Random thoughts and views of Tim Young

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Postmodernism: Nothing New Under the Sun

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An insightful quote from Frederick Copleston:

The earlier Greek Philosophers had been chiefly interested in the Object, trying to determine the ultimate principle of all things. Their success, however, did not equal their philosophic sincerity, and the successive hypotheses that they advanced easily led to a certain scepticism as to the possibility of attaining any certain knowledge concerning the ultimate nature of the world. [1]

The early Greek philosophers proposed many theories about the nature of reality. Some of them were monists and thought the world was made of one substance. Problem was, they couldn’t agree on what that one substance was. Thales, for example, thought it was water and Anaximines thought it was air. Anaximander, on the other hand, was sure that it was some indeterminate substance he called the aperion. Then you had guys like Heraclitus who thought everything was in a constant state of change and flux, while guys like Parmenides and Zeno argued for the absurdity of there being any type of change whatsoever. In a nutshell, there was a hodgepodge of contradictory theories for the masses to digest.

Copleston mentions that this diversity of opinion, lack of general agreement, and the overall “bankruptcy of older Greek philosophy” [2] lead to a distrust of metaphysical speculation, and skepticism of the possibility of true knowledge. The embodiment of this skeptical attitude was the Sophist; folk who didn’t regard “truth” as knowable. They were moral and epistemic relativists. “Postmodernism” was prevalent even in those days some 2,500 years ago.

So there were relativist then, and there are “postmodern” folk now. The interesting thing is if you ask a postmodernist why she believes there is no truth, her answer will probably reveal that she is fed up with all the religious folk with their differing views claiming THEIR religion is the one true religion, and all the scientific folk with their competing theories claiming THEY have a monopoly on truth. Rather then sorting through the truth-claims, it’s easier for her to throw her hands in the air and say, “Nobody really knows anything!” BUT, not only is her relativistic claim a pretentious and arrogant one, (what right does she have to throw the towel in on a fight she really knows nothing about?), her claim is itself a truth-claim. Namely, she knows it’s true that nobody knows any truth. And that, my friends, is what we call a self-defeating statement.

Well in anycase, if there is a lesson to be learned from history, it’s that there really is nothing new under the Sun!



[1] Copleston, F. (1946). History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Paulist Press.

[2] ibid

Deeper, Spiritual Significance to a Horror Flick?

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In R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God he makes an interesting point about what it “feels” like to have an encounter with the holy God:

Otto spoke of the tremendum (awe-fulness) because of the fear the holy provokes in us. The holy fills us with a kind of dread. We use expressions like “My blood ran icy cold” or “My flesh crept”

We think of the Negro spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The refrain of the song says, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble…tremble…tremble.”

Ok, so maybe having an encounter with the holy God is not exactly like peering at Jason through the small space between your fingers as you frantically use your hands to cover your eyes in an effort to hide from the gruesome scene unfolding on the screen before you. But still, you’ve got to admit there is some similarity between the feelings you get when your heart races from watching a horror flick, and when you fall to your knees in utter awe and fear at the bigness and holiness of God.

Written by Tim

January 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm