Objective Truth and the Fire of “Deconstructionism” (Isa.5:20-30)
from The Church under Fire sermon series . . .
In the last few weeks, we’ve had quite the variety of weather conditions in Tennessee. We went from a record high of seventy-eight degrees on one day to temperatures in the twenties just a few days later. One of those wintry nights dropped to around nine degrees. That’s cold! Or is it? Isn’t how we define what is “cold” relative to our own subjective experiences and preferences? If you asked Alaskans if nine degrees is cold, inevitably some would say, “Eh, not so much.”
This is the type of thinking that the philosophy of deconstructionism engages in, and we are more a product of this thinking than you might realize. The philosophy of deconstruction began by questioning the reliability of written documents, specifically all truth claims regarding traditions, beliefs, and systematic worldviews. In this way, any and all documents and truth claims are at best suspicious to the deconstruc-tionist because they believe they are “tainted” with presuppositions that the writers and teachers were unconscious of (keep this concept of “unconscious” beliefs in mind throughout this series).
Therefore, deconstructionism is the denial of objective, absolute truth in favor of all truth being subjective. Subjective truth is the idea that what may be “true” for you is not “true” for me. Back to our opening illustration of cold weather. Is nine degrees Fahrenheit cold or not? Objective truth says, “Yes, it is.” Subjective truth says, “It depends.” It depends on someone’s personal experiences and preferences. Deconstructionism would say this is one example that “proves” all truth is subjective.
But here’s the problem with their claim. Just because nine degrees doesn’t “feel” the same to all people doesn’t change the objective truth that it can and will kill any human that doesn’t take precautions to protect themselves. Therefore, nine degrees may “feel” different to different people, but nine degrees is cold. We could take hundreds of similar examples (food, clothes, seeing colors, and so on). But no matter the example, all subjective truths have an underlying foundation of objective truth.
The problem with deconstructionism can be summarized as making one main error: Emphasizing personal feelings and experiences in place of objective truth. In this way, deconstructionism makes everything about you. In essence, the remaining five topics in our Church under Fire series boil down to the issue of deconstructionist attacks on biblically, objective truths.
When deconstructionism is applied to the Bible, its adherents see nothing wrong with reconstructing the gospel to fit their own “personal” experiences in order to make themselves “feel” better. In this way, do you see that, in essence, all of our sin comes from a heart deter-mined to deconstruct God’s revealed truths. This is exactly how the Apostle Paul describes unrepentant sinners in Romans 1 as those “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom.1:18b) and refuse to “honor” God “as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom.1:21).
In our text from Isaiah, we will see that deconstructionism is not a new “fire” aimed at God’s Church but is as ancient as Satan’s fall into sin and the subsequent fall of Adam into sin too.
Isaiah 5:20-23—Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
Isaiah 5 is a lengthy account of God’s assessment of the spiritual downgrade and decline of His people in the Southern Kingdom known as Judah. The chapter begins by comparing Judah to a vineyard set on a hill. The LORD prepared the ground of Judah and planted her “with choice vines” (v.2). God asks the question in verse 4:
Isaiah 5:4—“What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”
Despite the LORD’s faithfulness to His people, as a whole, they had become unfaithful to Him. In the rest of the chapter, we see a series of six “woes” against Judah for their unrighteousness—woes being declarations of God’s coming judgment. Our verses this morning contain 3 of the 6. So, what are the principles of objective truth that we can learn from Isaiah 5?
1. Rejecting objective truth is evil (vv.20-23). Deconstructionism in all its forms fits this description. Those who claim that truth is mostly or purely subjective are evil people. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (v.20). “Woe” means, “be damned!” May those that attempt to change the labels on what is good and evil meet God in judgment. This is the fundamental practice of deconstructionism, and it is the fundamental practice of all sin. In attempting to rid the world of all presuppositions, stereotypes, biases, and hypocrisies, deconstructionism only makes things much worse.
Let’s consider some practical examples of calling evil good and good evil. Woe to those that reject the legitimacy of the local church yet call themselves a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Woe to those that call abortion compassionate health care for women and children but call pregnancy and motherhood a burden for women. Woe to those that call homosexuality a true expression of love but call heterosexuality hopelessly narrow-minded. Woe to those who say the church gathering during COVID is reckless and unloving yet are okay with liquor stores, pornographic stores, and casinos remaining open. Woe to those that boast about how much fun it is to get drunk and win drinking contests but call abstinence or moderation of alcohol consumption boring and a display of wimpiness.
