Friday, September 30, 2005

The Battle For Truth

Title: The Battle for Truth in the Last Days
Author: Leong Tien Fock


Give of your best to the Master, give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul's fresh, glowing ardour into the battle for truth:
Jesus has set the example, dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion, give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master, give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation's full armour, join in the battle for truth.

The classic hymns have blessed many generations of Christians. Today, the hymns in general, and this hymn in particular, are fighting the battle to stay relevant.

When Howard Grose wrote this hymn a century ago, he had absolutely no idea the kind of battle for truth that we would have to fight in the 21st century. When he wrote the hymn, even atheists believed there was such a thing as objective truth, i.e., truth that is true for everyone. What they rejected was the truth about God and His Word. So the battle then was "Which Truth?". Today, the very assumption that there is such a thing as objective truth is being increasingly questioned. So the battle now is "What Truth?".

Even Christians who are becoming concerned about subjective experience (which is good, rejecting the spirit of modernism) are in constant danger of doing it at the expense of objective truth (which is bad, conforming to the spirit of postmodernism).

What is modernism and postmodernism, and what do they have to do with the battle for truth in the last days? Modernism and postmodernism are very abstract scholarly concepts describing two deadly ideologies and cannot be adequately dwelt with here. What we will do is highlight the fundamental aspects of these ideologies so that we can appreciate the kind of battle we are called to fight in the last days. We will then relate them to end-time prophecies and show that we live in very challenging and exciting times.

Seeing the Invisible: Modernity

Modernisation, which is basically industrialisation, has transformed our environment and way-of-life into that distinctive state-of-being called modernity. Those of us who have lived for some time, let alone those born and raised, in modernity will be wondering what "distinctive state-of-being" we are talking about. For the environment and way-of-life we are so used to seem to be everywhere, not only in Malaysian cities but also in all the cities of the world. There is thus nothing really distinctive about it, so it seems.

The invisibleness of modernity makes it almost invincible. This is the major reason why the modern Church has been losing the battle for truth without really a fight. This is why we are taking some time to expose it. For as James Hunter, a Christian sociologist, has pointed out,

its [modernity's] structures of reality present themselves with such massive force that people who should know better, say evangelical historians and theologians, often scratch their heads and wonder what all of this talk about modernity is anyway. But rather than pursue it, all too many lapse back into dissecting and fighting doctrinal battles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.1

To "see" modernity we need to first compare and contrast the environment and way-of-life that characterise the modern city with those that characterise the premodern village. This environment and way-of-life distinguish the modern from the premodern. These are so distinctive that every modern city looks and feels the same. An international traveler has very little difficulty finding his way in any modern city in the world. Business gurus can conduct their standardised seminars in any business centre of the world and be understood. In contrast, imagine the scenario in which someone who has no acquaintance with modernity is suddenly transplanted into a modern city. Such a scenario has in fact been the basis for the plot of many comedies.

The fact that modernity is so characteristic of all modern and modernising societies should therefore highlight its distinctiveness rather than hide it. But having "seen" modernity, a Christian may still wonder what the big deal is. This is because we are not aware that modernisation not only modernises our environment and way-of-life but also our mindset. Again this "modern mindset," a distinctive feature of modernity, should not be invisible. For it is a common observation that people who have always lived in a premodern village have a very different mindset compared to those in the modern cities.

The reason why the modern mindset is invisible to us is because we think and see with the modern mindset! And now the moment of truth: the modern mindset is anti-God.

It is safe to assume that virtually everyone who lives in modernity has the characteristic modern mindset to some degree. At one extreme is the hardcore atheist, who denies God's existence not only in practice but also in theory. At the other extreme is the sincere Christian who does not realise that the way he approaches spiritual realities and Christian ministry is modernistic. In light of the dynamics of modernity, Rodney Clapp has pointed out that even the statement "the family that prays together, stays together" is not really innocent. For "if we worship and pray to God because that will strengthen our family, then we make worship and prayer (and God) into investment techniques [a distinctive feature of modernity] that serve our ends."2

Why is the modern mindset so pervasive and what can we do about it?

