Albert Mohler: Postmodernism and Society

Albert Mohler: Postmodernism and Society

we're living in strange times let's just admit it you may have heard about the two elderly ladies excuse me I realized in these postmodern times of postmodern sensitivities you can't say that you may have heard of the two chronologically advanced females who were driving along on a highway and they were pulled over by a police officer and the the state trooper went up to the window and started speaking to the chronologically advanced female driver and he said to her he said ma'am do you have any idea how fast you have been going and she said yes sir I'm very fastidious about these things I was going 20 miles an hour he said yes I I know you're going 20 miles an hour that's why I pulled you over this is the interstate highway system and on the interstate highway system the minimum speed is 35 miles an hour 45 in most places and you have well if you failed by driving too slowly just then he looked in and he saw the other chronologically advantaged female who was the passenger her eyes were wide open like saucers her hair was sticking out it and her fingers were imbedded in the dashboard of the car she didn't even appear to be breathing the officer said what's wrong with her the lady said you said this is an interstate highway yes ma'am I distinctly saw the sign 20 20 miles an hour he said no ma'am this is interstate 20 he said but what's wrong with your sister she said well I guess the best way to explain this is we must have gotten on interstate 20 off of State Road 136 now that's where a lot of us live we're living at 1:36 not at 20 and we're living in one of these hinge points in human history when we know that big things are changing seismic shifts are taking place all around us that are changing the landscape the terrain of what is known and what is familiar and we have labels we try to use for this such as postmodern you know the very fact that we use that label requires some kind of definition and it is helpful always for us to try to put some some fabric to the texture of what we're talking about here it means after the modern now that solves it post-modernism is one of these awkward topics and frameworks of discussion because it is so ill-defined there is a sense in which modernity associated with the Enlightenment with the rise of industrialization the rise of science and the rise of the logic and the Gestalt of of human control and and huge theory we understand that that there was such a time and we understand that there is now a disillusionment about that time we understand that we no longer have the confidence that people as a culture once had in technology but then again we really do still have much of that confidence and we understand that there was the death of the idea of progress early in the 20th century if nothing else the killing fields of World War one brought to an end the kind of unrealistic optimism that was at the very heart of the early phase of modernity we understand that the Enlightenment in terms of its massive philosophical shift did not bring about the kind of human liberation that it had promised and yet we still want modern medicine not postmodern medicine most of us want decidedly modernist bankers not postmodern bankers and we're going to talk about why that is so I want to talk about several features of whatever post-modernism is the first feature is the deconstruction of truth throughout most of human history three people argued about the nature of truth and which proposition was true not whether truth can be known the Christian tradition understands truth is established by God and revealed through the self revelation of God in Scripture truth is eternal fixed and universal our responsibility as Christians we understand is to align our minds with the truth revealed by a self existent God that is so foreign to the concept of post-modernism as post modernist philosopher Richard Rorty asserts truth is made rather than found you just think about that equation for a few moments and it begins to make sense when you consider much of the entertainment much of the conversation much of what we hear around us truth is made not found the idea that truth is socially constructed is at the very heart of post-modernism that truth claims are disguised claims to power that claims to truth are actual actually exercises in the majority seeking to suppress the minority in the Empire seeking to suppress the colony in the majority seeking to to isolate to subjugate to oppress and that's why you come across all the jargon of post-modernism with its totalitarian claims of oppression with its hegemon istic language Michel Foucault one of the most significant postmodern theorists argued that all claims to truth are constructed in order to serve those in power then you understand why the great project of liberation will be deconstruction if what is presented as truth is constructed in order to oppress people the liberation comes in deconstructing those truth claims and so in the West especially in the universities and the Academy we've seen this project of trying to deconstruct the big issues the big frameworks the big claims of Western civilization Christianity very much at the heart of that if all truth is socially constructed then all truth is necessarily relative to whoever's doing that constructing whatever society does the constructing whatever unit or subgroup of society does the constructing its merely a relative claim little imagination is needed to see that this radical relativism is a direct challenge to the Christian gospel secondly the death of the meta-narrative now this is this is take-home stuff this is the kind of stuff I'm sure you're talking about in your dinner table every night now what are you concerned about sweetheart the death of the meta-narrative striking at the very core of my existence well it would if you understood it if you understood the claim that's being made here postmodernists accuse the oppressors of using a specific mechanism of oppression which is the meta-narrative that's the explanatory theory of virtually everything it's the big story and examples of meta-narratives would include Marxism Marxism was perhaps the greatest intellectual and spiritual challenge to Christianity as a meta-narrative for about a hundred years Marxism has everything it has a complete worldview it has an explanation of what we would call sin it's it's oppression it has an explanation of why inequity exists it's because of the oppression of the proletariat it has an