Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary
The Crisis of Truth in the Postmodern World
I. DECLARING AND DEFENDING THE TRUTH TODAY
A. A tale of three umpires
B. Our command from God: Speak the truth in love to all (Ephesians 4:15;
B. The apologetic imperative: defend the truth of the faith rationally
1. Have a reasonable answer to questions about God (Isa. 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15-16; Jude 3)
2. Know your culture (1 Chron. 12:32)
3. Know the truth: church is “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15)
C. Snapshots of postmodern realities
1. Bumper sticker: “I’ve given up on reality. Now I’m looking for a good
2. Erosion of Christian convictions about truth: relativism and ignorance
D. Preview: Diagnose truth decay, expose it, and give a biblical view to apply
II. DIAGNOSING TRUTH DECAY: POSTMODERN APPROACHES
A. What is truth decay? The loss of the proper notion of truth. This renders
B. Postmodernity (cultural condition) and Postmodernism (philosophy)
C. Postmodern cultural conditions (postmodernity): air we breath culturally
1. Sociological pluralism (compare 1 Corinthians 8:5-6)
2. Media saturation; “the saturated self” (Kenneth Gergen)
3. Identity choices multiplied and made easier: “reinventing” the self
D. Postmodernist ideas or philosophies (see Colossians 2:8)
1. Constructivism: we are contingent all the way down
2. Relativism: no access to truth; everything depends on perspectives
3. Language creates perspectives: many languages many perspectives, not truth
4. Irony, superficiality, no depth to discover (all is constructed):
5. Implication (a): Revealed, biblical truth is deemed impossible
6. Implication (b): Spirituality divorced from truth; if it “works for you.”
IV. POSTMODERNISM ON TRIAL: THE REVENGE OF REALITY
(Proverbs 8:34-35; Matthew 7:24-27)
A. False and illogical view of human language
1. Self-reference problem: uses language to discredit language
2. Language and reality: words can connect with facts: maps and destinations
(Mapquest); doctors and diagnoses; astronauts go to the moon and back
B. Ethical problems with Postmodernism: Counterexamples
1. Particular cultural expressions of true moral good: Martin Luther King’s
stand for civil rights for blacks
2. Particular cultural expressions of true moral evil: Martin Luther King’s
assassination; Osama bin Laden; torturing the innocent for pleasure; rape
V. TREATING TRUTH DECAY: THE CHRISTIAN’S CHALLENGE
A. Knowing the Christian worldview (theology for all of life)
1. The total Lordship of Christ (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1:15-19)
2. The obligation to oppose falsehood (2 Corinthians 10:3-5: Jude 3)
B. Christian view of God’s truth
1. Clarify the concept of truth, before getting to content of truth
2. General concept and Christian: correspondence view of truth: truth is what
matches reality. See Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapters 3-4.
C. Four Elements of Christian truth: radical monotheism (Deuteronomy 6:4)
1. Revealed—not constructed, created by us (Hebrews. 4:12)
a. God: uncreated, unconstructed, undeconstructed, unreconstructed—
eternal, immutably good in his character. The Rock of our salvation.
b. Language is adequate for communicating truth; God is there to speak to
c. G.K. Chesterton: “I won’t call it my philosophy; for I did not make it.
God and humanity made it and it made me.” (Orthodoxy)
d. Truth from God for his creatures
2. Objective—not only merely subjective (Romans 3:4)
a. Not dependent on opinions or feelings or preferences; mind-independent
b. Biblical truth stands apart from our interpretations as factual; interpretations are not all equal.
c. Truth must be subjectively appropriated; truth sets you free only if you follow it!
d. Truth must be lived out in community, the Body of Christ: teaching, preaching, mentoring
3. Absolute, invariant—not relative (John 14:1-6); no exceptions, exemptions, vetoes
a. Qualifications, nuances
1. We don’t have all the truth (1 Cor. 13)
2. We cannot convince everyone of it immediately, even Jesus and the Apostles could not
3. We are not infallible in our understanding of it; we are in process
b. Benefit: God is not all over the map; God is focused in Jesus Christ, the way out of the spiritual maze
4. Universal—not situational, regional, parochial (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 4:12)
a. Truth covers all of reality: cross-cultural (Matthew 28:18-20)
b. Truth is for all humanity: for their salvation (Acts 4:12). One died for all.
c. No neutral ground; no demilitarized zone; claimed by God, counter-claimed
by Satan (C.S. Lewis)
d. Vastness, multinational throng of the redeemed worshiping the lamb (Rev.
V. STAYING TRUE TO THE TRUTH
A. Know the truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32).
1. Resist the dumbing down of culture; resist the lies of postmodernism
2. Oppose biblical illiteracy and theological ignorance. How?
3. Study the Scripture like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11
B. Back to the umpires:
a. Call ‘um as they are: arrogant
b. Not anything till I call ‘um: postmodernist
c. I call ‘um as I see ‘um: Christian. Work to get into the right position to know the truth, as does a good umpire.
C. Live in and live out the total truth of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:15)
1. Stay true to the truth. Be a holy person of truth. See Os Guinness, A Time for Truth
2. Application (a): Ask God to reveal areas of truth decay in your life; then repent of them (Psalm 139:23-24; 1 John 1:8-10)
3. Application (b): Look for opportunities to present the truth of God in all its fullness conversations, letters, telephone calls, etc. Stay true to the truth; be a holy person of truth willing to live in the holy will of God’s (1) revealed, (2) absolute, (3) objective, and (4) universal truth
4. Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “One word of truth outweighs the world.”
5. Instead of “I’ve given up on reality, now I’m looking for a good fantasy”
“I’ve found reality, and I’ve given up on fantasy. Why don’t you join me in the truth of Jesus Christ that sets us free?”
For more on the biblical concept of truth and how to respond to postmodernism:
1. D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God (Baker, 1996).
2. Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000).
3. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 2011), chapters 6-7 particularly.
4. Douglas Groothuis web page: www.DougGroothuis.com
5. Doug Groothuis Blog: The Constructive Curmudgeon: www.theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com
6. Os Guinness, A Time for Truth (Baker, 2000).
7. J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind (NavPress, 1997).
8. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Crossway Publishers, 2004).
9. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There (InterVarsity Press, 1998); A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, 1981).
10. James Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue, 5th ed. (InterVarsity Press, 2010).