Modernity Incarnates Modernism

During the 18th century the Western mind as a whole began to take on a shape that humanity had never seen before.3 This mindset is often known as modernism. The premodern mindset assumed that human reason and senses are objective and reliable enough to enable human beings to discover and understand reality. Thus science, which is the art of discovering and explaining reality using human reason and senses, was acceptable to the premodern (and Christian) mind. Science initially developed on this basis and many early scientists were Christians. But modernism assumes more than this. It also assumes that human reason and senses alone are adequate to discover and understand every (not just some) aspect of reality. That means any aspect of reality that modern science cannot discover or explain does not exist. This rules out God and other spiritual realities. So unlike premodern science, modern science comes with this extra ideological baggage called scientism.

During the 19th century the modern mindset increasingly captured the institutions of higher learning, as well as underpinned industrialisation. The result was, and is, that higher education and industrialisation create an environment and way-of-life that incarnate modernism and scientism. In the context of such an environment and way-of-life, "non-scientific" beliefs such as God and other spiritual realities no longer seem nor feel real. In a premodern environment, anyone who wanted to say "there is no God" had to say it in his heart (Ps. 14:1). This is because the world that God created points to His existence (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-23) and thus belief in God was most natural. It would have been most awkward for anyone to publicly express his unbelief in God.

Modernism and the Battle for Truth

But modernisation has created an environment in which even a genuine belief in God is rather unnatural. It is this environment that generates "materialistic Christians," or "practical atheists." For in a modern environment, not only does a materialistic lifestyle seem and feel so right, God and spiritual realities seem and feel so ridiculous. So it is not enough to preach against materialism. Most materialistic Christians realise that materialism is wrong. But they cannot help it. To help them, they must first "see" modernity and understand how the Christian faith makes the best sense even in modernity.4 They must also somehow experience sub-environments in which God and spiritual realities seem and feel real, not just in the context of the church and home but also work and leisure. But this will not happen unless sufficient Christians come to terms with the power of modernity.

To make matters worse, Christians are not only affected in how they feel but also how they think. Until recently, even theologians are not aware that the way we do theology and ministry is built upon modernist thinking. For instance, when approaching a narrative like Abraham's offer of Isaac or a poem like Psalm 23, preachers naturally look out only for the propositional truths ("principles") that they embody, ignoring the experiential reality that they recreate. This is because a modern mindset assumes that the mind can fully grasp truth (and Christians, not realising that this assumption leads to atheism, use it to understand spiritual realities and do Christian ministry). But narratives and poetry are designed to recreate experience and communicate feeling. And truth cannot be grasped by the mind alone.5 For instance, we cannot really "understand" God's love by only studying about it in a theology textbook. A rational "understanding," though essential, must be accompanied by a nonrational experience. We truly understand God's love if we, in addition to what we learn about it in a theology textbook, also "experience" it, say, through the parable of the prodigal son.

Most of the Bible consists of (historical) narratives and poetry and yet, due to the modern mindset, we have on the whole ignored the experiential dimension of Biblical revelation. Christians must rediscover the Bible and experience afresh Biblical Christianity. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to open our spiritual eyes to "experience" the Bible. We need to experience deeply God's love not only through the parable of the prodigal son but also the many other narratives and the poetry in the Bible. We need to experience deeply not only God's love but also other Biblical truths through a sensitive reading and meditation of not only the epistles of the New Testament but also the narratives and poetry of both Old and New Testaments.6

Thus to fight the battle for truth defensively (to protect Christians) against modernity, in addition to effective prayer, Christians need to (correctly) understand fundamental Biblical truths rationally and experientially in the light of modernity as well as experience sufficient sub-environments that incarnate these truths. Granted that under modernity few Christians have much time for personal Bible reading and meditation, the way we preach and teach the Bible needs to respond and correspond to the challenges of modernity. When sufficient Christians are adequately transformed in their thinking and feeling (and thus acting), the Church is in the position to fight the battle for truth offensively (to impact society and win, on a larger scale, souls under the grip of modernity).

