the interpreter desires. Preferred texts include the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the discourse on world judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), as well as Jesus’ words regarding the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). In the last passage the term son of man in verse 28 is taken to simply mean man, which is linguistically possible. Jesus table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners (e.g. — Mark 2:15-17) is taken as proof that he changed unjust social structures and that we should imitate him in this. 

Characteristic of this approach is the theory of projection. (We might call this ‘social constructs’ — BLM.) The Old Testament is, for the most part, set aside as irrelevant to us because it is, entirely or in part, merely an intellectual construction, a projection. It is the result of then-current patriarchal social structures and conditions. According to this theory, even the ten commandments are no longer normative for us. Jesus is said to have abolished them with the commandment to love. But what love means is not derived from God’s Word, but is rather determined by sensual means. 

The prophets are ranked as social reformers. Amos serves as an alibi for this.”

Eta Linnamenn
Historical Criticism of the Bible; Methodology or Ideology? — pg. 92