The Gospel in a Postmodern Age
We live in a culture that is humanistic, naturalistic, and increasingly post-modern. By humanistic, I mean that it is man-centered (man is viewed as the autonomous measure of all things; and interpreter of all things).
By naturalistic, I mean that reality is viewed as the random interaction of matter (as if human life is nothing more than low-level voltage passing through neurons). (According to philosophic naturalism, he material world is all there is.)
And by post-modern, I mean that our culture is increasingly pessimistic about the future and pessimistic about the existence of absolute truth.
Each of these three philosophies has a great deal in common with the other two. These philosophies have foundational assumptions that shape the way western culture views life and reality. (EX. When Madonna sang “Material Girl,” she was not simply talking about buying everything at the mall; she was putting her world view into song. If the material world is all there is, then there are no morals – and the absence of a divine universal moral code becomes the definition of ‘freedom.’)
A universe based upon chance and chaos cannot have binding universal truth. According to Romans 1, denial of an all-wise Creator is the first step toward opening the floodgates of immorality (Rom 1:18-23).
Unsaved man has an axe to grind – he has accepted the devil’s definition of freedom (2 Pet 2:18, 19). In order to sustain his immoral liberation from God, he must maintain a world view based upon futile reasoning (that is he imagines that his powers of reason operate efficiently apart from God’s revelation).
In order to crawl out from under the claims of God upon him, man theorizes or postulates that the human race is a cosmic accident. (In that view, whatever god may exist is inconsequential.)
One evolutionary scientist who believes we arose from chemical soup describes it in this way. Statistically the odds are totally against even the remotest possibility that life arose by chance. But wonder of wonders, our number came up in the casino – and that number was the spontaneous generation of life – here we are.
If man is merely a wonderfully complex accident of chemical chaos, then life has no real meaning, no purpose, no destiny, no value. No one can live that worldview – that man is but a complex chemical machine.
Scripture indicates in Romans 1 that men would rather live without meaning than put away their sins. They would rather be adrift upon a sea of epistemological despair (no certainty about anything) than own the fact that a holy God made them, has an absolute claim upon their lives, rules over them, and has a plan.
Naturalism has become so widely accepted, that one could accurately say that it serves as a state religion. National parks feature interpretive centers that assume the truth of evolution. Disney world uses evolution in its educational centers to explain the origin and diversity of life (did you know that Mickey the Sorcerer was an evolutionist?)
It is the characteristic of sinners that they trust their own minds above the Word of God. They view their own thinking processes and opinions as authoritative and ultimate – as a legitimate starting point for determining all truth, possibility, and reality.
Like Eve in her self-deception, prompted by the satanic lie, the unbelieving propose to determine for themselves what is true, false, real, unreal, right and wrong. This is total rebellion against the Word of God.
(EX. The natural, or unbelieving man, is so quick to be fooled by a lie when he has rejected the truth of the Bible. Carl Sagan, former self-appointed TV spokesman for the evolution of the cosmos, rejects God’s self-revelation and interpretation of the universe. Yet, Sagan wants millions of dollars pumped into SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). When asked what he would do if contacted. Sagan said he would finally be able to have his question answered, “Who are we humans?” Do you understand the tragic humor in this? Sagan will not place his mind under the mind of God, but he would accept the testimony of an E.T. as authoritative. Certainly Romans one is bulls eye truth; when man rejects God’s revelation; he is left with nothing but prideful, foolish speculation.
Our Creator has told us what is right and wrong. He has authoritatively proclaimed to us the purpose of life, the reason there is death and suffering, and the reality of heaven and hell.
When a person repents of sin and unbelief, he repents of intellectual rebellion. He places his mind under the Holy Scriptures in an act of ongoing submission and trust.
We live in a world of blinded sinners who imagine to their own eternal ruin that they have the power to interpret all things by autonomous reason.
They worship their own minds. The prevailing philosophy of the day says that absolute truth is unknowable. The unbeliever’s assumption of a chance universe prevents him from understanding that God’s truth is true for all people in all places at once.