explanation for eschatology what is it looking forward to the emergence of the new communist man it had everything Christianity of course is a meta-narrative it explains why anything exists Christianity has an answer for what it means Christianity has an explanation for what is broken Christianity has an explanation for how it can be fixed Christianity has an eschatology meta-narratives would include the Western confidence in progress that did die early in the 20th century technology is itself in its own form of meta-narrative that all problems can be solved by technology or by modern science what we have according to the postmodernist now is the death of all the meta-narratives Jean Francois Lyotard one of the most prominent of the postmodern theorists explains post-modernism is simply this he says I define postmodern as incredulity towards meta-narratives the big story is dead now again as an apologetic challenge for Christianity it's hard to find one more significant than this if the meta-narrative is dead then all we're left with rather than the big story the Christian gospel is little stories and these little stories have to do with well here's here's my truth and you have your truth this group has its truth this group has another truth the third hallmark is the demise of the text there's been a lot of work done recently on Christianity and the book three or four excellent monographs books that have come out just in the last several months on Christianity in the book indicating that again the very emergence of the book as we know it as as a text to codex between covers was very much due to the Christian love of learning and to the Christian desire to communicate in in rational form in literary form the kind of conversation that would go on not only between individuals between centuries and you know we believe that the text is an objective thing but postmodernist suggests that the text is actually there to be dissected the text itself is dead because the author is dead the reader now establishes the meaning and no controls limit them the meaning of the reading Jacque Derrida the leading literary deconstructionist described this move in terms of what he called the death of the author so we look at a text now and we say well it doesn't really matter what the author meant it only matters what now I mean what I read out of this text now before we start looking at the at the academic left and saying oh how prone to post-modernism you are let's look a little closer to home how many of angelical bible studies are postmodern in this sense you get a bunch of angelical and they're sitting in churches or they're sitting in a home and they each have a Bible on the lap and they're sitting around the circle bill why don't you read this verse bill reads the verse all right bill what does this mean to you well what this text means to me is having absolutely nothing to do with the text let's go around the circle and see what it means Sheila what does it mean to you Chad you're having one of those things and just want to stand up rip your clothes and say I love you I care about you but I don't care what this text means to you I care what this text means see we're living a lot closer to this and we like to admit text according to the postmodernist reveal a subtext of oppression then again what must be done is deconstruction you have to deconstruct the text and so you have to find things there that were never there if you want tenure in a major university do not write your dissertation on Romeo and Juliet in terms of actually trying to deal with the text right about Romeo and Juliet as a hegemon istic attempt by Shakespeare to unveil the anti transvestitism of Elizabethan England and you've got tenure the fourth issue is the Dominion of therapy everything in post-modernism was reduced to the therapeutic this worldview infects the entire society it's all about therapy when truth is denied all that remains is therapy the crucial question shifts from what is true to what makes me feel good philip rife one of those insightful prophets of our time described this as the triumph of the therapeutic and he used a metaphor we could all understand he said at every great epic of civilization there is a form of architecture this symbolizes the age he said if you look in two times of old you will see that the most important building was a temple indicating that the community the society saw that as what was most important to worship he said even in the medieval era if you look for the building that would symbolize the entire civilization it will be the cathedral with its gothic arches reaching up testifying to the transcendence of God he said in the modern era the great building that would represent the time would be the United States Capitol building the place of Legislative Assembly the place of democratic deliberation that would define in so many ways the modern era but he said if there's any one building that represents our era now it is a hospital because the only thing we know about ourselves is that we are sick in the postmodern world everything is reduced to therapy and everybody's sick the diagnostic Statistical Manual which is the official guide line to all psychiatric and psychological diseases now includes you and me in all of us and if we say it doesn't that's just another disease you'll find in there everyone's either in therapy or in denial and this specific form of denial just it's a new disease all the time I was reading on the airplane yesterday a serious article about pseudo attention deficit syndrome there people who think they have a DD or ADHD or a SPCA or whatever but really don't have it but they've convinced themselves that they do have it and soon there will be some kind of illness in the dsm for pseudo pseudo attention deficit disorder it's inevitable fit the decline of authority now this really follows and you think about logical progression if the text is robbed of its authority the author of the text is robbed of its authorities the whole issue of authorities the root meaning of the word authority since postmodern culture is committed to a radical vision of liberation all authorities must be overthrown among the dethroned authorities are texts authors traditions meta-narratives the Bible God and all powers on heaven in heaven and on earth I know this is generational but one of the great philosophers of our time Archie Bunker once said to me head why is it that all you nonconformist dress alike and one of the problems with anarchist groups is that they all need leaders the decline