The Knowledge Crisis: Pursuing Truth in a Postmodern Age

In a previous post, I used John Piper’s 2010 Desiring God Conference as a launching point for asking whether Christianity has properly engaged intellectualism. The conference took place a few weeks ago and Piper has a new book out by the same name, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. Although I was unable to attend the conference, I have been catching up online, and I encourage you to do the same.

Speakers included Rick Warren, R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, Albert Mohler, Francis Chan, and, of course, John Piper. I enjoyed each session thoroughly, but Mohler’s talk was perhaps my favorite, titled, “The Way the World Thinks: Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and in the Marketplace.”

You can watch it here:

Mohler’s primary goal is to simply get Christians thinking about thinking, but more specifically, he calls us to grasp the difference between a “regenerate mind” and an “unregenerate mind.” Additionally, Mohler believes that we need to fully understand the “mind of the age” in order to preach the Gospel effectively.

He structures his argument around what he calls a “knowledge crisis” — a struggle that has engaged humanity since the Fall of Man. As far as what kind of crisis this is, and how we are supposed to overcome it, thinks the fundamental problem is that “we suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (pointing specifically to Romans 1).

Indeed, although overall human knowledge has come a long way since the Fall, we are still largely presumptuous about how much we actually know and how much we actually can know. In many ways, our great advances in education and scientific innovation have not helped us in this area. They have further enabled us to defend our pretenses about how much we really value truth. We like to think we are intent on pursuing truth, but really we are often engaged in what Mohler calls “a project of suppressing the truth.”

In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul tells us the story of how and why humans suppress truth. Paul explains that after the Fall, humans “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” But this is not ignorance. This is a willful suppression of what we know to be true. As Paul says, these people chose this path even though “what can be known about God [was] plain to them.”

As Mohler explains:

This knowledge crisis is not what people do not know. The real knowledge crisis is what we will not know. It’s a disposition of the will. The Bible is very clear about something that some modern schools of philosophy are just now catching on to. The will is the great engine of the intellect. The conceit of the modern age was that the intellect was neutral…and that the great enemy was ignorance, and the answer was enlightenment. Well, it turns out we don’t actually want enlightenment.

To emphasize this point, Mohler points to a list of intellectual errors attributable to the Fall, each of which is “tied to the will”:

  • Ignorance
  • Distractedness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Prejudice
  • Faulty perspective
  • Intellectual fatigue
  • Inconsistencies
  • Failure to draw the right conclusion
  • Intellectual apathy
  • Dogmatism/Closemindedness
  • Intellectual pride
  • Vain imagination
  • Miscommunication
  • Partial knowledge

He then goes on to describe the most common mindsets in today’s intellectual arena, terming them as follows:

  • Postmodern anti-realism.
  • Selective moral relativism
  • Therapeutic universalism
  • Radical pluralism
  • Managerial pragmatism
The Conversion of Paul

On the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul learned a little something about the regenerate mind.

On these points, I highly encourage you to listen to his sermon in full. What is striking is how many of the above-mentioned intellectual errors and mindsets are prevalent in today’s mainstream church. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, these are not errors that are limited to atheists or self-proclaimed pluralists.

Mohler’s final suggestion isn’t for Christians to duck out of all scientific or intellectual endeavors. Rather, he encourages us to become “intellectual disciples of Christ.” This, however, cannot properly occur if we maintain an unregenerate mind. Our intellectual decisions must be aligned to God’s supreme omniscience, and for Mohler, this comes from spending time in the Bible, getting involved in the local church, and above all, being guided in all things by the Holy Spirit.

My questions to you (and myself) are as follows:

  • Are you engaged in any form of truth suppression in your own intellectual development?
  • Are you constantly making sure your intellectual decisionmaking is aligned to God’s omniscience?
  • Are you relying on man — even if it’s just yourself — to rationalize certain elements of the human condition?
  • Regardless of the Christian label you may assume, do you really have a regenerate mind?

To see some helpful notes on Mohler’s sermon, click here.

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