Behind today’s philosophy of pluralism and positive tolerance is the pagan assumption of philosophic naturalism (evolution). (In naturalism, the material world is all there is, all there ever was, and all there will ever be. If there is a god, he is part of this vast cosmos – and he, or it, has never done anything of any eternal consequence.)
Having rejected the infallible Word of the living God, unbelievers make sweeping statements about origin, purpose, and destiny that are nothing more than futility and vanity (Rom 1:22).
Pluralism is the notion that all beliefs are equivalent. Therefore, according to the pluralistic mindset, because no one has a corner on truth, all beliefs and lifestyles are worthy of praise and respect – none are superior to any other.
Since absolute truth cannot be known (they say), anyone who says that he is right implies that everyone else is wrong. (EX. Our foreign student from Japan who was living with us was counseled by her parents to steer clear of Christians for the very reason that they think they have the answers!)
In other words, in our pluralistic culture, anyone who says he has absolute, universal truth is a bigot, intolerant, arrogant, and dangerous.
To say your truth applies to everyone is viewed as discriminatory and intolerant of the beliefs of others.
(EX. To live devoted to absolute truth that applies universally to all is viewed as a form of religious fundamentalism. Did you ever think the day would come when conservative Christians would be compared to those who flew planes into the World Trade Towers?)
Into this wasteland of Godless philosophy comes the Gospel. People have increased their own blindness by assuming that out of chaos and chance came the blue planet with human stewardship over a nearly endless menagerie of life.
What falsely parades itself as knowledge is nothing more than a satanic fortress that closes out the believability of the Gospel.
God has appointed you to take the words of life in Christ to our culture. You possess the good news, the message of God’s grace, the words of life and reconciliation in Christ.
There is value in knowing something of how our culture thinks. For then we can anticipate their objections to the Gospel. Many dismiss the Gospel before you have a chance to explain it, simply because they have bought into a naturalistic world view that has no place for the supernatural.
(EX. So persuasive are these purveyors of error that it is now estimated that 50% of evangelical freshmen entering secular college will abandon their Christian faith by the time of graduation. It’s shocking not only that the materialistic world view is beaten into the minds of college kids, but also that so many are unprepared for the assault.)
We must keep in mind that although unbelievers dismiss the Gospel intellectually, they cannot escape the witness of conscience and the Holy Spirit. No matter how vocal their protest, Scripture says that they know they are suppressing the truth of God (Rom 1:18-20). Romans 2 states that the very moral law of God is written on the conscience of every person.
So let us take heart; their mouths may deny what their hearts cannot escape. Our preaching of the Gospel is a joyful task. By God’s grace, some will believe unto eternal salvation.
According to pluralism, the Gospel is merely one religious philosophy among many. Unbelievers express their rebellion against God by their apathy about His truth. They might reply, “I am glad it works for you. Happy to hear that it enriches your life and helps you cope.”
The source of their apathy and complacency is unbelief; it is commonly unbelief that has ingested the vain philosophy of evolutionary naturalism. You see if truth is gone or unknowable, then pragmatism is all that remains as the test for any lifestyle or world view. (Since the absolute truth of God’s infallible Word is not the test anymore; the one ‘litmus test,’ remaining is, does it work for you?)
Into this darkness of satanically induced sleep comes the Gospel like a 9.0 earthquake! Christianity is not a way to live, it is a Person; the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian is not a person who does great things for God. A Christian is one for whom God has done great things through His Only Begotten Son.
The Gospel is a comprehensive world view. It is, according to Jesus, an incredibly demanding world view. It’s an all-encompassing outline of reality. It answers every ultimate question with absolute certainty.
God in Christ has authoritatively answered every ultimate question. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why is there evil, death, and suffering? Where did it come from? What is man’s purpose? Is there an existence after death? What is man’s destiny? Who is God and what is He like? What is wrong with the world? Has God told us what the solution is?
God’s authoritative “mouthpiece” is the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from His work as revealer of God the Father, man is left to drift upon a shore-less sea of relativity and uncertainty.
But the good news of the Gospel is that man may have certainty about forgiveness of personal sin; and man may have eternal life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and man may know his Creator. In knowing God as Savior in Christ, the believing sinner is put in touch with absolute reality – for it is God alone who tells us with absolute certainty what is true and what is real.