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The Post-Modern claim of “Everything is Interpretation”

A third claim in Post-Modernism would be that any written text has no real meaning, just various interpretations open to readers. The phrase most commonly heard associated with this mindset would be, “What does this mean to you?” While in Post-Modernism, “each author (or artist) is the product of his or her own cultural setting and uses language to fit his or her condition… a reader’s interpretation of the text becomes more important than the text itself.” Professor J. P. Moreland explains it this way: “Rather, the meaning of a text, according to postmodernists, is determined by a community of readers who share an interpretation. Thus Paul’s intentions are irrelevant to the meaning of the book of Romans. In fact, there is no book of Romans. Rather, there’s a Lutheran book of Romans, a Catholic book of Romans, a Marxist book of Romans, and so on — but no book of Romans in itself.”

However, this flies in the face of the Lutheran interpretation of Scripture: “A Scripture text can have but one divinely intended sense and meaning; two contradictory interpretations of the same text cannot both be correct.” Take John 14:6 as an example: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” How many interpretations are there for this clear statement?

Moreover, here’s the contradiction: when we’re asked to agree with Post-Modernism’s interpretation that there is nothing but interpretations of written texts, that’s not open to debate—that is the truth! But in a worldview that says there is no truth, how is that possible? Furthermore, according to Professor D. A. Carson, he never met a Post-Modern author who would be happy if a reviewer misinterpreted his work. These authors don’t practice what they preach. There is a real meaning behind a text. You can’t just interpret how you want.

And while the freedom to interpret words as we want has appeal, especially when it comes to ones for which we don’t care, reality has a tendency to slap us in the face. If someone says, “The hall is on fire,” there may be various interpretations to that sentence. But the statement that fits a real world of smoke and flames in the hallway is not open to multiple interpretations. A burning hall is not a matter of word games. With the correspondence theory of truth, the truth corresponds to the facts of reality, and people can get hurt.

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August 21, 2018

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