Saturday, September 26, 2020

Two Short Essays: What Postmodernism Gets the Most Right (It Does) and Science Should Recognize Supernaturalism as Science


Here is how Britannica defines postmodernism:

Postmodernism, also spelled post-modernism, in Western philosophy, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.

Postmodernism is a reaction to or what one might call a pendulum swing from modernism.  Modernism depended on human reason or empirical evidence alone as its basis for truth.  Modernism did not nor was sufficient to fulfill its adherents.  Postmodernism arose mainly, it seems, from a dissatisfaction with modernism.  Modernism did not provide satisfactory answers to important questions related to man's existence.  The main evidence overall for postmodernist thinkers or sympathizers was the modern machine running over humanity as witnessed in the wars of the twentieth century.  Modernism did not bring utopia.

After the rejection of transcendent truth, goodness, and beauty proceeding from Divine revelation, and then the abject failure of modernism, postmodernism is the next iteration of the departure from the Divine.  One could say that the results of modernism were foretold by Friedrich Nietzsche in his "death of God."  Some of the popularity of Jordan Peterson in recent days was his evaluation that Nietzsche's intention of “God is dead" was a warning against the atheism and nihilism of the Western intelligentsia. Peterson says that Marxism and then Nazism moved in to fill the void.

Postmodernists now react to the void left from at least the practical atheism of the West.  What we see in the streets of the United States are the manifestations of that void.  Postmodernism doesn't offer a better alternative than modernism.  It's actually far worse.

Postmodernism is right in its rejection of the modernistic means of knowing the truth.  It says that we are limited in our ability to know.  Modernism placed and places far too much value on reason and empirical evidence.  Postmodernism says the reason is biased, so that reality is constructed through institutions, language, and power.  These are subjective barriers to knowing truth.  This is right.

In application to postmodernism, we get critical theory.  In gender theory, gender has not been determined by empirical evidence, but by a social construct.  "The man" can't be trusted, so if your birth certificate says, biological male, you can still identify as a woman.  Gender is merely a social construct.  Ideas and values are power constructs that shape what is called the truth.  Human beings cannot rise above cultural bias to get at reality, knowledge, or truth.

When modernism rejected the epistemology of faith, the means by which God gives the truth, skepticism and relativism replaced it. By faith men know what is most important to their reality.  The modernistic rejection of faith in God's revelation brought postmodernism.

Postmodernism does acknowledge that man cannot access knowledge in a neutral way.  He comes with a bias.  No one is neutral.  The Bible agrees with that assessment.  This is the reason why men must depend on Divine revelation for their knowledge of the truth.  Postmodernism gets the bias part correct, but turns the exact opposite direction to get the solution.

One more thought.  Much of evangelicalism by bowing to evidentialism and historicism for its theology has aided and abetted the rise of postmodernism.  I'm not saying that evidence does not match what God says in its Word.  I am saying that what is most important for us to know we know by faith.  None of the truth is contradicted by Divine revelation.  All of what we need to know, we receive sufficiently from scripture.  You can see the rejection of that among the leaders of evangelicalism, so it is no wonder that evangelicals today are being influenced by critical theory.  They so wanted to be included in the academy, that they turned from and rejected a premodern, transcendental, fideistic epistemology.


When I evangelize, I don't know how many times I've had someone say they can't take what I'm saying or preaching because he or she is a scientist, meaning of course that I'm not a scientist with what I'm presenting.  It's a lot of times I've heard this -- thousands.  I had it occur the last two days in a row, as examples, and that's not unusual.  I've got a lot of different come backs through the years, but one of them is, "I'm a scientist too."  In fact, people who deny supernaturalism are not the scientists.  Supernaturalism is a requirement for true science.  I'm not going to plunge the entire depth of this subject, but I want to explain part of it at least.

It's not scientific to look at this universe and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to look at the existence of kinds both living and in the fossil record and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to look at the hundreds of conditions that exist for anyone to live at every given moment and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to consider the origin of all matter and space and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to look at the irreducible complexity of a human cell and its DNA and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to consider the human eye, the circulatory system, the reproductive system, two people conversing at a rapid pace with almost complete understanding and say, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to read and know the thousands of fulfilled prophecies of the Bible and says, it's only natural.  It's not scientific to read and know the true history of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and say, it's only natural.

What is obvious is the tremendous power and intelligence required for the origination and sustaining of the order and complexity of all things.  Whatever the explanation, it isn't natural.  Even if someone doesn't want to believe it is God, he still ventures into something supernatural that someone might say requires more faith than the biblical account of the origin of the universe.  For instance, a common view among professing naturalists is the multiverse.  

In The Scientific American in August 2011, scientist Mark Ellis criticized the multiverse view because the issue is metaphysical and can't be resolved with empirical science.  The thought or idea of what it would take or what it would have taken for the existence of a mind-boggling immense and complex universe with incalculable variegated systems delves into something beyond our comprehension, which by definition is supernatural.  Something beyond our human abilities, which is what it would take for all things and every thing to exist and function, moves into the supernatural.

