The question “How do you know?” has plagued and pillaged society for centuries. I’ve felt it personally the past nine months of my life, as I’m sure many of you have as well. How do you know what truth is? What is the character of God really? What does he want from me? What does that mean for the world? And if I find the answers to these questions will I still be able to love Him? These are just some of the questions I’ve been dealing with lately. Maybe you can relate.
Our culture seems to be engaged in a sort of war for truth, and the battles are not confined to secular society. We can see it manifest itself within the church, among our peers, within ourselves. We know it is near when we find ourselves degradingly using terms such as “liberals” or “fundamentalists.” And so we ask ourselves, where have we gone? How did we get here?
There was a period of time back in the 18th century when all sorts of revolutions took place and mankind saw the dawning of the Enlightenment. The resulting age of rationalism crowned reason as the source of legitimacy and authority. If you ever get the feeling that doubt is more honest than faith, this is where that started. We trusted reason to be able to find the answers, to uncover any truth there was to be found in life. But ultimately this rationalism has failed us.
What has science and reason enabled us to say with absolute certainty?
The greatest scientists have not been able to discover the smallest particles of matter; quantum physics is smacking down what we used to think we knew about cause and effect; and all our attempts to employ pure reason necessarily fall short—for all things cannot be judged at once but require something else to be judged against, and this prerequisite guarantees all logic to be founded in some unquestioned belief.
Rationalism has indeed failed us, but in its place we have been left with something greater.
In the spring of 2009 we find ourselves in the dawning of a new era. We now live in an age where critical doubt is revealed to be no more honest than faith, where “secular reason” is shown to be no more reasonable than “religious dogma,” and where all peoples have the opportunity to come to a table of dialogue and present what they believe to be true—not from positions of authority (though we may often believe our sources to be authoritative) but from positions of experience. The resulting dialogue makes up the conglomerate of thought we know as postmodernism.
The other day someone asked me how graduating seniors and Olivet students should live in a postmodern world. My response was that many of us, even most of us, already are. The rest of our lives will likely be wrapped up in answering the question “what does God want me to do with my life?” I can’t answer that for you. But I do know that we are free to live, and there is a reason for that.
What we have failed to discover God was pleased to reveal. I have a feeling this has something to do with what Paul meant when he said it pleased God to use the foolishness of the world to save us. What our rationalism could not discover was that truth is not a thing. Truth is Christ. And he has always been.
In Christ we find the healing of society. We are constantly being changed by the renewing of our minds as we live as witnesses to his hidden reign. We have the opportunity to live as patient revolutionaries, engaged in being the kingdom here on earth, knowing that he will come again. May we grapple with the tough questions and learn what it means to search for uncertain-truth rather than certain-untruth, to share with others (even those we disagree with) the same love, dignity, and grace Christ first shared with us, to be part of the great movement that exists for non-members (the Church), to seek justice, to seek reconciliation, and finally to remember that at some point along the way we will get it wrong—and that God is faithful, his grace is sufficient for us, and can make great good out of our great weakness.
And so the journey continues, between the knowing and the unknowing. Trying to see beyond the cultural filter. And all the while attempting to love like Christ, who pored himself out for us without regard for personal advantage. Because we can love the unlovable, and fight for the cause of the defenseless. Because we were created for joy, defined by our faithfulness, not our productivity. Because we are forgiven amidst our imperfections. And despite our brokenness we are, you are, immeasurably valuable. Because of this we don’t have to live like we did before.
And we can continue to be transformed by the renewing of our minds,
To live faithfully as sons and daughters of the Most High,
And in the freedom that we have in Christ.