Postmodernism and the Battle for Truth

This call to battle for truth against modernity is most urgent and timely. For though modernity (a concrete state-of-being) is still very much intact, modernism (the ideology that modernity embodies) is virtually dead in the West. Because modernity is built on the lie of modernism, most people living in modernity are living out a lie. This explains why though modernity brings us so much material comfort it also brings us so much pain that is spiritual (such as a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness) and emotional (such as anxieties and depressions). This and other causes that are inherent in life under modernity have resulted in a rejection of modernism and modernity in the West.

Postmodernism is the name given to the new mindset that is replacing modernism. It rejects the basic assumptions of modernism, chief among which is the erroneous idea that human reason and senses, and hence science, is the only reliable means to truth. In this sense it is a friend to Christianity. But postmodernism has gone to the other extreme of rejecting human reason and senses, and hence science, altogether as a reliable means to truth. This extreme rejection means that there is no such thing as objective truth, whether moral or scientific. So what is true for one community, say the Christians, need not be true for another community, say the atheists. In this sense postmodernism is a foe to Christianity.

To be fair, postmodernists are not all postmodern to the same degree. Moderate ones only reject the erroneous claim that science is the only reliable means to truth. This is probably because postmodernism in its extreme form is nonsensical and cannot be consistently lived out. Even those who profess to reject science as a reliable means to truth do not live as if there is no objective scientific truth. For he cannot consistently live out this belief and remain alive for very long.

As noted, even though modernism is virtually dead in Western culture, modernity is still very much alive. This is because modernity is very structurally integral to modern (and postmodern) life. For the basic ingredients of modernity include modern science and technology as well as capitalism. Though each of these can and will be affected in some ways by postmodernism, none can be replaced in the foreseeable future. What we are seeing in the 21st century is thus a combination of postmodernism and late modernity. What does this mean?

We will highlight just two effects of this deadly combination, one on morality and one on spirituality, in order to alert us to the kind of battle for truth we are called to fight in the 21st century.

Firstly, modernity will continue to do what it has been doing to humanity (and Christianity) as outlined above. The Creator God will not seem and feel real and this means the fear of God will continue to diminish and human conscience will continue to be corrupted. The basic morality that God planted in the heart of every human (Rom. 2:14-16) and the more comprehensive morality He revealed in the Bible will continue to be appallingly perverted. As we can already see in every society that modernises, moral havoc will become more and more rampant in more and more places throughout the world.7

Because the voice of conscience cannot be so easily silenced, morality will not be so quickly destroyed under modernity alone. Thus under modernity homosexuality may become rampant but will not be easily accepted by society at large. But under late modernity we have to also contend with postmodernism. Even moderate postmodernists, who still think that scientific truths are objective, often feel that moral truths are all relative. Even non-homosexuals will feel that homosexuality may be wrong in the premodern world but need not be so in the modern West. The current acceptance of homosexual marriages in the West, even in some "Christian churches," is a good indication of how deadly the combination of modernity and postmodernism is. So modernity will wreak moral havoc everywhere it goes while postmodernism will then legitimise and institutionalise the havoc.

Secondly, as a result of having rejected the Creator God, people under modernity experience a disquieting spiritual hunger that cannot be ignored. If modernity is all there is, then Christianity will have a very ripe harvest field, like what we saw when the iron and bamboo curtains were removed in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.

But in the case of modernity in the free world, postmodernism has been creating a situation in which people seek to feed that spiritual hunger with all kinds of "New Age" spirituality that denies the Creator God. New Age spirituality is itself not postmodernism; in fact the two contradict at the fundamental level. But postmodernism makes New Age spirituality acceptable and desirable among even highly intelligent and educated people in the most modern cities. This is because of the postmodern tendency to emphasise experience at the expense of truth. As we noted earlier on, Christians are not immune to this. What makes New Age spirituality even more potent is its use of modernity to spread it.

For instance, let us consider Deepak Chopra, the world's foremost New Age guru. He has an M.D. degree which enables his New Age teaching to be disguised and endorsed as "medical science," which is still highly revered in late modernity. In endorsing Chopra's latest book, How to Know God,8 the Dalai Lama says, "I congratulate Dr. Deepak Chopra for this wonderful book, reaching out to many, many readers, on a subject of spirituality but with a scientific approach."