of authority runs against the grain of human existence and that's what's interesting we've now reached the point in post-modernism where they say well okay you can't do without all authority because after all we have to decide who gets tenure so we just have to make sure it's the right kind of authority it's a liberationist Authority it's an authority committed to a certain worldview it's the kind of issue that comes down when you have a Supreme Court nominee this last time interesting discussion I won't name names but prominent United States Senator said I will not settle for anyone to sit in that seat who is not committed to a progressive understanding of the unfolding of human rights in our times and again what they're doing is they're deconstructing Authority but they're actually not deconstructing all Authority they're just stipulating what kind of authority that will accept they're not going to accept an Authority for instance that dictates sex lives rules about sex rules about issues that the postmodern world is convinced are absolutely personal and off-limits next a displacement of morality if you do deconstruct truth if you are successful in your worldview and creating a system in which truth is made relative in which authority is overthrown in which the text is dead and thus all morality is relative you're left with a situation of near total anarchy morality is after all one of the fundamental cultured but in the postmodern world is discarded as oppressive in totalitarian a pervasive moral relativism Marx postmodern culture now that's not to say that the post modernists eschew all moral language they use moral language but it's the moral language that they champion which is again liberation from oppression the only morality that the hardline post modernists will recognize is the morality of absolutely liberation from oppression someone wants to find modernity is rationalized sexual misbehavior in many ways that's that's absolutely true one of the things that would be fascinating to trace would be the actual lives of these postmodern theorists Michel Foucault one of the men I mentioned perhaps the most influential post modernist in American academic circles especially during the 1990s died of AIDS one of the absolute principles of his morality was what he called polymorphous perversity picking up from Freud and what he called the the absolute mandate of transgression you have to transgress moral norms in order to prove that they are false moral norms and he got involved in the worst and most grotesque and unthinkable forms of homosexual misbehavior in died of AIDS post-modernism in the society I have good news and bad news the good news is that hardline absolute uncut postmodern theory is not something you're likely to encounter in your 15 year old it really is more or less isolated in the Academy and in the intellectual elites but here's the bad news it is filtering down it's filtering down not in the hardline forum there aren't very many people sitting at the dinner table quoting Derrida and leotard and Foucault but their ideas are filtering down throughout the entire society and the civilization around us I just want to mention some some signs of this in the academy we have the absolute reign of theory the filter down process comes when the academic elites exert their influence on the formative institutions of the culture and let's just speak about what those are the cinema movies architecture art entertainment and of course education and the professions what about art well art was one of the first places that post-modernism showed up it was one of the first places where the label was actually attached to something modernism you'll remember was associated with people like for instance Picasso modernism was an attempt or Paul Klee it was an attempt to take an absolute posture of rebellion against Christianity against the established order against monarchy against what was understood as pre-modern and so the the modernists artists used cubes and and dark hues and and and and sometimes very jarring images in order to make their point Picasso is painting Guernica about an atrocity during the Spanish Civil War may be the most famous modernist painting but you know what you look at that painting and you can still recognize even in Picasso's style that this picture is telling a story you can still see a man his arms outstretched as he's about to be executed by a firing squad you can still understand that picture it is a subversive picture it was intended to subvert the authority of the establishment the authority indeed of the Roman Catholic Church but it's still telling a story and you can still understand that story postmodern art is not telling a story it's it's not intended to be viewed in order to enter into a narrative or to enter into the understanding of what the author intended the artist intended instead it is intended to be jarring it is intended to be disassociative that's one of their favorite words which means you have no ability to connect the parts because the artist actually didn't connect the parts post modernist art doesn't have meaning it just makes suggestion and you see this York and art galleries and if you haven't done this let me just suggest a great mythological opportunity is to go into some of the great art galleries and especially go into the art galleries where they're selling stuff not just showing it go into the premiere art galleries in Manhattan and look around and you will see the most amazing thing you'll see people staring at pieces of canvas and that at artifacts and suggesting how transgressive it is and oftentimes transgressive is the only word that would come to mind sexual organs atrocity just excrement all celebrated as art it shows up in the theater where plays have no point and have no meaning there's no conclusion the characters are not even speaking to one another's like a it's like a Harold Pinter play in which everyone just shows up on one stage the cinema this is also a place where post-modernism began first to show itself people again looking at films and asking the question what's the point well there wasn't a point there there isn't a point now here's good news and bad news the good news is that most of the films that are again pretty much uncut post-modernism you're never going to see they're never going to make it down to your neighborhood cinema they're going to be in the art houses and they're going to be shown on the University campuses but the bad news is that if you want to be a producer or a director that gets