The Word, Power, and the Marginalization of Others by the “Powers that Be”
As I’ve tried to show in my other posts on Emergianity (i.e. the Emergent “Church” [Religion]), postmodern thought seeks to subvert orthodoxy in order to establish unorthodoxy. This is done by a deconstructive process, whereby language is stripped of any fixed meaning so that all meanings are supposedly given equal weight. The postmodernist wants to eradicate the very notion of fixed, absolute, and universal meaning for a variety of reasons, but which all mainly have to do with the idea of power. French Philosopher Jacques Derrida, for instance, spoke of “the marginalization of the other” through one’s utilization of language, while Michel Foucault spoke of “the marginalization of the other” by institutions (e.g. prisons, mental hospitals, and religions) which seek to express power by the creation of words, phrases, concepts, etc that define what it means to be human (whether they do this with respect to conformity to social norms of behavior (as in the case of the prison), with respect to sanity/optimal/ideal mental health (as in the case of the mental hospital), or with respect to spirituality (as in the case of religions)). Both Derrida and Foucault taught that these categories of thought were not truly fixed and that any attempt to say that such categories were indeed fixed would simply be either the author’s recognition of the instability of meaning and his own sorry attempt to pin down fixed, absolute, and universal meaning (as in Derrida’s case), or would be an expression of power that is seeking to dominate others by means of the creation of “knowledge” (as in the case of Foucault).
Friedrich Nietzsche: Immutable Truth Vs. Uncertainty
Before we go on to see the Biblical origin of postmodernism, we need to look at the claims of the postmodernists and trace their origin in the history of philosophy in order to have a dual basis for refuting expressions of it in Emergianity, as well as in academic contexts. In order to do this, we need to look no further than to the German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a brilliant classical philologist, the son of a Lutheran minister who died when Nietzsche was only four years old, who over time abandoned belief in fixed, absolute, and universal truth and thought through some of the consequences of what he thought a societal recognition of the non-existence of God and fixed, absolute, and universal truth would entail.
Why did Nietzsche believe that fixed, absolute, and universal truth were illusory? To put it bluntly: He was a materialist who simply believed that matter is all that exists. For Nietzsche, it went without saying that energy and matter are all that exists, so in an age when Darwin’s Origin of the Species claimed to destroy the need for a Creator, Nietzsche was simply drawing out the logical implications of his “scientifically justified” – at least so he thought – materialism. Nietzsche’s rejection of the spiritual world is not based on anything but his own assumption that everything = energy and matter.
At the root of all human interactions, therefore, was power. While the postmodernists extend this “will to power” to language itself, Nietzsche’s main focus was on the expression of power through religion and morality. His favorite religion to attack, unsurprisingly, was Christianity, which he said reduced to nothing more than a system of slave morality. Christians, he thought, propagated a system of morality that attempted to guilt trip others who had more power, money, and confidence to be aggressive, sexually promiscuous, proud, etc. Nietzsche’s superficial analysis treats all Christian morality as nothing more than the imposition of restrictions upon the “masters” (the biologically, intellectually, etc superiors) by the slaves (the biologically, intellectually, etc inferiors).
Thus, the link between Nietzsche and the postmodernists becomes clearer. But what about the Bible?
Where Does the Bible Fit into All of This?
When we turn to Genesis 3:1-5, we encounter the serpent, the craftiest of God’s creatures, who by an ambiguous use of language deceived Eve into believing that the commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would not bring death to humanity. According to the serpent, the commandment was simply an imposed restriction on the behavior of others, an exertion of power by means of a moral law that was designed to oppress and marginalize “the other.” After Eve explains why she cannot eat of the fruit of the tree, the serpent says:
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We can break down the serpent’s words here and see that they are in complete conformity to the words of Nietzsche, Derrida, and Foucault. For instance, “You will not surely die” is a complete contradiction of what God had told Adam. The serpent has subverted the original meaning of God’s Word in order to establish his own unorthodox belief about the consequences of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the second place, the serpent is implicitly denying fixed, absolute, and universal truth. In the third place, he is also emphasizing a sort of materialism, for he subjects the universal proposition “You shall surely die” to verification by Eve’s sensory experience (which cannot establish universals). In the fourth place, he is implicitly denying that anything but matter and energy exists, for Adam and Eve do die on the day that they eat of the fruit, but this immediate death is spiritual death, physical death would come some time later. And in the fifth and final place, the serpent is telling Eve that God’s commandment is rooted in nothing more than God’s desire to hoard power for Himself. God is, according to the serpent, marginalizing Adam and Eve by imposing His rules upon them; God is, according to the serpent/Nietzsche/Derrida/Foucault/Emergianity, purposefully constructing artificial restrictions on man’s behavior for the sake of keeping all power to Himself.
What is terrifying is that Emergents claim that God is the One who subverts and overturns traditionalism, belief in absolute truth, etc etc…But Scripture shows us that it is Satan who does this out of his hate for God, God’s creation, and God’s elect people. The “god” of Emergianity is not the God of Scripture, but the god who balks at the Truth of Scripture, the “god of this world” who is seeking to deceive and devour as many as he can prior to Christ’s return.
If you are a Christian and you are playing around with writers like George Elerick, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, and/or Tony Jones, please take this article to heart. Read Genesis 3 and compare the methods of the serpent to the methods of Emergianity’s leaders. Repent of your sin and trust Your Savior who knows all things. If you are an Emergent, then please understand that the “god” you worship is not the God of Scripture. The Jesus you love is not the Jesus of Scripture. The religion you follow is not the Christian religion. And repent of your idolatry. Read Genesis 3 and compare the serpent’s methods to that of your favorite Emergent leader, and no longer ignore the clear truth:
The Bible teaches us that postmodernism originated in the mind of satan, the enemy of God, God’s creation, and God’s elect people. There is nothing profound about Nietzsche, Derrida, or Foucault – they’re just repeating the same tricks that Satan used to deceive Eve in the Garden.
This desire to eradicate fixed, absolute, and universal meaning is itself an attempt to establish fixed, absolute, and universal meaning, and is, consequently, self-referentially absurd. The postmodernist ideal is simply a way to squelch the voices of all who disagree with their philosophical presuppositions.
Cf. Eph 2:1a