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The Dangers of Postmodernism

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

Ideologically and theologically the early 21st century is characterised by a sharp swing towards postmodernism. This school of thought gradually became established during the past two decades of the previous century but presently enjoys the support of millions of people all over the world. Postmodernism is the frame of mind and lifestyle of the fully liberated man who abandoned all ideologies, traditions and shackles which may in any way have impeded his freedom of thinking and acting. We have to gain clarity on the true nature of postmodernism as well as the most important dangers associated with it.

According to postmodernists the history of the world may, ideologically, be divided into the following three periods:

Premodernism

That was the period of primitiveness when every tribe or nation had its own, traditional faith which was primarily based upon witchcraft, divination, ancestor worship and different forms of idolatry, as well as the mysticism of the Eastern religions. Most of the primitive people were illiterate, and during this time did not experience any noteworthy development in technology, medicine and other fields. Knowledge was limited and largely stagnated because it was not founded on research and was often associated with superstition.

Modernism

This period in the world history was introduced by the establishment of the Christian faith in many parts of the world. The Christian calendar which started at the birth of the Lord Jesus was accepted everywhere and is an indication of the chronological development of the Christian civilisation, which has become synonymous with modernism. Since its early expansion from Jerusalem the Christian faith met with relentless opposition from heathen religions and a heathen world empire. Christianity was also considerably weakened when for its most part it fell under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. This situation gave rise to spiritual and academic stagnation during the dark Middle Ages.

It was not until the major spiritual awakening of the 18th and 19th centuries that world evangelism was done with great diligence and dedication. That gave rise to major expansion of the Christian church and laid the foundation for the Western Christian civilisation. Significant technological development followed when people were liberated from superstition, while education up to the tertiary level became a priority in all developing countries.

Other ideologies also became established during the development phase of modernism, particularly capitalism, socialism and communism. Capitalism became a major driving force which led to the colonising and modernising of various Third World countries. Socialism motivated the establishment of communist dictatorships in many parts of the world.

Postmodernism

The perplexing scientific and technological achievements of the 20th century have gradually given rise to new ideological and religious views in the world. Because of their increased knowledge and skills people gained more power, they discovered more scientific explanations for human life and natural phenomena and in the process discovered solutions to most of their problems. Research became the key to new insights, knowledge increased exponentially and humanity started shaping their own world. In this new world people occupy a central position and become the masters of their own destiny.

A humanistic doctrine of self-redemption emerged from this man and knowledge oriented worldview since man started liberating himself from all ideologies in the modern era that impeded his freedom of thought and lifestyle. He consciously moved from the modern to the postmodern period. But to be able to do this he had to discredit and abandon important characteristics of the modern era because they are too restrictive and prescriptive in nature. That gave rise to an extensive process of deconstruction.

The Christian religion is deconstructed for the following reasons:

  • It leads to faith in a Supreme Being who has authority over people to determine the nature of their lives and also to eternally condemn them if they don’t comply with divine precepts.
  • It offers supernatural explanations to the origin of the world as well as all forms of life, and these explanations are contrary to the scientific findings such as the theory of evolution.
  • It describes concepts such as heaven, hell and life after death, which are not scientifically verifiable.
  • It pronounces unacceptable judgements upon most people, even Christians who entertain certain views that are at variance with the Bible.
  • It portrays a very negative image of the non-Christian religions.
  • It enforces a set of moral norms on people which restricts their freedom of choice, including their sexual orientation, and stigmatises those who do not comply with these norms.
  • It discourages people to only make use of psychological methods to solve deviate conduct, self-esteem problems and mental disorders.

It is for reasons such as these that postmodern man regards himself as post-Christian and post-theistic. Some of them completely reject Christianity and follow a secular lifestyle. Others follow the way of drastically reforming theology in order to subject it to their own views. To them, liberal churches and other religious meetings are used as forums for the further deconstruction of evangelical Christianity.

These reformers reduce the Bible to the level of a humanly conceived book permeated with contradictions. The transcendent God is robbed of His power and depicted as a pantheistic god who dwells in all people and also in nature. The virgin birth of the Lord Jesus, His deity, resurrection from the dead and His ascension are denied, as well as the redemptive value of His crucifixion. Prayer is replaced by Eastern meditation, while all forms of directive preaching from the Bible are banned and substituted by speculative discussions in which the credibility of the Bible is questioned. Meetings of this nature are the breeding-ground for postmodern agnosticism.

One of the views entertained by postmodern theologians of the New Reformation in South Africa is that a scientific worldview does not recognise the Biblical concepts of “above” and “under”. According to them, there is no proof of the existence of a heaven and an underworld (hades or hell) - neither do they believe in a devil. The allegation is made that early Christianity was strongly influenced by the premodern superstition of the Middle East, from which it derived its ideas of the devil as dragon or snake that has a kingdom somewhere in the air. To them, this is only a myth.

The majority of postmodernists also reject the idea of life after death. They argue that when a person dies he merely returns to the dust from which he was made. His consciousness also ends at death. For this reason, human life should be considered on a horizontal level without any reference to a supernatural dimension which can anyway, according to them, not be verified scientifically. All beliefs to this effect are ascribed to the influence of a primitive, premodern worldview.

Apart from the fact that postmodern man abandons rigid religious ideas, he also abandons other institutions in society which regulate his behaviour and restrict his freedom of choice. That includes political ideologies such as capitalism and communism, and for this reason postmodernism is in certain societies experienced as post-capitalistic, post-colonialist, or post-communistic. The democratic rights of liberated man should take absolute precedence and not be limited by any oppressive system.

Deconstruction is a key concept in postmodern reforms. The old order of human societies should completely vanish to make room for the new order of a free and united humanity. In modern legal systems these liberties are honoured as the highest expressions of the constitutional rights of every individual.

