"Blue Like Jazz"--Reflections by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis
On page 103 of Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller says essentially that Christianity is not an intellectual issue for him any more. He has grown past that. Having intellectual discussions and debates about God is just an exercise in arrogance and ego; it's only about who's the smartest. "Who knows anything anyway?" he says. If I walk away from God, he says, I will not walk away for intellectual reasons. Rather, "I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything."
If there is no objective truth that is knowable, if there is only the endless, pointless argumentation of "smart guys" who disagree with each other on the one hand, and only the smarmy, pseudo-righteous opinionating of those who shun such argumentation on the other hand, then what else is there at bottom? Nothing. There is nothing else. Any Christian who has capitulated to this postmodern cultural view of the nature of "belief" can say he believes in biblical authority or biblical inspiration, but the words will be meaningless. And this individual's interpretation of Scripture will basically be free floating, unmoored by the bedrock articles of faith that, from the beginning of God's covenanting with his people, have been taken to be true regardless of anyone's opinion. The notion of mind-independent, objective truth necessarily grounds belief in biblical authority.
Biblical authority has to do with author-ity, the author's intended meaning in writing what he wrote. The postmodernist view of truth as merely a social or personal construct (a constructivist view of truth) renders the author's intended meaning utterly irrelevant. What counts on this view is the reader's understanding and perspective of the matter. So much for biblical authority. So much for the full inspiration of the biblical text. Hello, theological liberalism.
So, you see, evangelicals who want to be culturally hip and intellectually cutting-edge cannot succumb to the truth-eviscerated notion of "belief" propagated by the likes of Donald Miller and Brian McLaren (who endorsed Miller's book) while at the same time arguing for a particular interpretation of Scripture based on the authority of Scripture. A constructivist view of truth does not permit Scripture to have any intrinsic authority; it can only have the authority that the reader chooses to impute to it. Someone who holds this cultural view of truth will not hold to Christian “belief” because of the truth and authority of Scripture, but because of his or her “social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons.” This is not a stand that is either honoring to God or edifying for the church.
Donald Miller’s comments cleverly turn a deep theological error into a point of “righteousness.” What he says strikes a chord. It sounds wise, profound, countercultural even. But that is exactly what it is not. The insidious element in this culturally constructivist view is that it appeals to some things that are true: Modernist notions of objective truth are in some ways arrogant, false, and unworkable. Much debate over the existence of God is carried on by arrogant, know-it-all guys who do nothing to further people's faith in or knowledge of the true God. Faith in Christ is more than intellectual assent. But to skip from these observations to the assertion that no one knows anything anyway, and all belief is based on purely personal notions and needs, is a classic example of a non sequitur: the conclusion does not follow from the premise. But, of course, this would not bother the truth-constructivist, because logic—along with biblical authority—has necessarily disappeared with the demise of objective truth.
I really cannot understand the appeal of the postmodernist worldview. When I hear that Donald Miller believes in Christ for mere "social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons" (since these are the reasons he does anything), I have zero interest in hearing anything else he has to say. What have his social, identity, and emotional issues to do with what I should believe? If no one "knows anything anyway," then Mr. Miller simply has no way of knowing what he's even talking about! He has no way of even knowing what he should believe, much less what anyone else should believe. And if his deep emotional issues should somehow steer him away from Christian "belief," then there is where he will be going. Away. What incentive would anyone have to ground his or her faith in such an utterly groundless faith?
Rebecca Merrill Groothuis is the author of Women Caught in the Conflict and Good News for Women. She co-edited Discovering Biblical Equality.