Pragmatism is the philosophical notion that something should be considered true on the basis of its’ success. In other words, it is true if it works.
We can see how this view, when brought to its logical conclusion, is damaging to the framework of reality.
To go this route would be to say that Hitler’s form of ‘truth,’ which saw to the genocide of millions, was good and right. After all, it accomplished his intended purposes, did it not?
Or consider the implications of the transatlantic slave trade. This horrific period in human history saw countless families from Central and Western Africa ripped apart and dragged to the Americas where they were forced to labor under brutal working conditions and cruel taskmasters. If we are to accept the pragmatist’s worldview (and take it to its logical end), then we have no basis for making a claim against such dreadful acts, at least during the time at which they were committed. After all, the transatlantic slave trade was big business for several hundred years. That must mean they were doing something right, doesn’t it?
Finally, consider the largest genocide to take place in our own day. Since the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, there have been over 61 million abortions performed ‘legally’ in the United States. Yes, you read that right, more than 61,000,000 (take a moment to let that number sink in) LEGAL abortions have taken place IN THIS COUNTRY over the last 47 years! This amounts to 1 abortion every 96 seconds, 98 abortions every hour, and roughly 2,362 abortions each day. How tragic it is that human life has been reduced to a matter of statistics? Yet here we are.
And how do the advocates of such practices provide reason for their atrocities? Much in the same way that advocates of the slave trade or Hitler’s Third Reich did– It works, therefore it is right. Lives have been saved, therefore it is right. Young women have avoided missing out on their prestigious career goals, therefore it is right. Children are not being born into poverty stricken or abusive homes, therefore it is right. The list goes on…
This is what happens when we allow government, society, and individuals to subjectively define truth. One generation’s form of ‘truth’ becomes the monstrosities written about in the next generation’s history books. Until we begin to take a stand for truth, God’s truth, this vicious cycle will inevitably continue. As Francis Schaeffer so astutely stated, “Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.” The shadows of deception must be confronted with the light of truth. This was the mission of men like William Wilberforce, a Christian and British politician who waged war against the slave trade and became leader of a significant abolitionist movement in the 18th Century. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a pacifist, German pastor, grew tired of Hitler’s tyranny and suppression and took a stand for truth and justice when very few others would. This stand eventually costed Bonhoeffer his life.
Were the men of the past who stood against these lies perfect? Absolutely not. They were flawed, sinful human beings. Yet what they were men who had come to know the Redeeming Lord, and brought to the table a Biblical worldview that taught clearly on objective truth and morality. God is the Author of history. It is His-Story after all. As such, God sets the definition of all that is true in His created world. We, as His creatures, do not have such a right. When we seek to set the terms of what is right and wrong, we end up with outcomes such as slavery, extermination of ‘inferior races,’ and the slaughter of innocent human life. This is the inevitable result of our fallen condition. We are deceived in such a way that we can truly believe that good is evil and evil is good. Without the objective reality offered by God in a Biblical worldview, we are all susceptible all such kinds of error.
Don’t get me wrong, this can be true of well-meaning Christians as well. Many God-fearing men and women throughout history have misused the Bible to flaunt a specific ideology that holds no relevance to Scriptural truth. In light of this, we must remember that not all who speak in the name of the Lord are indeed His representatives. There are many men recorded in the Bible who went forth speaking in the name of the Lord, yet had no word from Him. These men were labeled false prophets. They did not represent the views of God, nor did they accurately set forth His message. In the same way, even though there are those in our own day who would use the Bible as a means of propagating this or that, it does not mean that they accurately reflect God’s views.
In sum, there is a great danger to the pragmatic worldview. This faulty worldview, which is representative of numerous philosophies and movements that have wreaked havoc on human dignity, has been a leading cause of atrocity throughout history. Furthermore, until men and women begin to allow God’s Word to define what is true, we will exist in the realm of subjectivity. Each individual is left to define for himself what is good, right, and just, and society as a whole will continue to see a massive decay of morality and justice. There is only one hope amid this looming present darkness– repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We do not come to Christ to get our worldview right, nor do we come to Him because He will ‘shower’ us with blessings. We come to Christ because He is worthy whether He chooses to ‘show’ us anything or not. He is the Lord and Ruler over all creation and it is only right that we humble ourselves in submission and adoration to His majesty. At the same time, we must recognize that having a correct worldview is a natural byproduct of our relationship with Him. How can one be unified with the source of all truth and light and not partake of His infinite wisdom?
Christ said in John 14:6 that He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ We would do well to come to Him and offer our lives in humble servitude. He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matthew 11:29) and calls all who are weighed down with heavy burdens to come to Him and find rest.