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FIRST-PERSON: Just because Hugh Hefner says so….

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Hugh Hefner is a “pretty moral guy.” If you don’t believe it, just ask him.

In a recent interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, the founder of Playboy magazine reflected on religion and morality. When asked whether he had ever sinned, Hefner replied, “Oh, sure, but I haven’t pursued very much immoral behavior. I’m a pretty moral guy.”

How can a man who is credited with mainstreaming pornography into American culture claim to be moral? “Now it’s morality as I perceive it,” Hefner said. “Morality is what is perceived as good for people…. I define it in a way that is truly, what I believe to be truly humanistic and rational and loving.”

So there you have it. Hugh Hefner is moral because he says he is. Welcome to the world of postmodern ethics where morality is in the eye of the beholder.

While not easily understood, postmodern thought is nevertheless becoming the dominant philosophy in America.

In postmodernism, absolute truth does not exist. At best, truth is relative and a matter of individual interpretation. At worst, truth is a social invention designed to maintain a culture’s status quo. As such, it is to be deconstructed and discredited.

In his book, “Time For Truth,” apologist Os Guinness helps explain postmodern thought by using an illustration of three baseball umpires discussing their various approaches to calling balls and strikes.

The first umpire represents traditional thought which accepts the concept of absolute truth. “There are balls and there are strikes,” he says, “and I call them the way they are.”

The second ump, representing modern philosophy with its subjective tendencies, denounces the first as arrogant and asserts, “There are balls and there are strikes and I call them the way I see them.”

The third umpire, who represents postmodern thought, dismisses the first two and declares, “There are balls and there are strikes, but they ain’t nothing until I call them.”

America once was guided by a consensus that viewed the Bible as an absolute standard for morality. While everyone may not have ascribed to Christianity, there was an overall agreement that the Bible was a reliable guide for a moral life. In traditional America, Hugh Hefner’s declaration of morality would be summarily dismissed.

While there is no agreement as to when modernist philosophy began to flourish, it is clear that it was beginning to gain acceptance around the time Hefner began publishing Playboy in 1953. The morality found in the Bible began to be viewed as relative to one’s interpretation.

Now that postmodern thought is thoroughly in vogue, many people -– like Hefner -– regard the Bible as irrelevant and morality as entirely subjective. Not only is everyone encouraged to do what is right in their own eyes, they also are to be affirmed as they do it.

The only taboo to postmodern practitioners is an assertion that there are moral absolutes.

In postmodern thought, all things are relative, truth is subjective, and there is absolutely no absolute moral truth. To someone who operates from a traditional view of truth, postmodern philosophy seems confusing and even contradictory. However, to those who practice it, it is comforting.

Stripped bare, postmodern thought is nothing more than a sophisticated attempt by modern man to justify immoral behavior and assuage a guilty conscience. It is ultimately self-defeating.

Man is created in the image of God. As such, there is a need to experience what the late Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” While postmodernism seeks to deny this divine longing, it cannot erase it.

Man seeking to find solace in the “truth” generated by postmodernism is like a dog chasing its tail. He expends lots of energy, goes around and around in circles, yet is never truly satisfied.

Even Hugh Hefner knows the futility of pursuing truth according to his own terms. “My life has been a quest for the world where the words to the song are true,” he told the Sun-Times. “It’s an impossible, impossible quest. But there is that yearning, that dream.”

Like all postmodernists, Hefner has pursued truth on his own terms. In order to justify his immoral pursuits, and perhaps stifle a condemning conscience, he has constructed his own postmodern world where even a porn peddler can be deemed moral. If you don’t believe it, just ask him. He’s a “pretty moral guy.”
Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs