NevDofi 06-1-2


Living in Your World – Without Getting Hooked


Tom Neven

Baker, 2005, 173 pp., ISBN 0-8010-6518-6

Neven is senior editor for Plugged In magazine and a former editor of Focus on the Family magazine.  This little book provides a surface analysis of the negative effects of post-modernism on our culture.  It’s great for a simple overview, including a very brief sketch of the development of western thought.  But it is not a rigorous text and you would need more material to conduct a serious discussion.  It neglects any positive opportunities arising from post-modernism. It will affirm those who agree but probably irritate those who don’t. 


“Basically, a worldview is the lens through which you see everything.” “...maybe you’re looking at everything through world-colored glasses instead of Christ-colored ones?”  Not what you say you believe, but “What you really believe is your worldview.” (10) 


“The basic concept that drives your worldview is what you think about the nature of reality.”  “People live with certain rules, certain presuppositions, whether or not they realize it.”  (11)

“You must already have a concept of good to recognize bad.”  “This is the way we’re hardwired.” (11)


“Just as there is a physical reality, there are also moral and spiritual realities, even if some people don’t recognize them or choose to deny them....” (12)


The author postulates 5 basic rules.  Here are the first three: (13)

1.      God is.

2.      God is the God of truth.  All truth is God’s truth.

3.      We have the ability to recognize truth....


Reject these ideas: 1.  There are no absolutes.  2.  Everything is relative; truth depends on the situation.  (13)


During the Enlightenment, “people began to rely more on rational inquiry than religious faith in determining truth.” (15)  The resulting worldview was modernism. (16)


The Romantics said people are basically good but society corrupts them. (17-18)


“Modernism could not answer the ultimate questions of life—what is good, what is true, what is noble.  “If modernism couldn’t answer these questions, people reasoned, there must not be any answers.  Thus postmodernists contend that truth doesn’t exist.” (19) [I believe some postmodernists deny, not truth itself, but one’s ability to know truth, a subtle but important distinction. dlm]


No society, religion, or belief system is better than any other.  To claim yours is better is to be intolerant.  “When there is no truth, all that remains is power.” (19)


“You’ll hear a lot of talk about rights in current political debates, but if postmodernism is true...then the concept of ‘rights’ is just someone’s opinion.” (19)


“Today we live with a bizarre hybrid of modernism and postmodernism.”  “The wonders of space exploration or genetic science coexist with witchcraft.” (20)


“Nihilism—the belief that life is pointless and that there is no objective basis for truth, beauty, and the like.” “Taken seriously, postmodernism means the death of ethics, the death of history, the death of truth itself.” (25)


Humans are in a category by themselves.  We never make moral judgments of animals. (27)


“According to scientific naturalism, all that exists is matter and energy; there is no supernatural realm....” The secular humanism worldview holds that man is just as much a natural phenomenon as an animal or plant, the product of evolution. (29)


“God created man in his own image....” (Genesis chap 1).  God’s communicable attributes can be passed on—for example, the ability to know and be known. (36)


“One of the major problems facing our world today is tribalism.” (41)  A movement that attempts to unite races and cultures uses flag words like multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance.  In general the movement claims no culture is better than another—except that Western (Christian-based) culture is inferior, in part because it claims to be better.  Christianity is considered dangerous because it claims to be true and other religions false.  (44)  “The multiculturalists mean that we must accept every worldview without question.   And not only accept them, but affirm and celebrate them.” (45)


“True tolerance is when I really don’t like cabbage but I tolerate the smell when my wife cooks it. (She loves it!)  That doesn’t mean I like or approve of it.  But that’s not what multiculturalists mean by tolerance.  They would force me to eat the cabbage, since my hating it is judgmental....” (46)


“According to the United Nations’ Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, ‘Tolerance...involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism’—a view stated with absolute dogmatism.” (46)


Ethics describes the study of morality, which itself is concerned with questions of right and wrong.” (53)


Utilitarianism.  “An act is right if it serves the principle of utility—creating the greatest happiness or greatest good for the greatest number of people.” (56)  “It denies any concept of human rights based simply on the premise that we’re created in God’s image....” (59)  It’s pretty easy to drift into the notion that killing useless people can provide more good for more people. 