a tension with the artistic community you've got to import this kind of thing and what you must see as your mission is to subvert the director Brokeback Mountain said his purpose in making the film was to subvert and of course that was apparent in the telling of the story you have art and cinema theater visual art and sculpture I mean just go in our nation's capitol and you'll see the transition from from traditional art to postmodern art you go to some of these things and you look at them and you say this this means nothing and the art community says exactly it's worth four million dollars because this man is or this woman this artist is the absolute representative of a postmodern art one of the hallmarks of postmodern art is what is called pastiche it's a French word which means you paste things together and you know that's understandable if you're five but post-modernism basically makes every artist the five-year-old is actually the quintessential artist we're living in very very strange times photography if you ever want a very interesting exercise go to a good library especially a big university library and look at the English edition of the Soviet encyclopedia it goes by different titles because they're always coming up with a new one so there's the Soviet encyclopedia then there's the new Soviet encyclopedia then there's the updated new Soviet encyclopedia there are no more Soviet encyclopedias but the reason you want to look at it is for the pictures just look at the photographs and you'll notice between successive editions people appear disappear in the photographs it's really pretty crude stuff but when you became a non-person in the Soviet Union you had to have your picture excised from the encyclopedia and that's rather awkward if your picture is shaking Stalin's hand and you know the Soviet photo retouchers weren't too good at it my favorite one is one that I actually photocopied because it's just it's just perfect there's a hand in the picture that's not connected to a person they're having one of these greats Soviet multiple handshakes and there are more hands than there are people and you look at that and you say well we can recognize that that this photographer and this retoucher this is publisher this Soviet agent in charge of this has taken someone out well you see with photography now you don't have to take someone out so crudely in postmodern photography you're not attempting to tell through representational film what happened you're now seeking to make a statement about about what is possible and so postmodern photography is another one of these things that again is supposed to transgress and it can be done with such manipulation especially in a digital age that it can make things appear as if they are real when we know that they are not we can make things happen so that appears someone is present when they are actually absent or absent they are present we can change the scenery we can change the perspective and all that plays into the very field of postmodern art in music post-modernism is filtered down especially through the a tonality of postmodern music through composers such as Philip Glass daniel albright describes your love this describes post modern music is marked by three things you're going to love this bricolage polly stylism and randomness now bricolage is like pastiche it just means you add all the stuff in it means you no longer have to play by the rules you can take a little bit of classical you can take a little bit of baroque you can take a little bit of this and by the way there's not too much classical Baroque they add in you can make a little this and a little that you can add it all together and you have the postmodern symphony which is made only more perfect if you can add a bellowing cow or something like that that's supposed to be discharging the postmodern point in literature the novel has been completely transformed literature has been nearly completely transformed by the postmodern turn just look at the shift from someone like Dostoyevsky to Philip Roth just look at the postmodern writers and narrative us of our time who write stories that have no particular meaning except to subvert the existing morality except to subvert the claim that there is a meta-narrative except to subvert the idea that there is meaning in life except to subvert the idea that there's anything more transcendent than sex modernist literature that which is before whatever post-modernism comes was a literature that specifically sought to subvert Victorian values and Victorian morality and so you had figures such as well Virginia Woolf being the great example and by the way if someone asked Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf you should say I am Lea's Christian to be very concerned about that worldview because it was a worldview written as a in Wilson historian says after God's funerals after the intellectual elites in Britain had lost confidence in the very existence of God and thus they saw morality is now again a form of oppression they saw Victorian morality they saw conventional Christian morality is something to be subverted and so they sought intentionally to do that through the storyline of their characters but in a postmodern novel you don't even have to directly subvert it and there's no particular storyline that necessarily matters and at the end of the great modernist novel there was either an absolute reconciliation or a suicide but in the end of the postmodern novel there's nothing but sheer confusion anarchy and despair nothing good is resolved nothing nothing either comes to an absolute conclusion of good or of evil and thus the postmodern novel the other thing that marks postmodern literature is playing with language because the language itself is understood as oppressive and so you play with language and you use a lot of hyphens you start putting hyphens in words and you start putting words together with hyphens and before long you begin to sound like a postmodern theorists in the Academy just put all the stuff together you play with words you have disjunctive conversations you have characters that aren't even talking to each other that's the postmodern novel one of my favorite places to show the impact of post-modernism is an architecture because this is something more people perhaps can understand postmodern architecture is often very attractive to people they like it they often confuse it with something else postmodern architecture is just like the music remember bricolage you need to add everything together probably