A revolution against God

Postmodernism is basically a revolution against the God of the Bible. His authority stands in the way of fallen humanity who wants to be in full control of its own affairs. People are no longer willing to comply with God’s guidelines and want to be free to do as they please. In Psalm 2, in which the Kingship of the Lord Jesus on earth is confirmed, world leaders urge one another to reject this divine control and participate in a revolution against God and His Son:

“Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1-3).

This revolution has already progressed very far, as evidenced by the fact that Christian constitutions in which the supremacy of the Triune God is recognised, have become a rare phenomenon in the world. Because of this, state-subsidised Christian education is also a vanished phenomenon. In its place governments are offering secular or multireligious education. The young generation increasingly grow up in a postmodern milieu in which they have virtually limitless freedom to order their lives morally, socially and religiously at will. Christian standards are regarded as obsolete or irrelevant and are defended and observed by very few members of the upcoming generation.

A further aspect of this revolution is the joint action by world leaders to liberate humanity in its entirety. The concept of globalism is clearly reflected by this joint action of theirs and alludes to a new world order. Humanity should be united politically, religiously and also in the economic sphere, as the highest expression of man’s self-realisation and dominion over the earth and its inhabitants. In this way they are building a modern tower of Babel.

Synthesis

As the deconstruction of the old order gains momentum, a new social system emerges which is based upon synthesis. It amounts to an eclectic combination of views and practices from both the modern and premodern periods, while ideas from other religions may also be incorporated. There are literally no limits to that which “liberated man” can reject and then accept in its place. It is no longer strange to hear that people are gay, are not interested in formal marriages, do not believe in the Bible or in God, and have decided to practise Buddhist or Hindu meditation techniques.

The people of Africa are also free to either practise ancestor worship from the premodern period, or one or other version of Christianity, or any of the non-Christian religions. They can also try to mix the various traditions. No pressure should be exerted on any person to conform exclusively to the principles of one or other system of faith.

Tolerance

In the emerging societies a culture of mutual tolerance is promoted by not criticising or impeaching anybody. Any act in this direction can be interpreted as hate speech and lead to civil or criminal prosecution. All people’s freedom should be respected and one person’s moral views on right and wrong should not be enforced upon others.

The only restriction imposed upon people in postmodern societies is that, through their actions, they should not harm or endanger other people and neither should they commit cruelty against animals. Peace, unity and harmony should be pursued as the highest ideals, also on the international level.

Salvation and punishment

What does the Lord say about this revolution against Him and His Son, which has become a worldwide movement in the end-time?

“Then He shall speak to them in His wrath and distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are my Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him” (Ps. 2:5-12).

God is a God of love and mercy. He decided to send His Son, incarnated as a lowly Servant, as Saviour to a sinful world full of unrighteousness and violence. Before the birth of Jesus the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said about the Child: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). “Jesus” means “the Lord is Salvation”. The Lord Jesus also came for other nations to seek and save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). For that reason He sent His disciples to the ends of the earth with the gospel of salvation (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). World evangelisation is the great commission to the church during this age.

When all nations have heard the gospel and those who responded positively have been saved, Christ will return to take active control over the world: “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:16-17). He will not return as a lowly Servant but as King of kings and Lord of lords with many crowns on His head (Rev. 19:11-16).

During the reign of the Lord Jesus on the throne of David there will be peace without end in the Middle East as well as the whole world (Isa. 9:6). Jerusalem will be called The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will be gathered to it to be taught by the Lord, and they will walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart (Jer. 3:17). The saved Israel will be greatly honoured by the nations who will regularly visit Jerusalem (Zech. 8:22-23). Former warlike nations will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they will not learn war anymore (Isa. 2:2-4). Then only will all nations be part of Christ’s kingdom and live under His direct control.

It is obvious that a rebellious humanity that refuses to accept the rule of Jesus will first have to be judged and stripped of their power and influence on earth before the kingdom of Christ can be fully revealed. It does not matter whether the enemies of God come from the non-Christian religions or whether they were influenced by non-Christian ideologies such as postmodernism to reject the Triune God – they are all rebels against the Father and His Son and are bringing His judgements upon themselves.

From the description in Psalm 2 it is evident that the world leaders and judges referred to here have formerly recognised the authority of God and His Son, but subsequently rejected it in an outright and militant way. They say, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us!” They are, therefore, self-declared postmodernists who turned their backs upon the Christian tradition and empowered themselves to live as they please.

People who despise God’s saving grace by rejecting the atonement which His Son so lovingly offers them, leaves the Lord no choice but to judge them. During the great tribulation God’s judgements will be poured out on the whole earth to destroy the sinners (Isa. 13:9-13; 24:1-23; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 19:15). This will also be a time of severe testing for wayward Israel as well as nominal or backslidden Christians (Jer. 30:7; Rev. 6:9).

Will born-again Christians also be the objects of God’s wrath? Not at all! Like in the days of Noah and Lot, God will first remove the righteous from the disaster area of divine judgements and then pour out His wrath upon the rebels against His kingdom. The rapture is the way in which true believers will be removed from planet earth before the time of judgement (Luke 21:36; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). They are called blessed because they put their trust in the Son of God.

The present postmodern rebellion against God, His Son, His Word, and a Christian tradition of almost 2000 years, is the peak of end-time humanity’s spiritual foolishness and self-exaltation. They will only have themselves to blame when they fall into the hands of the living God and receive the righteous retribution for their spiritual treason. However, we are still in the age of grace and should not waste any time to get in the right relationship with God. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” It is immeasurably better to know Him as your Saviour now, than facing Him one day as Judge and be condemned with all the unbelievers.

Watchman Nee 27