The Post-Modern Church Gambit

26 05 2007

emergingchurch.jpgIn the game of chess a “gambit” is an opening move in which a player sacrifices a pawn or other minor piece in order to gain a strategic advantage. 

I fear that many are playing a losing evangelistic gambit by sacrificing some fundamental truths (theological & philosophical) in order to “connect” with people in the hope that the relationships gained will prove more valuable than the truths lost. 

Evangelism, in its simplest form, is the process of bringing an individual to the point of committing his or her life to Christ. It’s bringing them to the place where they choose to become a follower of Christ.  

Traditionally, that also meant one accepted certain corresponding ideas. Ideas like the existence of absolutes. 

The “classical” world view (accepted until the latter part of the 1700’s) is the belief that some truths could be known through reason and observation but that other truths could only be known if God revealed them.

Next came the “modern” world view. Modernism is the belief that all truth can be known by human reason and scientific observation alone. Revealed truth from God fell outside the new definition and a fair amount of friction resulted. The modern world view dominated until mid-1970. 

Today we have the “post-modern” world view, which arose, I believe, as a result of the inadequacy of modernism. Post-modern belief maintains that there is no true objective knowledge only individual perspective and opinion. It believes that all truth is relative and subjective. In other words, post-modernism rejects what Francis Schaeffer called true truth.   

 In a way one might say that as the cost of modernism was the loss of the supernatural so the cost of post-modernism is the loss of truth, objective truth, true truth. 

Let’s go back to evangelism then. Historically, when one became a Christian it also meant one believed in the existence of absolute truth as well as the absolute supernatural Author and Sustainer of truth.  

Liberal theology, responding to modernism, modified most of the supernatural aspects out of Christianity and thus modernists were evangelized, but at a cost.  

Now we see absolute truth being set aside in response to the post-modernists. Many are being evangelized, but at a cost. What cost? Well it could be any traditional Christian doctrine that happens to rub someone the wrong way. Nothing is sacrosanct from a post-modern perspective. In other words, all things – the virgin birth, the inerrancy of scripture, the substitutionary atonement, even the deity of Christ – are just individual belief options. So post-modernists are now being evangelized… but at a staggering cost.  

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2 responses

26 05 2007
Matt Stone

You are conflating postmodernism (an ivory tower philosophy) with post-modernity (an emerging expression of culture) in a rather simplistic and unhelpful way. There are many of us within the emerging missional movement who would descibe ourselves as critical realists, not relativists, and whom do not identify with postmodernism even though we are thoroughly immersed in post-modernity. I am a leader within the emerging missional movement, I also affirm the authority of the scriptures, any definition you come up with needs to be broad enough to encompas that if it is to be of any critical value.

Regards
Matt Stone

27 05 2007
kclick

Matt, I appreciate your comments and understand why you might consider my views inadequate in describing your particular approach to Christianity. You describe yourself with the following words:

“I have learnt from Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Secularism, New Age Spirituality, Gnosticism, EcoPantheism, NeoPaganism, Zen Buddhism and many other pathways.
That may cause some to wonder if I am indeed Christian. How can a Christian learn from other religions? I can only say that in the course of my journey I have come to recognise a critical distinction between contextualization and syncretism, and now favour the former over the latter. I may practice Christianity within an unconventional context, from within post-modern culture rather than outside of it, but I affirm Jesus as my Guru and my God in all this and above all this.”

You may want to split hairs over some difference between “postmodernism” and “post-modernity,” but your odd mix of logically incompatible religions supports my point.

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