stylism you mix all the styles remember why they said about postmodern art visual art pastiche you just paste it all together we'll welcome to our world welcome to us going on in modern architecture look at what is happening the first great post modernist building in the United States was probably the AT&T building in Manhattan designed by Philip Johnson of Johnson Bergy and associates that firm was known for modernist architecture in the mid point of the 20th century if you wanted to build a great modernist building he's great steel and glass towers you called Johnson burg and associates but they developed this building Philip Johnson developed this AT&T building in 1986 in New York City 1984 it was started 19 six it was completed it's a great modernist tower until you get to the top some of you no doubt seen it and at the top he put a Chippendale crown now it's very interesting in other words you have this great steel concrete and glass tower nearly 100 stories tall and at the very top you have a cornice a Chippendale artifact it just looks like it was kind of placed there like it started out being a building and ended up being a grandfather clock and people started looking at and going that is absolutely phenomenal that's that's amazing who would have thought of putting that at of course a lot most people to be anywhere going yeah who would have thought but what happens in the art world is when people call us around the idea that this is this is the trend all the sudden they go from who would have thought to would have thought this is genius this is sheer genius at work and so you ended up with all this Michael Graves the next great post modernist architect began building buildings like the Seattle Public Library in the Humana headquarters in the buildings and and he would build one side of the building in classical architecture another side of the building and modernist architecture another side of the building until you walk around you realize this building isn't a thing it's all kinds of things perhaps you've landed at an airport or you've been in a great public building and you walk in and here's a corinthian column standing all by itself looking rather lonely we're not in Corinth there there is no structure there's no portico it's not accompanied by other Corinthian columns and it doesn't look like a Greek ruin and then right next to the Corinthian column is a great concrete red ball didn't look like a child left it this would weigh several tons it's just sitting there by the corinthian column then you notice that the building isn't straight the building is leaning and you notice that it's leaning on one side in this direction and on the other side is leaning in another direction and then you go into the foyer of the building and there's a piece of Greek statuary from Athens and the the second century BC and you look at that and you say well what does that have to do with this and and then on the wall there's a modernist pane and then there's a waterfall you notice there's running under your feet because you're actually standing on glass there's water running underneath let's just add everything Robert venturi one of the great post modernists I say great in terms of influential post modernist architects have the motto less is bore less is bore let's just add everything you can break all the conventions you can throw away the seven books of architecture of ancient Rome you can throw away the guidebooks of Palladio you can you can do away with all of this and just have everything all at once one of the reasons why I like to point to architectures because architecture demonstrates where post modernism shows up and it also demonstrates conclusively where post modernism is a lie because everybody building one of these major buildings wants a postmodern architect but follow me closely no one wants a postmodern engineer you see you want absolute truth when you get to engineering you want somebody who's able to add and use a slide rule you want somebody with thick glasses and a pocket protector who believes in absolute truth you want them working the numbers you want them coming up with the lines you want all this happening why because you don't want it to come down on your head because you can lie with the way the building looks but you can't lie with whether or not it stands up about three years ago a major terminal building at Orly Airport in Paris fell you know why it fell it fell and it killed some people when it fell you know why it fell because the post modern architect didn't like where the engineers wanted to put a column so he removed it well guess what gravity is a very determined opponent of post modernism gravity exists in order to prove the imbecility of postmodern architecture gravity says you can tilt your building but you better have a counterweight on the other side or you're going to be looking at a lot of pavement real quick you see the lie of post-modernism is that you can't consistently apply its understanding of truth you can't possibly do this no one wants a postmodern cardiologist you know a postmodern art you kind of hold it up and you can move it this way or that way and all you do is multiply the possibilities of interpretation but you don't want your cardiologist going I like the x-ray this way you know you read the cat cat scan to say for blockages I read it to say part of a 15 year old Runner you know what that no one wants a postmodern banker no one wants a banker who said hey you know you think two plus two equals four but that's humanistic I'm not going to play that totalitarian game we've been oppressing people for too long with that kind of math from now on in my bank when it's your money two plus two equals three the hypocrisy of post-modernism shows up with the fact that postmodern theorists can't live with their theories in the academy post-modernism of course has had far more to do with the soft disciplines than with what are characterized as the hard disciplines far more to do with the humanities than with physics Allen Sokol a few years ago a physics professor at New York University decided he would do a little experiment and so he wrote an article filled with abject nonsense absolute nonsense it now goes down in history of academic life in America as the great Sokol hoax he wrote an article filled with such nonsense as in his words he said liberally salted with nonsense he sent it to the postmodern Journal published by Duke University known as social text the title of is article urinal of this is transgressing the boundaries toward