In case we think only religious leaders endorse the book as "scientific," these are the words of Candace B. Pert, Ph.D., Research Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine: "This will be the Bible of the New Medicine, the scientifically accurate medicine that will replace the dying reductionist [i.e., modernist/materialist] old think[ing]."9 What can we expect in this book? According to the Amazon.com editorial review of the book, "God is not a person or a thing but rather a process, according to world-renowned author and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra . . . . Chopra is a gifted narrator, able to make human anatomy and quantum physics understandable while also keeping spiritual and metaphysical discussions grounded."10

We have highlighted only two effects of the combination of modernity and postmodernism. To catch a glimpse of the kind of battle for truth we are facing in the 21st century, let us say this: besides the increasing fall of Christian morality and the increasing rise of un-Christian spirituality worldwide, it is becoming increasingly difficult for non-Christians (and some Christians) just to accept emotionally (if not intellectually as well) that there is only one true religion or spirituality, let alone believe that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

The Battle for Truth and the Last Days

The question Christians must now ask is, "Where is God in all this?" We must answer, "Everywhere." "Then, has He been in control?" We must then answer, "Yes, very much." But seeing the moral and spiritual havoc inside and outside the Church, how can this be?

To answer this question we now look at modernity and postmodernism in the light of end-time prophecies.

The Bible has warned us what to expect in the last days. We will take a quick look at a few end-time "signs" and show how they relate to modernity and postmodernism. In 2 Tim 3:1-5 Paul says,

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power."

Each of the vices listed can be found throughout human history since the time Paul wrote. But a scenario in which each of these vices is characteristic of a culture all at the same time is unique to late modernity. In fact, "having a form of godliness but denying its power," as a distinguishing characteristic of 20th century Christendom, is only possible under modernity. For modernity has a way of draining (even true) religion of its inner reality while leaving its outer form intact. If modernity is so destructive to humanity and even Christianity, why does God allow it? We will answer this question later.

In 2 Tim 4:3-4 Paul continues, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."

Again, since the time of Paul's writing, this description fits various isolated situations in human history. But nowhere in history of the Church does this description of humanity fits better than late modernity. As noted, the combination of modernity and postmodernism impacts society in such a way that even highly intelligent and educated people in the West, where Biblical values were once central to its culture, find irrational (such as New Age) ideas acceptable and desirable. Also, it is no longer surprising to hear a "Christian" sermon propagating ideas glaringly foreign and even outrightly contradictory to the Bible, and be even well received. Paul has already warned us that in the last days there will be widespread rejection of truth and widespread acceptance of myths. Thus, though it is amazing, it is not surprising that myths can be heard from Christian pulpits.

We now turn to a set of institutions which, according to the futurist interpretation of Revelation, will emerge in the last days. We are referring to the emergence of the one-world government, one-world economic system and one-world religion. We will not duplicate the work of Paul Low in his paper on this subject in Watchmen's Forum 1.11 But let it be noted that this widely popularised view is also academically credible. George Ladd's textbook on New Testament Theology is still the classic evangelical text on the subject. Concerning Revelation, though Ladd rejects "the extreme futurist interpretation: dispensationalism" (the interpretation widely popularised by Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth),12 his "moderate futurist view" still supports the emergence of these three world institutions in the last days.13

As Paul Low in his paper cited above and Living Lee in his paper on "The Use and Abuse of Science and Technology in the Last Days" in this volume have already pointed out, it is modern science and technology, i.e., two basic ingredients of modernity, that make the one-world government and one-world economic system possible. Also, as can be seen from the recent financial crisis, it is global capitalism, another basic ingredient of modernity, that makes these two world institutions necessary.

For even before the onset of the crisis in July 1997, William Greider in his book One World, Ready or Not had warned that unless governments "have the courage to impose remedial changes before it is too late, . . . the destructive pressures building up within the global system [of finance] are leading toward an unbearable chaos that, even without a dramatic collapse, will likely provoke the harsh, reactionary politics that can shut down the system." As for remedial changes that he prescribed, "the first priority is to reregulate finance capital. Governments will have to reimpose . . . control measures . . . both to stabilize financial markets and to make capital owners more responsive to the general needs of producing economies."14

This book was first published in January 1997. Just 6 months later, the crisis in Thailand led to a global financial chaos that threatened global financial collapse, leading Malaysia to impose capital controls. Even with this nightmare in hindsight, it does not seem like those in power would or could do what is needed to bring sanity to the world financial market and stability to the global economy. This frightening scenario, unique to modernity, makes it necessary for the emergence of the one-world government and one-world economic system.

