Ok, this book was one of "those books" on my shelf. You know, one of "those books" that when asked you say, "Well, I only read a few chapters of it." Well, I finished it today. It had been a few months since I had stopped reading it, but I still have some remembrance of what it is about. Ok.
What is This Book For?
Whatever Happened to Truth? is a short book consisting of four chapters, each of which are transcribed plenary addresses given at the 56th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on Nov. 17-19, 2004 in San Antonio, TX. The four plenary speakers were Andreas Kostenberger, [THE] R. Albert Mohler, Jr., J.P. Moreland (philosopher and co-author of one of my philosophy books this past semester), and Kevin Vanhoozer.
(Let me say this before I give a report on this book: Because this book is comprised of transcribed speeches, it is kind of a choppy read. There tends to be a lot of information packed into a small space. This causes a lot of quick transitions of thought and wording that doesn't make for the best read (the chapters are filled with subtitles every 3-4 paragraphs!). It is harder for me to summarize a transcribed chapter than a chapter that is thought out and written.)
Basically, WHT? is a primer on postmodernism, the truth crisis that our generation faces, and the Christian church's needed response to this crisis. Kostenberger's chapter is entitled, "'What is Truth?' Pilate's Question in it's Johannine and Larger Biblical Context." To make a long exegetical story short, 1) Pilate is not asking Jesus this question to get an answer, but to cut off conversation so that he can get on with dealing with Jesus for the Jew's sake. And 2) Kostenberger answers Pilate's question by affirming that truth is ultimately a Person, not a thing.
Mohler's chapter is called, "Truth and Contemporary Culture." I mean, who better to speak on this than Mohler, right? Although it won't do justice to his profound chapter, Mohler simply discusses how our postmodern culture is in crisis due to it's approach to truth, or rather, it's denial of absolute truth.
Now, J.P. Moreland is a philosopher. Like I said, I read his book this semester, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult--let's just say in response to the title, it wasn't. Nevertheless, reading Moreland's chapter "Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn," made me wonder if anyone in the audience was with him after 5 minutes. This chapter was painful. The only reason I understood parts of what he was saying was because I just finished taking Intro to Christian Philosophy this semester. This was one of the chapters that had a new subtitle every page or so because it changes thoughts so rapidly. I really can't do anything report-wise except just tell you to read it for yourself and get what you can from it. All I remember was that 1) reality is what makes a statement true or false, and 2) postmodernism is immoral, somehow.
Vanhoozer's chapter was called, "Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics." This is another subtitle-happy chapter. Basically, by the time I got a third of the way in I realized that I really don't like reading transcribed speeches. However, he did make some good points. His biggest point was that hermeneutics is more than just determining the meaning of a text; the truth of any Biblical text is a means to participate in the "theodramatic history of redemtion" (that's another way of saying, "Scripture helps us become active in God's present, ongoing work [or 'drama'] of salvation in the world.")
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being "not recommended," and 5 being "a must read"), I give it a 3. The need to understand postmodernism is great, but I think that need can be met in other places in ways more clear and better written. You'll seriously get lost at times reading this.
"Christians cannot dismiss postmodernism as unimportant or irrelevant, for it is shaping the mind of the age, especially at the elite level." Mohler, 57.
"Christianity is meaningless apart from the gospel, which is a meta-narrative (or, worldview), indeed the meta-narrative of meta-narratives." Mohler, 59.
"When truth is denied, therapy remains. The critical epistemological question is shifted from, 'What is true?' to 'What makes me feel good?' What makes me feel authentic, healthy, happy?" Mohler, 61.
"Moreover, we must call attention to the fact that there is an awkwardness and a silliness to must postmodern discourse. Much of it is already dated, and quite frankly, no one is a postmodernist in the emergency room. When it comes to understanding objective truth, no one wants a postmodern heart surgeon. No one wants their CAT scans interpreted according to the particular anti-totalizing impulses of the surgeon." Mohler, 64.
"Our concern here is not so much with those who have embraced postmodernism openly and eagerly in its most extreme forms, but rather with those who have tried to find some means of incorporating its themes, mentality, and worldview into their theological systems." Mohler, 64.
That's a wrap.