a transgressive hermeneutics of quantum gravity let me just tell you it doesn't mean anything there is no such thing as quantum gravity but the people at social texts did not know that he wrote thousands of words on transgressing the boundaries through hermeneutics of quantum gravity he demonstrated that hermeneutics and hermeneutics is everything interpretation becomes everything when when the when the text is dead you're left with nothing but hermeneutics the process of interpretation and he he he toppled democracy he overthrew morality he led to a complete political and social revolution in his article about transgressing hermeneutics or transgressing the boundaries through hermeneutics of quantum gravity and then after the article was published he wrote an open letter to the Academy to the effect that he wrote nonsense he said I'm a physicist I know nonsense when I see it more importantly I know nonsense when I write it and you know what the great moral debate was in the Academy it wasn't over whether or not there was any consistent view of truth here it wasn't over whether or not the editors of an academic journal peer reviewed academic journal should have considered whether there was even any validity to this post modern mash it was over the fact that he subverted subversion by writing the article and getting it published I think we need to come up with a brand new slogan in fact I think I think actually Ligonier ministries pretty much lives up to the slogan subverting subversion to the glory of God we need to be about that post-modernism comes down to the Academy in the form of the curriculum just look at the curriculum look at the growth in the Crim you know the fastest-growing part of the curriculum of the American University it's in sex and gender studies you will not find this at Harvard in 1641 you will not find it at Harvard 1941 you will not even find it at Harvard in 1981 but by 1991 everything has changed post-modernism brings in the idea that even physicality even gender even the understanding of sex and all the rest becomes one of the major issues of oppression and thus the goal of every right-minded institution a progressive intellectual power and commitment is to deconstruct these truth claims and again you look at these departments and I can't even mention to you I could not possibly from this place read to you the course titles that you encounter in the American University catalog everything comes down to sex and it all has to be now more and more complex you can't have an office in your University of gay advocacy or homosexual advocacy now it has to be gay lesbian bisexual transsexual transgender bisexual whatever comes after that you have to leave space on your door or additional words to be added later because there are no boundaries if you transgress you committed transgression if that's your mode of life there are no outer limits well what about the students campus life comes down to this New York Times article last Sunday on the fact that the fastest growing form of public publication on the University campus is the sex magazine and they're produced by students written by students Yale University used to get into controversy with what is known as sex week the campus given over to sexual experimentation in ways that again can never be mentioned here with the support of the University and with funding from its Student Activities budget but it's really not even a matter of controversy anymore post-modernism comes down to this you must transgress all boundaries while we're in the university we should talk about law post-modernism has infected legal studies it specifically is now known as critical legal theory and critical legal theory just like all other forms of post-modernism suggest that what must be done is the deconstruction of existing authorities the law being an authority the courts being an authority legislators and governments being an Authority police officers being an authority we must subvert all this the critical legal theory again the fastest growing movement in law schools in America but it all is tied to that overarching worldview for instance the demise of the text one of the texts that now is nothing but matter for interpretation is the US Constitution and the roots of a postmodern interpretation of the US Constitution go all the way back to the 1960s and perhaps was best articulated by Associate Justice William O Douglas when dealing with a case on the 14th amendment he found that the 14th amendment actually didn't speak to the issue of his concern so instead he said that he would rule this way claiming a now getting this a penumbra of rights found within the 14th amendment now the interesting thing is that the word penumbra until we know Douglas used it in a Supreme Court opinion and had to do with astronomy not law but nonetheless he picked it up and now it is the goal of every professor in a postmodern law school to find a right that hasn't been found in that penumbra of Rights before and you see the logic of what's going on you take the debate over abortion in America and you take even the debate that is very current in our society over same-sex marriage and what you hear especially on the abortion debate is this you can't take back a just follow that logic that again falls right into critical legal theory in other words the right wasn't there no one with a straight face believes that the framers of the US Constitution meant to put it there but it was found there articulated by justice Blackmun in 1973 in the roe v wade decision and once that right has been found it can never be forfeited why because that will be sheer oppression if you don't understand that logic you don't understand the cultural cleavage in this country you don't understand why the people teaching in the law schools in America do not understand who we are what we believe as we do and think as we do we must be interested in how they think even if they are uninterested in how we think the breakdown of a shared consensus means that even as the breakdown of morality and social convention leaves nothing but therapy the breakdown of a legal consensus leaves nothing but litigation the litigation explosion in this country is almost entirely traced to the fact that this society has subverted the moral norms that would have led to the resolution of these claims before they ever we get to court or the social conventions that would have led to the resolution of these claims or the social institutions that would have aided the resolution of these claims before they ever we