Let us now move on to consider the one-world religion. There has been nothing as divisive as religion. It is capable of not only dividing a nation and a community but also a family and even a marriage. Even Christians can be divided on the basis of religion (i.e., doctrines). How then can there be a one-world religion? It was thought that modernity, through its unprecedented secularising power, would gradually make religion a thing of the past. But what we see in late modernity is not a disappearance of religion but a proliferation of it. What then could unite all (the traditional and recent) religions of the world under one umbrella? Postmodernism.

According to postmodernism there is no absolute truth whatsoever, let alone absolute religious truth. So what is "true" to one religious group need not be "true" to another group, and contradictory religious systems can be all "true" at the same time. Thus Christianity is "true" to the Christians; Islam is "true" to the Muslims; Hinduism is "true" to the Hindus; Satanism is "true" to the Satanists; and so on. Thus they can all be contradictory and "true" and therefore can be united into one. Postmodernism may not turn out to be the basis for the one-world religion, but it does at least make such an institution look likely in the near future.

In light of this, a recent development within Christendom is significant. As a result of apostate Christianity succumbing to modernism, liberal theology had rejected the fundamental distinctives of the Christian faith, such as the authority of the Bible. But in late modernity, postliberal theology is returning to these distinctives. However, under the influence of postmodernism, this return is undergirded by a postmodern (relative) view of truth. Thus, the Bible is authoritative for the Church not because the Bible has any inherent (absolute) authority; it is authoritative only because the Church accepts it as authoritative. This means any religious book can be justified as authoritative as long as there are people who submit to it.15 In other words, if postmodernism is the basis for the one-world religion, every religious system can be part of it without sacrificing any of its distinctives. This makes it so much easier for the emergence of this world institution.

The Sovereignty of God and the Last Days

Having related modernity and postmodernism to end-time prophecies we now answer the questions raised above. Is God sovereign in the face of these two destructive global forces that characterise the last days? If so, why does He allow it?

In the entire history of mankind there have been only three times that we can identify a global language and culture. The first was from the beginning to the time of the Tower of Babel. A single language and culture existed then. But God confounded their language to scatter them because they were exploiting the power of a common language and culture to thwart God's purpose.

The second time was when Christ was born. The Greeks had united much of the civilised world linguistically and culturally. The Romans brought peace and a network of roads to that part of the world. This time around God used the favourable condition for His purpose: the birth of Christianity. For Paul could travel throughout the Roman empire preaching the Gospel with no language and minimum cultural barriers. Christ could not have been born at a better time.

The third time is now, where modernity is globalising and thus uniting the world into a single language (English) and single culture (modernity). Can we then expect God to use modernity for His purpose, i.e., the second coming of Christ and the end of the world? If He does, we could not have been born at a better time.

We can actually do more than just "expect." For since God called Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), the very beginning of missions (Gal 3:8), He had been using every subsequent global power for His purpose. He used Egypt to incubate the nation of Israel. From the time of Joshua to Solomon there was not a world power that threatened the very existence of Israel. But because of Solomon's sin and the subsequent idolatry of God's people, there arose Assyria and then Babylonia as subsequent global military powers. God used both of them to fulfill His purpose of exiling His people to purify them, in anticipation of the coming of Christ. Then when it was time for the purified nation to return to the promised land, God raised up the Persians, who reversed the policies of the Assyrians and Babylonians so that God's people could return. God raised up the right global power at the right time.

Christ could have come during the reign of the Persians. But He was born during Roman times. The reason for God's delay was so that the Greeks could take over the empire and unify it linguistically and culturally. When the Romans subsequently brought peace and the network of roads, the perfect time had arrived.

