As anyone teaching high school or college knows, a casual relativism pervades our culture. You have your opinion, I have mine, and both are equally valid. That some opinions might be better than others, and that some might actually be true, strikes many people as an old-fashioned and perhaps dangerously authoritarian idea. How deep do these attitudes run? Evangelical writer Os Guinness thinks they run very deep and that we face a "crisis of truth" in Western civilization. According to Guinness, we have lost the idea that truth is objective, independent of our minds, there to be discovered, and without such a standard of truth we are unable to distinguish between right and wrong or make judgments of any kind. This skeptical view of truth is the explicit creed of the postmodernism. Guinness says, which has infected not only academic disciplines but everyday life.

Though such radical skepticism may be fashionable, it is not, finally, a livable creed, Guinness argues. There are some deeds that even radical skeptics will eventually say are "wrong," not just "wrong from my point of view."

Though Guinness's philosophic instincts are sound, he skates so quickly from philosophy to cultural studies to popular culture that he never constructs a sustained argument. He suggests, for example, that the "hype and spin" associated with politics and media--journalists fudging the facts to tell a good story, politicians stretching the truth to get elected, Clinton lying about his affair with Monica--are symptoms of the postmodern disdain for truth. Guinness conveniently ignores the electorate's deep suspicion of "hype and spin"--and Clinton's impeachment. A robust and old-fashioned respect for truth seems alive and well.

Guinness also puts his own misleading "spin" on matters by defining postmodernism almost entirely as a form of nihilism. He missed a chance to inform readers--especially the evangelical Christians who are likely to pick up this book--about the ways postmodernism, precisely by criticizing a rationalistic version of "objective truth," has opened the way for a new appreciation of the truths that are embodied in religious narratives and practices. reviewed by David Heim

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