"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

With the dawn of the Enlightenment, it seemed to many that the evolution of human epistemology was nearly complete. The application of logic and scientific methodology, to the minds slowly waking from the lethargy and darkness of the Middle Ages, seemed incontrovertible proof that absolute knowledge was not only extant within the universe, but moreover that it was the proper subject of investigation, from the phenomenological, to the legal, and even to the metaphysical. In all areas of thought and study, the Western mind was intoxicated with the seeming success of propositional truth and its corollary assertion within the parameters of human paradigms of thinking.

However, as the unimpeded rush to lay claim to the absolute and objective proceeded forward at a frenzied pace, the tiny cracks of inconsistency which at first seemed to be but small bumps in the road to a fully formed and infinitely encompassing epistemology soon manifested itself for the disastrous cancer which it had always been. Like a patient who has learned that they are terminally ill and that nothing can be done to stop the spread of the destroyer, the modern Western mind was seized by the throes of the deconstructing power of its own blind flaws. Out of the cancerous remains arose the deadly doppelganger, the clarion call of the hastening demise of modernism's all-too comfortable handling of categories of objectivity and truth.

While many definitions have been proffered to explain post-modernism's varied and plastic nature, the fundamental shift in thinking was not towards a new idea of truth and objectivity, but rather a deconstruction of the old, unquestioned assumptions concerning these categories. Rather than heralding itself as a move forward beyond the "ignorant and ancient" ways of thinking that preceded, post-modern thinking called into question the very legitimacy and usefulness of such ways of thinking altogether. In other words, post-modernism was no Einsteinian revolution–that is, another way of envisioning the universe that incorporates the Newtonian categories which came before while radically reorienting them. Such a "revolution" is non-violent for it engages both ways of thinking as the reforming voice gently, yet firmly coaxes and goads the progenitor to embrace the new way of thinking while recognizing and concomitantly embracing that which has come before. But with post-moderninism, no such peaceful reconciliation is possible. As post-modernism seeks to deconstruct, or get back to human epistemology before–or apart from–the categories of modernistic thinking, the Einsteinian velvet glove is traded for a mace and dagger: this revolution is bloody, and cannot be otherwise.

At the center of this apocalypse, of course, is the battle over how human epistemology defines truth. Truth, after all, was the self-proclaimed object of the Enlightenment's desire. Modernistic thinking sought to encapsulate within the paradigms of human thought that which was objective, and propositionally verifiable–in short, truth. Such a deconstruction of this stated goal by post-modernism, then, was not taken kindly by those beholden to the categories of Western Enlightenment thinking. Such a deconstruction of the categories of modernistic rationalism appeared nothing less than an all-out assault on the very fabric of the universality of truth. It is not surprising, then, that the now-classic modernist response to the post-modern modus operandi is centered around accusations of "denying the existence of absolute truth" and "making everything truth."

What is missed in the rhetoric, however, is that post-modernism suggests no such denial of truth. Truth, as a categorically objective reality, could only be denied as such if one were to concomitantly affirm the nature of truth as categorically objective. But as already pointed out, the entire methodological programme of post-modernism is not to challenge the conclusions of modernistic thinking, per se (as such a challenge would, again, presuppose the legitimacy of the categories depended upon by modernistic categories of truth and objectivity), but rather to call into question the comfortable assumptions about the objective reality of truth, and the subsequent ability of human epistemology to speak propositionally about the same, as if the latter could encapsulate within itself the former to such an extent that the former could become an object of investigation, explication and, ultimately, manipulation.

If it to be said, then, that the deconstructing influence of post-modern thinking has sufficiently removed what had been, for centuries, unquestioned assumptions about the nature of truth, what is one to make of Jesus' words quoted above? If it remains no longer philosophical tenable to assert the identity of this "truth" on the basis of objectively determinable criterion, can one even speak of "truth"?

In one important sense, the answer is "no." If the categories of objectivity and absolutism are, contrary the assumptions of modernistic paradigms of thought, not proper objects of human epistemological control and manipulation, then it remains impossible for the assertion of truth to operate on the level of propositionalism. As with the abuses of modernistic thinking, all modes of thinking that assume otherwise quickly devolve into violent, manipulative and hegemonic paradigms that, while passing themselves off as "absolute truth", are inherently oppressive and destructive. So if the necessary propositionalism of modernistic thought removes the possibility of speaking about truth, what is the way forward?

A now classic feature of postmodern thinking is that meaning–rather than being objectively accessed by the human mind — is found in community, the shared experience and life of persons within the various contexts in which they find themselves. From childhood formation, to teenage social development, to the solidification of hegemonies of thought in adulthood, the molding and shaping of meaning is bourne out of the myriad shared contexts, environments and consciousnesses in which persons exist. Contra the abstracted and individuated conception of knowledge primary to modernism's philosophical methodology, post-modernism understands knowledge–and truth itself–to arise not out of solitary epistemological investigations of absolute sources of knowledge, but rather from the shared life and experience of persons-in-community.

Surprisingly, and to the modernist's horror, such an understanding of truth would seem to square quite nicely with Jesus' words above which provide the impetus for this discussion. While Jesus certainly advocates that his disciples will "know the truth," his conversation suggests nothing of objectivity or abstracted parallels to propositionally verifiable absolutes. Rather, the condition for their "knowledge" of the truth is incumbent upon the disciples existing in communion with Christ, learning of him and following the example which he has set for them. Even Christ's greatest commandment to those who would know the truth is no secret epistemological key that will unlock the treasures of propositional truth; rather, it is the imperative to love God and others. To Jesus, the truth of God is not revealed in propositional language about God, or even about himself. Quite to the scandalous contrary, the truth of God is revealed in the mundane, the dirty and the undesirable.

Christ does indeed call his followers to the truth, and it is Christ himself who is revealed as the truth of God. But this truth is not a truth that can be violently asserted over and against all other competing hegemonies of thought, as if it were simply the most philosophical viable of all rival opinions. Rather, this truth is manifested in the freedom that is revealed within the community of God&
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ple as they live within and promote the Shalom of the kingdom of God that has been revealed in the Incarnation of very God in Christ. This truth, ironically, makes no claims about its philosophical tenability or demonstrable viability, for it has nothing to do with these. No, the truth of Christ, the truth that makes free, is the very life of Christ revealed and unleashed by the Spirit of God within the Church, the community of Christ's disciples.

In this way, then, post-modernism changes nothing for the gospel, save perhaps freeing those who preach it and live it from the fabricated need to concoct arguments about it that will obtain to modernistic criteria for truth. Just as Christ formed and established a community of believers that would "know" the truth of God because of its power and presence in its midst by the Spirit of the Triune God, so too does the Church today proclaim the truth when it images the love of God in a world in which truth is an ever-changing commodity. In this way, the question need not be whether one should hold to modern or post-modern philosophical categories. Neither are capable of encapsulating the truth, and the assertion of the truth by the criteria of either will lead to nothing more than the old violent and destructive patters of the past. Therefore, as no philosophical paradigm is inherently capable or proper for speaking of the truth of God revealed in Christ, the doors are burst wide for the people of God to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God revealed in the Incarnation of Christ without the need to tether it to the latest (or most venerably held) philosophical tradition. As this is, in fact, the very example of Christ, let us simply be his disciples: it is only herein that the truth can be known and freeing.