After the "fall" of the Roman empire the next global power that arose was modernity (Europe and then America). Initially capitalism was the only economic force within modernity. Capitalism prospered the West economically and certainly this contributed to the birth of modern missions, to which the rest of the world is indebted. The fact that the rest of the world received the Gospel from Europe (and America) is significant when we remember that the Holy Spirit did not allow Paul to remain in Asia Minor but through the "Macedonian call" led him to Europe (Acts 16). That means the spread of the Gospel had thus far proceeded the way God planned it and modernity has a part in it.

Soon communism became a rival world economic force within modernity. It has often been said that communism was pre-evangelism. For the ripest harvest fields in Europe are the former communist lands. Also, without communism, Gospel penetration in China would be, humanly speaking, impossible. For communism virtually broke down the spiritual barrier that kept the Chinese people from accepting Christ. China is now one of the ripest harvest fields.

Now communism has fallen and capitalism reigns supreme worldwide. Will God use it again? Having seen how God used every subsequent global power, we can say we know God will use it for the completion of the Great Commission. But how? It is difficult to be certain until it has all happened. But we can extrapolate and catch a glimpse of it.

The Battle for Truth in the Last Days

We have seen how God used communism to open up a harvest field that was otherwise "impossible" for the Gospel to penetrate. As we are aware of the spiritual impact capitalism has on even Christianity, we can imagine how God can use capitalism to open up harvest fields that are still "impossible" for the Gospel to penetrate. If God can use capitalism to open up "impossible" harvest fields, one might ask why God did not use it on China; that would have avoided much human suffering. Well, capitalism would not work on China. For the Chinese people have a way of assimilating capitalism into their religious system without affecting either at all. They even have the "god of prosperity" to take care of this.

If God is going to use global modernity in general and global capitalism in particular for the completion of the Great Commission, it is understandable why late modernity is unlivable and late capitalism is unstable. For otherwise people would not feel the need for God. The mass acceptance of New Age spirituality in the West is testimony of the spiritual hunger that modernity and capitalism create. The battle for truth in the West, where postmodernism is already a stronghold, will be most difficult. Though God will not ignore the West, the West has had its chance of total Gospel penetration. As for non-Western lands where modernity has just made or is beginning to make its effects felt and postmodernism is not yet a stronghold, the battle for truth will be most exciting and urgent.

We have briefly outlined how the battle for truth against modernity may be fought. Let it now be noted that the same strategy would also work for postmodernism. For if, besides the other means of Christian nurture, Christians have sufficient exposure to sub-environments that incarnate fundamental Biblical truths and consistently experience these truths through the reading and meditation of the Bible, they can withstand both modernity and postmodernism. And when Christians are thus transformed so that they live out the dynamic Christian life, they get to share the Gospel even to those who hate Christianity, when they are asked to give an account of their hope (2 Pet 3:15).

Though 2 Pet 3:15 first addressed premodern times, it applies even better in modern and postmodern times. For modernity creates a situation in which people can put their hopes only in the things of this world, and yet because capitalism is so unstable, they cannot put their hopes in the things of this world. As already pointed out above, postmodernism, though a rejection of modernism, is a natural by-product of modernity.16 This means, as postmodernisation follows modernisation and globalisation, what first emerges will be moderate postmodernism (a culture does not jump from a scientific to an anti-scientific mindset overnight). And since moderate postmodernism is, in a sense, a friend to Christianity, the battle for truth against modernity in places where postmodernism is not yet a stronghold favours the Church. But there must be sufficient Christians who overcome the corruptive power of modernity and postmodernism. By God's grace there will be. Will you and I be among them?

Give of your best to the Master ... join in the battle for truth!

Endnotes

1 James D. Hunter, "What is modernity? Historical roots and contemporary features," 12-28 in Philip Sampson, Vinay Samuel & Chris Sugden, eds., Faith and Modernity (Oxford: Regnum, 1994), 13.

2 Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Traditional and Modern Options (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 162-163. This book is a lucid expose of how even a Christian's view of marriage and the family can be modernistic to the core. It is a wake-up call. But in his (admirable) attempt to avoid modernist assumptions and apply valid postmodernist insights, one questions if the author has gone a little too far. He seems to discount even pre-Fall absolutes such as the meaning and nature of Eve's partnership with Adam, which is a creation mandate and hence not affected by any subsequent development, cultural or otherwise. This matters because we cannot violate any divine absolute without suffering long term consequences.