get to the court now everything is litigation in politics we no longer expect to deal with what is real we no longer expect that the candidates are being presented to us as who they really are we understand that there is there is now such a process of marketing and packaging and and there's such a reality of research and polling and of word massaging and all the rest we no longer expect that we're actually dealing with a candidate and his character this leads to disillusionment in the political sphere and again it leads to nothing more than the breakdown of the larger society in business post-modernism is also entered but again it doesn't enter in the contract level and it doesn't enter in the transaction level in business is more about marketing and in our consumer society business has caught on to the fact that one of the but types of a postmodern age is for needs that were never known to be needs before and so we now fuel these creation of needs the way we fuel the creation of rights and now every kid needs an iPod in a cell phone whereas most children throughout human history managed to reach adulthood without an iPod in the cell phone it's almost impossible to believe that it could happen now because we need this study was done by marketing age just last week indicating that Americans are absolutely certain that among the basic needs for human existence are a dishwasher a washing machine a television and a personal computer that's base level human existence can't possibly live without those things we know what to do without those things having never met the modernist artifact of running water in a sink and the pre-modern artifacts of a rock and running water this is now a need we create needs the way we create rights the impact on the family of this postmodern shift is absolutely huge the family has been shorn of its authority shorn of its functions the government has now stepped in Christopher lash late theorist demonstrated this perhaps more prophetically than anyone else the family has been stripped naked by the society the the father has been robbed of his authority why because we have to overthrow the totalitarian oppression of patriarchy the parents have been robbed of their authority writ large across the culture because after all who are they to say how their children should live remember that one of the big movements in the 1970s was children's rights litigation it hasn't disappeared it has just gone into the larger sea of critical legal theory and it is coming out in court cases all over the place the family has been shorn of its educational role as the state has come in to take on the role of teacher the family has been shorn of its culture shaping role as other institutions come in to teach children how they should be good citizens the family has been stripped of its spiritual role we see the debris of all of this what does it mean that in Manhattan Public Schools right now six out of ten boys are on ritalin something's gone desperately wrong with a society that medicates boys in most cases for being boys but of course we can't even have this discussion because that too is a misconstrue love gender which is an entirely social constructed concept and thus you see Common Sense denied I mean such things as articles demonstrating that boys learn better in the company of single sex education and and yet you have people come back saying that can't be true and not only can it not be true but it is unfair to girls that they can't be a part of the boys improving and the fact that the boys are now outnumbered on college campuses by girls and it's not that there are just more women going to colleges that there are fewer men in absolute numbers right now going to four-year college than twenty years ago and we can't even have a rational discussion about why it would be so we look at family breakdown in America we can't even have a rational discussion and why it might be so we look at the phenomenon of AIDS and we can't even have a rational discussion of why it is so I mentioned subverting subversion as one of the Christian responsibilities of our time and I believe that with all my heart and I believe that the time is short because the reality is that this filter down process is affecting our children they're watching the movies they're they're seeing the advertising so many of them are in schools where this kind of postmodern world view is being basically mainlined into them almost as if it's an IV going right into their bodies they're getting this from the culture they're getting it from the music they're getting it from their peers James Davidson Hunter now 15 years ago wrote an amazing book in which he indicated that evangelical young people and these would now be in their early 30s we're in terms of beliefs radically different than their parents without their parents recognizing it that was true 15 years ago I would suggest you it is far more true and far more urgently and emphatically important than even then it's important that we understand post-modernism and frankly it's important that we understand post-modernism in it's uncut form in the academy because if you don't understand the source you can't possibly understand the fountain but we need to be people who with keen eyes and with an apologetic sense of mission can look at the world and say I know where that comes from and we need to be the kind of people who an evangelistic conversation with our neighbors understand when they talk about morality is oppressive and they they start using this language we know where it comes from one of the most important things we can do is show an honest postmodernist where post-modernism lands with a thud again you can add a postmodern architect but not a postmodern engineer you can have a postmodern artist but you don't want a postmodern banker and as Richard Rorty himself a postmodern theorists said I'm a modernist at 33,000 feet you want a pilot who believes in absolute truth and rationality and order and predictability it's a great apologetic challenge to live in the time the Lord has given us it's a great opportunity it's a great opportunity to subvert subversion to the glory of God to help people see where post-modernism shapes the culture and where post-modernism collapses upon itself sometimes one of the most important ministries of the Christian is to stand amidst the debris point to the cause of the fall and do the only hope for recovery that's what we hear about it's the very heart of Christian apologetics let's tell the truth to the glory of God god bless you you

