The chickens of postmodernism and the social construct theory of truth are coming home to roost. They have been for a while, but it is helpful to consider the implications from time to time.
The social construct theory essentially asserts that truth is what the society agrees upon as being the truth; the one absolute is that there are no absolutes. Thus, murder is wrong because everyone agrees that it is wrong, not because it is objectively wrong. When I talk to people in our republic about the nature of truth and probe for their understanding of it, the social construct theory is by far the most frequent explanation people give – especially young people.
What are the implications when we abandon the objective truth of divine revelation? There are many, for sure. Here are five implications that have struck me recently from various events in our culture. Of course, not everyone who believes in the absence of revealed or objective truth would express these five perspectives in belief or action; many are blessedly inconsistent. However, these are consistent with the position and are increasingly evident:
- Might makes right. The truth is established by the 51%. Thus, political and judicial processes must establish and codify truth. Minds might be changed through the arts and academia, but the final step in establishing truth is to convince the 51%, or at least 51% of the powers that be, to legislate or approve a certain belief. If truth must be created and established rather than be sought out and submitted to, then ultimately nothing is off-limits in seeking power.
- Lying becomes part of the truth process. Because no objective truth or falsehood exists, that which has traditionally been understood to be lying is actually seen as helping to establish truth. Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal writes: “In the right hands, the thinking goes, lying can be a positive good – as political moisturizer and diplomatic lubricant.” We now assert what is untrue because it is part of a greater truth. We cheat in sports and on exams, but it really is not wrong, it is just part of the game of establishing our true score.
- Hatred for people replaces hatred for falsehood. In culture where people believe objective truth exists, there is at least a possibility that two parties could disagree honorably, at least in a Christianized culture. A person could disagree with a fellow citizen on a specific truth and hate what was believed to be wrong but still love and respect the other person. Where no revealed or objective truth is believed to exist, the 49% (or those whom you hope will be or remain in the 49%) are falsehood, or the threat of it. Either the person’s mind must be changed, or they must be silenced. Of course, such suppression only needs to be exercised toward those who are an actual threat – those who potentially come close to a establishing a majority of the culture and who could undo or suppress your claims as established truth.
- Convictions and conscience increasingly have no place, especially for those in the minority. Postmodernists in the majority often cannot seem to conceive of the notion that others could believe in revealed, objective truth and could conscientiously object to the culturally established truth. It seems that they can only perceive conscientious objection as an opponent’s tool to leverage for political power. But to use something like conscientious objection for mere political maneuvering would certain fit the overall scheme of social construct thought, so it stands to reason that they would find the consciences of others a threat.
- The canon of Scripture is explained away as having been established by political power. Social construct theorists understandably explain the Bible’s reason for influence through their own grid. This objection to Holy Scripture is by far the most common I hear from the lips of young people today.
Believing that revealed truth exists does not solve all problems immediately. Nor does it prevent the abuse of revealed truth. But, there is an inseparable gulf between believing that we are the way, the truth, and the life, and believing the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. The good news is that God’s word remains true because he remains true, though every man be a liar.
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3)