Monday, April 30, 2007

Whither Absolute Truth? Getting a Clue about Postmodernity


It's not that we don't believe in truth. The issue is that we reject particular stories about who knows the truth, who lives in it, and how that happens.

It means that the preacher on the street corner, or the one pontificating in the pulpit, insisting so loudly that in his rationalism and supposed objectivity that he knows "the Truth" is the one who I'm awfully sure is farthest away from it.

Let me try to explain why in clear terms. The "postmodern" aspect of my thinking is not an issue of what I do believe so much as what I don't believe. I don't believe that "absolute Truth" is something that yields its secrets to what is perversely called objective rationality. We all have bodies, and memories and relationships that serve as filters, or better yet, the interpretive framework for our experiences and the testimonies we receive. When it comes to real "Truth," the "data" isn't going to line up just so.

I am a Christian. I do not believe that I can pursue "Truth," and force it to yield so that I may ravish it. Truth is a person. Truth is the person who pursues, the person who ravishes.
"Batter my heart, three-personed God..."
This is what the premodern Christians knew - from the church fathers to the medieval mystics - Truth is not known like a thing is known. Truth reveals himself. Truth knows you, and then invites you to know Truth.


byron smith said...

Supposing truth to be a woman - what? is the suspicion not well founded that all philosophers, when they have been dogamtists, have had little understanding of women? that the gruesome earnestness, the clumsy importunity with which they have hitherto been in the habit of approaching truth have been inept and improper means for winning a wench?
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Preface.

I like your one better, but his is funnier.

SaintSimon said...

John 8: Jesus said "The truth will set you free" - and yet we believe it is Jesus that sets us free. So yes, Kyle is right - Truth is a person.

And yet, in that passage, Truth primarily means correct statements about God, in contrast to the devil's incorrect statements. There is truth, there is error. I am going to accept that I will never have a complete grasp of the truth, but I am not going to accept or be satisfied with fuzziness. I will always search for answers. Whilst not accepting fuzziness, I can accept that in God opposing truths can both be true.

Anonymous said...

"We all have bodies, and memories and relationships that serve as filters, or better yet, the interpretive framework for our experiences and the testimonies we receive. When it comes to real "Truth," the "data" isn't going to line up just so."

There is "truth" in what you say about how our interpretive frameworks affect our conceptions. There are no "God's eye views of the world" we only have a partial view of the way God sees things, God's knowledge of the truth being infintite and ours being finite, he must decide to reveal them to us, either through his word (scripture) or The Word (Christ).

P.S. Leaving out other forms of knowledge for the moment. :)


Ian Dunn said...

"What you describe as postmodernism—a claim that 'there is no such thing as truth,' a rejection of all moral values, or their reduction to mere preferences—may have been purported by a few crazed graduate students for a few minutes at a late-night drinking party. But to paint the whole movement with that brush is inaccurate.


"About truth: I wish that you and some of your colleagues in religious broadcasting could be treated to a few off-the-air moments of thoughtful reflection on the word truth that you use so often. If truth matters as much as you say it does (and I know it does), and if words are important in the conveyance of truth (as we both know they are—otherwise, why write?), we need to think carefully about the word truth itself. What do you mean when you say it? Has the word become a club used without content to batter opponents, as patriotism and tolerance are used by conservatives and liberals in the political arena? As I reflect on this, I think truth means at least seven different things depending on the context: [and he goes on to describe seven different meanings]"

From Brian McLaren's Open Letter to Chuck Colson

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, thanks for this.

My professor always tells our class that he does not have the absolute truth and all the answers, but that if we want it, we can just give Southern Seminary's president a call.

Anonymous said...

You and Aspiring's comment made me giggle.

Don't mess with Mohler.