Such subversion of the truth is like someone calling darkness light and light darkness or calling bitterness sweetness and sweetness bitter-ness. God uses these illustrations to show how ludicrous it is to subvert evil and good. The truth is, the difference between good and evil is rarely difficult to decide at its core—it’s either evil or good, darkness or light, bitter or sweet. It is true that we have subjective experiences of evil and good, but these always have a foundation of objective truth—otherwise, there would be no truths at all, neither objective nor subjective.
If you were to narrow deconstructionism and sin down to their most essential element, it would be pride in yourself, in your own “wisdom.” This is the point verse 21 makes. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight!” (v.21). The idea is, woe to all who have lofty opinions of their own beliefs and use superficial sophis-tication to exalt themselves above objective truth.
Drunkenness is then used to illustrate the abusive arrogance of those who deny objective truth. This is why I included the illustration of alcohol use a moment ago, because it’s the next illustration God mentions in verse 22. “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink” (v.22). Drunkenness is an abuse of the gifts God has given us. Even if you suppose yourself “able” to “handle” lots of alcohol, this doesn’t clear you of the guilt of being a drunkard because it’s still an abuse of the gifts God has blessed you with as someone made in His image—namely, it’s an abuse of your mind and body and your ability to think reasonably and behalf rightly.
And God’s not done describing the wickedness of those who call evil good and good evil. “Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” (v.23). The heart of injustice is exposed by the practice of taking bribes to clear the guilty yet showing no com-passion when an innocent person is treated unjustly. This is the resulting belief system in the world where God’s moral truths written on man’s heart are subverted.
Therefore, deconstructionism’s rejection of objective truth is a rejection of two fundamental principles of God’s created order—
(1) Rejection of Authority: In any given society, there are three spheres of authority—the family, the Church, and the government. Each of these have overlapping influences over the others but none have total authority. Rather, ruling preeminently over all three is Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:22—And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
(2) Rejection of the Rule of Law: Without laws that are based on objective truths, families, churches, and governments will experience chaos as everyone is left to do what is “right” in their own eyes. There must be a foundation of truth and justice on which a society is built, otherwise it will fall into all sort of ditches.
But where is God in all this chaos as mankind is vying for control over the levers of authority and truth?
2. Rejecting objective truth leads to God’s judgment (vv.24-30). Wicked rejectors of truth come and go, but God’s justice is certain for all of them. He will judge (and is judging) those who reject objective truth, both in this life and in the one to come. The remaining verses in Isaiah 5 describe the severity of His wrath against human rebellion.
Isaiah 5:24-30—Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rotten-ness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 26 He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! 27 None is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a waistband is loose, not a sandal strap broken; 28 their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind. 29 Their roaring is like a lion, like young lions they roar; they growl and seize their prey; they carry it off, and none can rescue. 30 They will growl over it on that day, like the growling of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.
Judah was supposed to have been the fruit-bearing vineyard of the LORD. Instead, they had become known as spiritual stubble, dried grass, rotten roots, and wither-ed blossoms (v.24a). How did this come about? “For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (v.24b).
And what is God’s response to those who reject the truth of His Word? His anger is “kindled” and He “stretches out his hand against them” and “strikes them” (v.25a). Natural disasters are unleashed such as moun-tains quaking, leaving “corpses . . . as refuse in . . . the streets” (v.25b). Refuse means garbage and/or sewage. Foreign nations are unleashed that will come “speedily” (v.26) with great stamina (v.27), great weapons (v.28), and great ferocity (vv.29-30). This was the judgment of Old Testament Israel; and this is the type judgments for all those who profess to be Christians or supposed “churches” yet reject God’s truth as applying to them. Beware, lest we fall into the same kinds of judg-ments that God is and will unleash on the world of unbelievers.
The Church’s only hope of standing faithfully against the firestorm of the deconstructionism that’s all around us is God’s Word. The Bible is inspired, meaning God gave its many authors the truths we find in its pages. The Bible is inerrant, meaning it has no errors.
But there’s at least one more thing we must confirm about the Bible—the Bible is sufficient for our faith and practice as Christians. As Paul said to the Corinthians, our faith does “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor.2:5). And he continues:
1 Corinthians 2:6-7—Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
And it is Christ Jesus who is the secret wisdom that has come from God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24— For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.