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Reduction to Absurdity: One Powerful Tool for Engaging a Postmodern Culture

Written By Wade Mobley on 09/12/2014 | Posted in Current EventsDaily Christian Thinking

In the last two posts I examined the absolute wrongness of hitting one's wife and how the reasons for this absolute wrongness (or the absolute rightness of protecting your wife) points to the existence and character of the Living God. I also mentioned that our goal is not merely to establish an ethic or even demonstrate the existence of God, but to expose someone to the law of God so that they are convicted of (and repent of ) their sin. In short, our goal is to move them toward salvation by grace through faith in the substitutionary work of Christ.

A Generation That Thinks with Their Heart and Feels with Their Eyes

Christians often feel helpless as they are called to minister to a society that not only denies Christ, but also the existence of an infinite and/or personal and/or good god, the truth of not just the Bible but any ancient document, the concept of truth itself, and (if necessary) their own existence and reliability of their senses. This generation, says author and speaker Ravi Zacharias, thinks with their heart and feels with their eyes.

Reductio ad absurdum, or "Reduction to absurdity." Reductio (for short- pronounced like "reduction" without the "n") is a powerful, necessary tool for engaging the postmodern culture in which we live. "Postmodern" is a term that needs some explaining. I won't define the term here, but I have described it in the previous paragraph. If you add in "is at least skeptical of the link between language and reality," and "denies any connection between an object under consideration (that which we observe) and the subject of our consideration (our interaction with it)," then you'll have a fairly good working knowledge of the term. Our culture is steeped in postmodern thought, from the classroom to the arts to the pulpit.

The Biggest Problem with Postmodernism

The biggest problem with postmodernism is that it tries to describe a world that simply doesn't exist. Christ DID die and rise on our behalf. God DOES exist, both infinitely and personally. Old stuff is sometimes true- including old writings. Scripture IS something- and we have reason to believe it is an accurate reflection of its divine Author. Truth DOES exist, as does those who observe it. You exist, and your senses are reliable. Language is a sufficient way for us to communicate truth to one another. And no matter how much you call an orange an apple, it remains an apple all the while.

Please excuse the term, as I mean it sincerely: This schizophrenia causes untold and constant tension. To paraphrase the late Francis Schaeffer, one cannot simply invent a world and then live in it. He must live in the world God created, for it is the only one that really exists. To attempt to live otherwise produces a schizophrenic bouncing back and forth between your self-created reality and the only reality that God really made.

You can practice reductio, first in the recesses of your own thoughts, then with a helpful friend, by investing some time and mental energy in consideration of current events, the reactions of others to those events, or your own strongly held convictions:

  • Practice asking "why." If you ask a progression of five "why" questions you almost always get to the root of a matter.
  • Give ideas a "test drive" to see if they lead someplace positive (or not so positive). Sound ideas yield positive results, with "positive" defined as "reflective of God's good character."

Finally, I urge two cautions:

First, giving ideas a "test drive" is not pragmatism, that distinctively American philosophy that teaches "if it works, then it is right." Pragmatism, goes an old joke, is great, except for the fact that it doesn't work. "If it works, do it" always degenerates to a tyranny of the majority over a minority, unless that minority is sufficiently armed, as someone has to be the one to declare "what works." For example, apparently someone in ISIS thinks Twitter posts of beheadings "works."

Second, this is not a game. Reductio is a powerful rhetorical device ("rhetoric" is a good thing, by the way). If you delight in reducing the holder of an idea -as opposed to the idea itself- to absurdity, then don't use reductio. You don't magnify the character of God by "reducing to absurdity" a precious, eternal human soul for whom Christ died. Ideas, though, are fair game.

- Pastor Wade


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Thankful to the Living God for life, redemption and His many blessings. Doing my best to reflect His character in all I do.

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