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Last week we looked at postmodernism and its logical companion, nihilism. We saw its denial of all absolutes, all truth, and all meaning. We saw the hopelessness and despair that are the ultimate results of this worldview.

It is now necessary to ask ourselves two questions:

What can we do to strengthen ourselves and our families against postmodernism and nihilism?

To arm ourselves to fight and to stand against the inroads of a postmodern, nihilistic mentality we, as Christians, need

[1] unfailing confidence in and commitment to the authority and infallibility  of the written Word of God (2Timothy 3:16-17);

[2] unfailing confidence in and commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in whom all the questions about God and reality are answered, and in whom the meaning and purpose of life is revealed (2Corinthians 4:6; Col 2:2-3);

[3] acknowledgement of our dependence on God - expressed in a prayerful life, and in submission to his Word;

[4] a recognition that when we give in to despair (apart from the depression  caused by nutritional deficiencies or physical/organic malfunctions) it could well be that the true God has ceased to be a significant reality for us, and that, because of this, we have lost awareness of our own identity and significance;

[5] to recognize that this deep hopelessness and despair can be reversed by a return to true, Biblical, God-centred faith; and

[6] to focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom all our inadequacies and rebellion are forgiven and covered, and in whom we are complete ( Eph 1:7; Col 2:10).

How ought the church address the problems of postmodernism and nihilism?

Acknowledging the presence of postmodern nihilistic meaninglessness, hopelessness and despair in our society, several things are imperative:

[1] The Christian church must realise that a significant number of those to whom it proclaims the Gospel are without any purpose and without any hope. I am not speaking here of Christian purpose and Christian hope, but of any purpose and hope. Nihilism robs life of meaning, of purpose, indeed, of reality. The person captive to nihilism is lost in a very extreme sense of the word.

[2] The Christian church must assume that most people are ignorant of spiritual truth and realities. For these people the words ‘god’ and ‘truth’ are empty. In conversation with unbelievers we have to fill that void with the Biblical meaning. We must never take it for granted that people know what we are talking about when we say ‘god’ or any other Biblical word or term. We must remember that even such words as ‘human’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are meaningless to the post-modern nihilist.

[3] The Christian church must constantly affirm with great authority the fact that God is there and God is for us. Francis Schaeffer expertly addressed this issue in his books The God Who Is There and He Is There and He Is Not Silent.

[4] The Christian church should constantly affirm that in Jesus Christ all the questions about God, about life, about purpose, are answered. This proclamation of Jesus Christ and his salvation should be addressed not only to the unbelievers but to the believers. Knowledge of Jesus Christ - who he is and what he did - is the surest protection there is against nihilism and postmodernism. We have his promise that those who follow him

      do not walk in darkness (Jn 8:12),
      are permanently satisfied (Jn 6:35),
      have fullness of life (Jn 10:10), and
      know who God is (Jn 14:7-9).

[5] The Christian church will need to equip and prepare its members to understand, communicate with and counsel people who are caught in the vortex of nihilistic meaninglessness and despair.

[6] The Christian church must also guard against nihilistic hopelessness and despair entering into its own consciousness. It must take to heart those exhortations of both the Old and New Testaments in which we are commanded to hold fast to the faith. If the church is to survive and thrive it will of necessity centre its faith not on itself and its own survival and growth, but on its Lord, from whom it takes its meaning, its purpose and its identity. Without him at its centre the church also is ultimately nothing.

Let us then stand firm in faith. Though all around may fall into hopelessness and despair we who are Christians have this confidence: in Jesus Christ the reality of God is affirmed and the reality and significance of the human is affirmed. In him the true God and true humanity are identified and defined. In him we see both our origin and our goal. In him the meaningfulness of human life is authenticated.

For your study:
Read through several Psalms. As you do notice how the Psalm writer, faced with threatening and despairing situations, finds confidence and hope by calling to mind objective facts about God that have been revealed by God in times past. Think through the contrast between this confident and joyful faith and the hopelessness, meaninglessness and despair that characterizes much of our society today.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2011