3 For a fascinating account of the history of Western thought see Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (New York: Ballatine, 1991).

4 For this reason, besides Rodney Clapp's book on the family, we have included in our bibliography below other books that seek to integrate fundamental aspects of modern "secular" life with the Christian faith.

5 Actually we cannot say we are ignorant of this. For we do use illustrations, even stories and poems, to recreate experience and communicate feeling. But as a result of the modern mindset this awareness is not part of the paradigm used in the reading and meditation of the Bible. The stories and poems we import to illustrate Biblical truths, though useful, can never replace the inspired narratives and poetry of the Bible in directly recreating experience and communicating feeling.

6 A convenient handbook on the literary (experiential) dimension of the Bible by evangelical scholars is Leland Ryken & Tremper Longman III, eds., A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993). Unfortunately, there is a gap to bridge between the theory that they present and the practice that we prescribe. A book that bridges this gap for the average Christian will be a God-send. Meanwhile one of the co-editors has written a book that may be used for this purpose: Temper Longman III, Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997). Though not written with the goal of bridging the gap we have in mind, it seeks to teach Bible readers to "read it correctly--not just for intellectual knowledge, but for spiritual transformation."

7 We are assuming that modernisation has similar spiritual, moral and social effects on societies that modernise. This is widely observed. This observation is empirically confirmed by Ronald Ingerhart in his book Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997).

8 Deepak Chopra, How to Know God: The Soul's Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries (New York: Harmony Books, 2000).

9 Both endorsements at http://www.howtoknowgod.com/about/endorsements.asp.

10 Amazon.com website.

11 Datuk Paul Low, "The New World Order [The Mystery Babylon?]," 53-68 in Edmund Ng, Loh Soon Choy & Wong Kim Kong, eds., Watchmen's Forum 1 (Petaling Jaya: NECF Malaysia, 1999).

12 Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970).

13 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed. edited by Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 673, 675.

14 William Greider, One World, Ready Or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 316, 317. Greider does more than warn us of the instability of the world financial system but also the instability of the global economy as a whole (see summary in chapter 3, especially 48-49, 53).

15 For a lucid discussion on liberal and postliberal theologies, see Alister McGrath, A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism (Leicester: Apollos, 1996), 119-161.

16 As rightly observed by Muslim intellectual Farish Noor in "The truths of one religion can also be found in others," The New Straits Times, 22 April 2000, "in this globalised world where cultures and civilisations have been brought into such alarming proximity thanks to technology and communications, the need to be able to relativise and situate ourselves and our beliefs in relation to others is all the greater." For a brief discussion on how postmodernism develops from modernity see Leong Tien Fock, "Nonsense is Destroying the World," Asian Beacon Vol 32:2 (April/May 2000): 29-30.

Selected Bibliography

Carson, D. A., The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996

Clapp, Rodney, Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Traditional and Modern Options, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993

________, ed., The Consuming Passion: Christianity & the Consumer Culture, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998

Grenz, Stanley J., A Primer on Postmodernism, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996

Guinness, Os, Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think & What to Do About It, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995

Longman, Tremper III, Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997

McCallum, Dennis, ed., The Death of Truth: What's Wrong With Multiculturalism, the Rejection of Reason And the New Postmodern Diversity, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996 (Chapter 1 of this book and a substantial study guide can be downloaded at http://www.crossrds.org)

McGrath, Alister E., The Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism, Leicester: Apollos, 1996

Nash, Laura L., Believers in Business: Resolving the tensions between Christian faith, business ethics, competition and our definitions of success, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994

Newbigin, Lesslie, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989

Ryken, Leland, Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991

Ryken, Leland & Tremper Longman III, eds., A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993

Sampson, Philip, Vinay Samuel & Chris Sugden, eds., Faith and Modernity Oxford: Regnum, 1994

Tarnas, Richard, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, New York: Ballatine Books, 1993

Webber, Robert E., The Church in the World: Opposition, Tension, or Transformation? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986

Wells, David F., No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993

________, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994