What Does “Mean” Mean?

Neal Pollard

Does that question seem strange to you? Mean is a verb defined as “intend to convey, indicate, or refer to” (Apple Dictionary, Version 2.2.2). Postmodernism claims that there is no purely objective knowledge, truth, or norms. Therefore, meaning is what you make it mean. Several years ago, James Sire gave the framework for what we see in ever-increasing, ever-encroaching ways in our society when he wrote that the postmodernist believes “human beings make themselves who they are by the languages they construct about themselves” (181). He continues, “In postmodernism the self is indeed a slippery concept” (182). How does this play out? Science is what scientists say it is. History is what historians say it is. But, morality, law, and so many other pillars of society are influenced by this approach to truth and reality. Abortion, euthanasia, sexual ethics, gender issues, and the like are subject to what institutions and individuals determine about them. Even religion, down to New Testament Christianity, has felt the pervasive tentacles of this worldview. Where does this philosophical mindset end? What’s out of bounds, if truth is whatever you and I each say it is for ourselves? Ultimately, there can be no values, standards, or absolutes. And no one wants to live in a society where those are the “rules,” if you can call them that.  And no one can for long. It’s a system destined to collapse.

Winfried Corduan worse, “Relativism plays the role of Zorro in the world of knowledge. It stays in concealment for long periods of time only to suddenly appear at crucial moments, conquer the day, and go back into hiding” (37). In other words, we don’t want relativism on the operating table, when it’s a choice of saline or strychnine in the I.V. (i.e., “What’s ‘saline’ to you is ‘strychnine’ to me”). We don’t want it at our banking institution, when it’s a choice of debit or credit. We believe in absolutes…until we don’t. What’s right or wrong? Again, Corduan helps by defining truth as what corresponds to reality (39). We may have to explore, investigate, evaluate, and test, but we can ascertain it!

We don’t want to live in a world without a transcendent way to determine truth and meaning. We cannot. Meaning is meaningful! Amidst all the wild experimentation of our postmodern world, there is a trustworthy source of truth. It in internally cohesive and universally applicable. It has been successfully tried for thousands of years. But it makes expectations of us. It asks commitments of us. It involves sacrifice, self-denial, and submission. But it is right and it works! It is Divine Revelation. The Bible. May we have the courage to follow it and share it.

Works cited:

Corduan, Winfried. No Doubt About It: The Case For Christianity (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997).
Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (Leicester: InterVarsity, 1997).

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