31 thoughts on “Albert Mohler: Postmodernism and Society

  1. Impressive. One of the best discourse on post-modernism heard on youtube. The idea that absolute Truth doesn't exist (except this one). appears to be the essence of post-modernism. A profoundly misguided notion which can only lead to self-destruction.

  2. Like modern Christianity itself…this is completely infantile. And embarrassingly so at that. First off as a heretic in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, Al should at least acknowledge that “multiple interpretations” of text, is the reason he has a job. If there is only one Christian meta narrative, why are there 6 million denominations. The rest is straw man city. “No one wants a postmodernists banker, drafter, Doctor, etc…yeah no shit. There aren’t any. Why on the world would there be? Then he says “has really only effected the “soft sciences”…Why not start with that! And while at that, no one wants a Christian biologist or geologist or Climate scientist either, jackass. Intellectually dishonest. Postmodernism isn’t a philosophy. It’s a critique of shit passing for fact that isn’t. A critique of late-stage capitalism and of the illegitimate structures of power. Kinda like Christianity did, before it got into bed with its archenemy. The Empire State.

  3. He’s right. The post modernists bamboozled everyone. But when you see it, it’s just a cheap trick, an illusion.

  4. Stongly disagree, especially about the "Post Modernist" Architecture. An unfortunate political point to even use the label. The corrupted Roman and Greek age called Classical are revered. The seeking generation of Architects are more pure, indeed the benefit of this age. When your critique of art becomes political it becomes unstable–a postmodern critique at best. God is not a classicist. He said "I Am That I Am" point positive that people are the ones who create things like classicism and modernism, God liberates you to create, just as free as in Jazz. And those seeking God in all early forms are mocked at best by imitators. I appreciate not being lumped in to a "postmodern" type, when a great work is the referential point despite its age. Adam and Eve were not sinful because their simplicity and absence of structure beyond existence–the hope of many who break from rules, but at the adaption to another standard than God. Don't shame post modernism for its purity. Encourage them in pursuit of truth outside the bounds of time and power, where believers know God dwells.

  5. Satan's plan is coming to an end. We, humans made in the "IMAGE" of God (Jehovah, Yahweh, Shekhinah Glory, etc)
    Christ is THE ONLY WAY, THE ONLY TRUTH, THE ONLY LIFE that has and can redeem US.
    The Postmodernism LIE (Truth is relative) will be my point to defeat along with Jesus Christ's help to do so.

  6. I hate to say this, but postmodern thought HAS entered the k-12 schools, especially those in very liberal areas.

    I miss you, pastor RC Sproul.

  7. If you are going to use art to illustrate a point, trying to give the impression you are are an erudite man of learning at least get it right. Picasso's Guernica was not about a firing squad, that was Goya's famous painting which was not about the Spanish Civil war but Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808.

  8. Mr. Mohler radically misinterprets Post Modernism and the purposes and uses of Language. His characterization of a Post Modern Bible Study radically misinterprets the purpose of those studies and concretizes something that cannot be concretized-the idea that everyone is going to read the same passage from the Bible and get the same concrete meaning from it is ridiculous on the face of it. Of course a 2000 + year old document that was translated many times from Aramaic will have different interpretations-How could it not? Mr Mohler makes the point of the post-modernists in the first 11 minutes of his presentation and detracts severely from both his message about Christianity and Post Modernism.

  9. To paraphrase Lord Byon " Postmodernity is the aristocracy of villains".

    Until watching this video I thought postmodernism is a political, cultural, and philosophical emptiness. Nevertheless, now I can see it lies in the belief that everything is opression, and, therefore, we must subvert everything(including the truth). It's why they are so intolerant, their very ideology claims everyone who don't agree with them is an "opressor".

    But the quote of Albert Mohler is very good, and I think it's the way that we, Christians,must struggle against postmodernism: "subvert subversion to the glory of God"

  10. Sounds like SOMEONE doesn't understand that humans do what they desire at every moment no matter what… And it isn't post modernism.

  11. This thing has connected all the dots for me . I was influenced by this and left the faith, but its very failure brought me back to the faith. Till today i didn't know the term postmodernism and that i was a victim of it. But with this sermon, i now could clearly understand what I was affected by and also how I realized its failure. Praise god for saving me from the subversion. It is the quest for meaning and absolute truths , that helped me see through the subversion. Again i thank god for hastening my heart and drawing me to him. God may your servant al mohler be blessed.I thank you for him.

  12. What a caricature of a non-existent position. A strawman effigy of another strawman. I would ask Mohler, who is no doubt critical of supposed Bible expositors who don't quote scripture, why his supposed summary of a position called "postmodernism" contains virtually no quotes of any sources? It's all propaganda.

  13. I have been around long enough to see Postmodernism change not only our culture but other cultures throughout the world.

  14. Whenever YOUR God has a problem with ME then that would be YOUR problem, and YOUR problem only, because you keep forgetting that I'm not convinced your God even exists. So why should I worry about YOUR hell, YOUR fears and YOUR beliefs, when I find the whole thing so utterly ridiculous. It's just as ridiculous as YOUR obsessions with whom I may or may not have sex with. You have your priorities mixed up with mine. I live in the real world, you live wherever you want. Your professed God delusions are not my problem.

  15. It's easy to say this man is brilliant. Because he is. But you also must realize that what he speaks in this sermon is, to be honest, quite obvious to those with open eyes. That's not to say that I don't appreciate his passion and articulation on the subject. I do. I have a profound respect for this man. What I'm trying to say is that we must all use our God given power to analyze and interpret our surroundings without the aid of such gifted men as the forum of free speech will most likely be muted in the near future. Thank you Dr. Mohler.

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