Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Antidote to Nihilism

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another."

As a fairly recent college grad, one of the most particular and perplexing philosophies I encountered, that ran through nearly all of my humanities class was, among the variety of theories eminating from postmodernism, the philosophical doctrine of nihilism.

I remember the first time a lecturer introduced us to the existential nihilist school of thought, in my Biblical and Classical Literature course, and my reaction was a jaw-dropping utterance to the effect of "you can't be serious." And yet about half the class sat there wide-eyed and nodding in full agreement.

Another even more memorable time was in my World Religions class, the day that we started our study of the themes in the Old Testament. My philosophy professor, who was an incredibly gifted teacher, with a very charasmatic personality, and who challenged us in our thinking practically every moment we were in class, proceeded to enlighten us about the ancient Hebrew beliefs on resurrection. He explained that the concept of resurrection was essentially unheard of by the Jewish people until the exile, when the prophets invented it to comfort the people in exile. I, a baby believer, had no evidence to prove otherwise, but was immediately uncomfortable with his theory. Then he went on to introduce us to the text, the book of Job, which had been our homework assignment the night before.

In his introduction to Job, he began by stating that it is quite likely that Job is the oldest book in the Bible. This is a statement that those in liberal academia take great pains to always present, as if it somehow lessens the authority of the Pentateuch. But over and over in his intro to Job, he just couldn't seem to stop mentioning that Job was most likely to be the oldest book in the Bible. AND THEN, he amazingly diverged to his original thesis of the resurrection idea being a much newer invention blah, blah, blah, and had the audacity to challenge his class to provide proof otherwise in our text --- and in a translation that "he approved of."

Okay, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not one to back down on a challenge, no matter how inexperienced I may be on a subject. And in this case, I was way, way, way over my head. But I didn't care, because that whole resurrection/nihilist thing that he kept talking about was seriously rubbing me the wrong way. So I said a 5 second prayer for God to give me wisdom, then I started skimming the book of Job. Right away -- immediately, the Holy Spirit led me to Chapter 19 of Job and specificaly the verses 25 and 26. I immediately raised my hand, in what seemed to be only a split second after the professor issued his challenge. I then read the passage. He asked what version of the Bible I had. It was a New King James. He asked if anyone had a different version. So we proceeded to read the passage in Job five times in five different translations, all with the exact same meaning.

It was a powerful exchange after which he was a bit speechless. Sometimes I wonder if he was actually setting us up and that secretly he was a Christian, because this sort of thing happened fairly regularly in his class. He would assert all manner of false doctrine and then issue challenges to his students to prove him wrong. Or maybe that is just how powerful the Word of God really is and that we should not be shy about it.

However, my real point is that, while we know that there are some among the Emerging set who are also falling to the trap of postmodern nihilism, they are not the only Christians who are susceptible. I think that we who are more mature and have more experience with these things should be diligent in answering the Emergents with the Truth of God's Word, and not allow them to pose such questions as things that we can't really prove to be Absolute Truth.

On the other hand, in terms of our -- I guess I should say MY -- practical theology, is it not tempting to turn to a sort of nihilism at times when life gets really, really messy? As the author of today's Slice at RZIM puts it, we all at times encounter "the bothered, sometimes pained, state of mind that occurs when new evidence conflicts with a current belief or outlook." She calls this "cognative dissonance."

But rather than turn to unbelief for answers (as postmoderns do), we are called to believe in God's Word, to trust His promises, and to hope in the Absolute Truth of Resurrection: "the promise that broken lives will rise again to see God!"

Amen! (and check out today's Slice)

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