If someone could or would get it into his head that the universe requires a supernatural explanation, then he can consider or explore God as the supernatural explanation.  It does require the supernatural.  There is not an eternal regression of causes, and the first cause must be more powerful and intelligent than human comprehension.  It is not scientific to limit ourselves to the natural alone as an explanation.

Furthermore, some of the smaller, detailed happenings also are beyond a naturalistic explanation as seen in the inability still to know or understand.  Unexplained phenomena are all around.  Men are still not sure what causes the electrical discharges of lightning, a very common occurrence.  A strong force holds atoms together and even though they know it exists, scientists don't know what it is.  They know more than ever about how it works, but they still do not know what it is.

It isn't scientific to reject the supernatural.  It's a philosophical point of view and that's what scripture says it is.  Another name for complete naturalism is uniformitarianism, "the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe."  This point of view is represented in scripture in 2 Peter 3:4, "all things continue as they were from the beginning."  It is a denial of supernatural or divine intervention.

Things don't just continue as they were from the beginning.  That is not scientific in and of itself based upon many different scientific truths, including life comes from life, not from nonlife.  A supernatural first cause, a Self-Existent Uncaused Cause, who intervened to start, is a necessity for the fulfillment of that law of science.  God has continued and continued to intervene and provided sufficient evidence, revelation from Him, that proves His intervention in His creation.


Andrew said...

A lot of people really do understand that "modernism" as you put it falls short. The huge problem is that, somehow, in the last however long it has been, it has somehow become completely socially unacceptable to talk about God beyond using the most vague, new-age kind of terminology... Part of this has always existed. We know this because some like in Romans 1 often do not want to retain God in their knowledge.

But, there's something more going on here. Many people avoid talking about Christianity and the Bible specifically (they don't have this problem with other religions or metaphysical claims) because they have been fed a propaganda narrative that reads like something very similar to the fiction novel "handmaid's tale." They have been fed a retelling of history, partially in the schools, partially on television and in movies. It is a revision of history that seems to speak of a supposed fiendishly cruel regime that used to exist everywhere before the 1960's, made up supposedly of nothing but cruel abusive people, and upon these fictional entities all the sins of "imperialism" are hoisted, on the caricature of Christians of the pre-1960's world. It is a caricature which far outdoes anything Stalin in real life ever did.

This narrative is combined with a persistent, pavlovian-style media campaign that has been purposely designed to evoke negative stimuli in a person, anytime someone behaves typically "Christian," to create the impression of a lurking psychopath and tyrant that is always ready to explode, just beneath the surface. You guys probably have a good idea of the sort of false profile I'm talking about. Many people nowadays have this conditioning, and it didn't really exist in the past. This is because this coordinated media campaign or "antichristian propaganda effort" in the west was only just begun in the more recent era of history, and it was started by a group of non-Christians who really want to suppress Biblical values. It seems they want to suppress it very much specifically, almost as if it the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ were, somehow, their one mortal enemy that had to be stopped at any cost.

So, now we have people that have actually been conditioned to react negatively to anything involving the Gospel, or preaching, or the Lord God.

The problem is that everyone knows pure materialism or naturalism isn't enough. How do you justify any kind of values? You can't. So people are naturally looking for sources of truth. However, they are purposely conditioned away from seeking the Bible or Christianity due to the coordinated media campaign, which we might call political correctness, previously mentioned. Anytime one of the "negative stimuli" is triggered and someone says something perceived as Christian, the conditioned person will reactively close the door on that conversation. Part of it is also because even if they aren't afraid to talk about it, they have long been trained to be aware that other people will also be "offended" when such subjects are brought up. You often hear the phrase "no religion or politics." So we have a strange situation where people want the truth but then as soon as Christianity or the Bible is brought up, a lot of people suddenly switch gears and become hard modernists again. I feel really bad for them because, if they could simply break that conditioning they could be reached and helped. Many people want to know the truth but have been badly lied to. The synagogue of satan really really doesn't want the people of our country freely being able to discuss and think about the truths of Christianity. It is a specific, organized attack on our Biblical Christian values that is underway, and has been since approximately the last sixty to seventy years. I would definitely categorize it as a true spiritual battle.

Andrew said...

Oh yes, and I forgot to thank you for the post Pastor Brandenburg. It got me thinking about these things.

One other thing on reflecting on what I previously wrote, "they" would certainly like it if the only religious history you knew involved the puritan witch-burning and roman heretic burning that happened. They wouldn't want you to know about people like Dr. John Clarke who started the first Baptist church in Newport, 1638 and the values freedom of conscience that they stood for at that time in our history. Here is a couple quotations from him:

"The 7th day of the first month, 1638. We whose names are underwritten do here solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick, and, as he shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of his given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby."

Petition to the King: "That they might be permitted to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand, and best be maintained, with a full liberty in religious concernments; and that true piety, rightly grounded upon gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligation to true loyalty."

Oh no, the people I've been talking about wouldn't want you to learn about this history or where certain parts of the Bill of Rights comes from. But, as the apostle Paul so prophetically stated: "they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men"

And also it was further said, "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."

"far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.
"For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Good additions, Andrew.

Andrew said...

Hey you know what if I'm ever mistaken on anything just let me know. Thanks for the word of approval.