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The Myth of Relativism: Christianity in a Postmodern World


If postmodernity is the questioning of all moral and epistemological absolutes in the name of Western liberalism, then I do not see how we can see it as anything more than another stage of modernity. In true Orwellian fashion, it calls itself the opposite of what it is. One thing the Bible teaches us clearly about idols is that they always tell lies. Western liberalism and the state that guarantees it are both idols. If Paul the Apostle were listening to this conversation, his word for them would be “principalities and powers.” If liberalism is a “power” then the United States is a “principality” and together they challenge Jesus Christ’s lordship of this world. In 1989 Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the “end of history” and the triumph of global liberal capitalism over all historic rivals. September 11, 2001 is an event that has allowed Western liberalism to justify the continuation of its crusade against all rivals and even the acceleration of the spread of global capitalism in the name of individual liberties.

Christians believe that history is not over. Christians believe that global capitalism is not the kingdom of God. Christians believe that the state ought not to be accorded worship in the form of the sacrifice of our bodies for its defense as if it were Divine. Christians believe in the lordship of Jesus Christ and in the future triumph of his kingdom through supernatural means in the second coming of the Messiah. Christians believe that true freedom is found in obedience to Jesus Christ through which we are able to become what we were created to be. Christians believe that we are engaged in a spiritual struggle against the unseen forces of evil and that idols always lie and never deliver what they promise. Christians are called to faithfully worship God, live in obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord and be filled with the Spirit.

What is postmodernism? It is the intensifying of modernity and the attempt to overcome the final remnants of Christian belief and morality embedded in Western culture. Are postmodernists relativists? If so, they are only relativists when it comes to Christian truth, but not when it comes to the absolute value of individual liberty and the necessity of worshipping the state as the giver and protector of individual liberty. Genuine discipleship in the postmodern age will take the form, not of re-asserting absolute morality as the basis of society, but of re-asserting the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ for the church. Remaining faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ will require resisting the powers that seek to deceive us into worshipping them and this means resisting the temptation to utilize state power to further our goals. We cannot fight spiritual war with carnal weapons. In these days, the challenge is for the church to stand firm, resist the temptations and deceptions of the powers, and continue to give full and final allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. Let the church be the church. Let the church bear witness to Jesus Christ, the hope of the world and the Lord of history. As long as the church exists, creation is put on notice that the Lord is still Lord and intends to re-claim his own.




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Category: Ministry, Winter 2008

About the Author: Craig A. Carter, Ph.D. (University of St. Michael's College, Toronto), M.Div. (Acadia University), is Professor of Theology at Tyndale University College in Toronto, Ontario. He is the author of The Politics of the Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder (Brazos Press, 2001) and Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective (Brazos Press, 2007).

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