For many reasons, none of them intellectually compelling, postmodern thinking proper, along with postmodern assumptions unacknowledged, are making great headway in the “post-conservative” evangelical world. One lesson that we can take from the postmodernist playbook in this reqard is that is that fooling around with language is actually a disguised power grab. While denying their point (because they always privilege their own discourse), I do want to turn it on them. Their fundamental dishonesty in reasoning, and refusal to deal with God as He has revealed Himself, can only signal the presence of that old adversary in the camp, which is, of course, unbelief. These are not mere differences of opinion, or denominational distinctives.
This lie (for that is what it is) cloaks itself in “epistemic humility” and postures for the cameras, all the while telling us that this demeanor of theirs is the foundation of authentic evangelism. In other words, living in community “with authenticity” is apparently to be built on the philosophical foundation of denying that there is such a thing as authenticity.
This postmodern foolishness (that is seeping in among us, and is now puddling around our shoes) should not be treated by us as an invitation to dialogue. We are not being summoned to cordial discourse between various local faith communities, with the faith once delivered being treated as though it is nothing more than the grammar of our particular community. I am reminded of a comment that the great Southern Presbyterian theologian J.H. Thornwell made about his colleague from Kentucky, the great Robert Breckenridge. “What he does, he does with his might. Where he loves, he loves with his whole soul; when he hates, he hates with equal cordiality; and when he fights, he wants a clear field and nothing to do but fight.” When it comes to this pomo stuff, it would take about two cents to get me into a Breckenridge mode.
A similar taunt of defiance was written by C.S. Lewis in his classic That Hideous Strength. Speaking of the “fabulously learned and saintly Richard Crowe” he notes that the last words of Crowe had been “Marry, Sirs, if Merlin who was the Devil’s son was a true King’s man as ever ate bread, is it not a shame that you, being but the sons of bitches, must be rebels and regicides?” Sons of bitches about pegs it.
I use these words deliberately, because it reveals how much postmodern thinking has penetrated the evangelical world. I am not here speaking of those writers who are openly cheering postmodernism and throwing their hats in the air. I am speaking of churches and individual Christians who flinch and wince at the free use of “sons of bitches” and who do not wince at all when someone says that “objective truth” may be a concept that will not serve us well evangelistically in these postmodern times. “Jesus is Lord” is a truth, to be sure, but it is a truth in our linguistic community. And the compromised say that they may not agree with this, but surely we can conduct our discourse on a higher level?
At the end of the day, any theologian who defends the truth as an objective reality apart from our experience of it will be charged with epistemic arrogance and hubris. This charge will be made regardless of his personal demeanor, grace, or graciousness. This charge will be made because the use of language in this debate is all about who will “have the center.” The pomos want it, and they will lie to get it.
And so you see the real offense of the “serrated edge.” The serrated edge does not just indicate a willingness to stand for the truth that Jesus is Lord outside all “linguistic communities,” that He is the Lord of heaven and earth. It does show this, but it reveals much more. The use of the serrated edge shows that we anticipate the charge of hubris, arrogance, and all the rest of it, and we don’t care. It shows that we know we are in a fight — which cannot be said of many evangelicals who do not yet realize how fundamentally they have been compromised by the spirit of the age. Who gives greater offense to the evangelical by-stander on the sidelines? The one who says that authentic Christianity has to give up its claims to absolute truth to remain authentic? Or the one who said “sons of bitches”? Pietism is not just confused, it is impotent — and resents being told that.