Pragmatism.  Do what works.  Very American.  (61)


Moral relativism.  What’s right depends on who you are, your culture, your personal beliefs.  “Don’t impose your view on me and I won’t impose mine on you.”  [Of course, if I insist on that, I’m imposing my view on you!]  (61)  If another society immolates its young or murders its Jews, who are you to say it’s wrong? (63)


“Law is a reflection of God’s character.”  This is the basis of “natural law.” The fact that we have a sense of ought is evidence of it. (70) 


“The directions are just the manufacturer’s opinion about how to put this thing together.” (quoting Tim ‘the Tool Man,'Taylor)


“...while most people today believe the law is anything we want to make of it, we still use words like truth, justice, and fairness.  These concepts are not merely men’s opinions; they are very real things.” (73)


Atheists can be just as moral as anyone else.  The question is, why bother? (74)  “If there is no underlying reality to law, no ultimate enforcer of that law, there’s no point in trying to be ‘moral.’  An atheist has no right to condemn anyone else, since without an ultimate standard, any condemnation is simply his own opinion.” (75)


Liberty is the freedom to do the right thing.  License is the freedom to do anything. (78)


“The modern secular state is a jealous god, and it will tolerate no rivals.  Hence, its war against Christianity.” (88)  “Instead of arguing for positions based on polls or pragmatic grounds, we must stress that a certain position is correct because it is in accord with the way God crated the universe.” (88)


“Taking sex out of the transcendent realm and turning it into mere recreation has led to innumerable societal problems.” (97)  Hollywood influences the way many people in Western culture see the world.”  Hollywood has the potential to falsify history.  Movies that purport to tell the truth about past events are often the only source of information about such events for younger people.  (119)


Philosophy is a powerful engine that drives cultural change, from academic fads to movies.  “The hypocritical preacher or psychopathic killer who quotes Bible verses is somewhat of a Hollywood staple now.” (121)  Family-friendly movies often promote messages contrary to faith. (124) 


“If you are able to read and write in a language, you should be able to read words on a page and derive the meaning the writer meant to communicate.  But some don’t believe that is the case.” Many believe that there is no fixed meaning to anything.  It is not possible to understand what the writer meant.  The reader becomes the creator of meaning for the text. (129) “And written history is attacked as nothing but a way for the powerful to oppress the weak.” (131) This approach leads to “the loss of truth in our language.” (132)


It provides language to facilitate moving sin from temptation to toleration to approval.  Its name is first euphemized (the ugliness hidden), then avoided, and then forgotten (it’s no longer considered a sin).  How many young people know the words “sodomy” or “fornication?”  Consider “pro-choice,” which results in “fetal demise.”  (132-33)


“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” (133)


“While much of our culture has been infected with postmodernism, the realm of science is largely untouched; modernism reigns in this corner of the culture.”  “Modernist thinking is equated with cool rationality while all other worldviews, including religious ones, are therefore irrational.” (136)


“Postmodernist historians believe that what actually happened is no longer important.”  “History can never truly be known because any telling of it is influenced by the social situation of the historian and his personal biases.”  “...according to who is doing the telling, history can change.”  “History is just a story, someone’s interpretation.”  “The quest for objective historical knowledge is just the arrogance of modernists....” (147) 


This leads to tampering with history for political purposes – of which there are many absurd examples.  Sometimes “fact is irrelevant if it supports a certain political position.” (149)


Judaism and Christianity insist that their Holy Scriptures are based on actual people and actual events.”  “If we think these are just facts made up or rearranged to suit some political or religious agenda, then Christianity is without meaning.” (150)


The postmodern view is that “by claiming your religion is true, you devalue the people who believe otherwise.”  “Our culture has been moving away from religious belief for at least the last century, but it has rushed headlong in that direction during the past twenty years.” (He cites The Culture of Disbelief by Stephen Carter) (153)


Religion is increasingly seen as a strictly private affair.  The First Amendment freedom of religion has been taken to mean freedom from religion. (155)


“Because postmodernism puts the individual at the center of the universe...Christians are increasingly flouting biblical teachings on matters such as sex, marriage, and divorce, among other things.” (156)


The key to clear thinking, to listening or reading carefully, is to recognize logical fallacies, mistakes in reasoning.  He lists several.


Conclusion: Defend the truth with grace. (165-67)


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