Thursday, August 03, 2006

What are some effects of postmodernism

John Piper gives an excellent description of the effects of postmodernism in how we view "spirituality". I am particulary interested in as Piper/Wells describe how "spirituality" has a become privatized journey (David Wells' language) because of the strong values of autonomy and rejection of revelatory truth in out day. Man I really want to go to this conferance!

7 comments:

Dani said...

Hey Bob - We'd love to have you on the radio show to talk about anything you want.

Email my husband Curtis to set up the details for Friday night.

blunttruth@dugmag.com

Tim said...

I like John Piper, I think he's got some great wisdom to share from God. But I'm not sure that he (and I guess David Wells, too) is presenting postmodernism quite accurately, in my humble opinion. The privatized journey and values of autonomy are really modern aspects and values. Not only does postmodernism shed the rationalization or science-knows-all point-of-view, but postmodernism also recognizes the importance of relationships and communities.

Postmoderns are walking out of churches because they are rejecting the typical "I'm preaching to your personal faith" sermons. They are walking out because churches are individualizing commitments to faith and the church. They are walking about because they feel even more isolated inside the church than outside.

Postmoderns want to walk into a church of communities and relationships. We (and I'll finally identify with them) want to walk into a place that "walks as much as talks", by inviting us to experience the gospel as much as it is preached. The spirituality is experiential and communal. It is a small group living out Jesus in each others lives. It is relational accountability. With Jesus as the core, it is real, not some watered-down Christianity and part something secular.

In short, it is living life with other people, motivated and centered by our love of Jesus. It is not dependent on knowledge, it is dependent on action. It is not intellectual, it is our hands and feet getting dirty in love, prayer, and praise with our community of Jesus-followers.

If the DG conference is going to help churches mold to this motivation, then I'd love to be there. If it's just a way to firm up same old, same old, then I'll prayer for the Spirit to move in a new and marvelous way.

Bob said...

Tim-
I think I would almost agree with you in spirit. Christians should try to create an atmosphere in which post-moderns feel comfortable in coming to. I think this is in part what you are saying. However, I am not sure what you mean when you say that the church isn't focusing on "communities" or "relationships" define these for me so I can get a better idea of what you think the church should be doing. In my mind, I think it is impossible for the church not to be a community-focused body or relational so I need to understand how you think the church is failing in these areas, resulting in postmoderns leaving.

David Wells really maps out the progression of thought from "Modern" to post-modern in his four books on this issue and is replete with examples to defend what he is talking about. Therefore, I think he has a pretty good handle on what postmodernism is.

Now this is where I have a bone to pick with what you said:
"Postmoderns are walking out of churches because they are rejecting the typical "I'm preaching to your personal faith" sermons. They are walking out because churches are individualizing commitments to faith and the church. They are walking about because they feel even more isolated inside the church than outside."

This is my problem with a lot of the Emergent church movement it has clear echoes of old Liberalism. By this, I mean there is a shift from proclamation to doing stuff. The two cannot be divorced and I think you would agree, however talk like this usually results in a low view of proclamation of the gospel and a high view of humanitarian works.
Also I think the natural result of genuine bible saturated Christ exalting preaching will be to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation bringing the good news that salvation is in no other name under heaven but Christ Jesus (see Acts 4:12) if that message of Acts 4:12 is accompanied by humanitarian works I am all for it. If not, then people may be going to hell with full stomachs.

This is my problem with old Liberalism and its post-modern counter part the "Emergent" church there seems to be a low view of truth (which is equal to a low view of the gospel). Statements like this make me cringe:

"It is not dependent on knowledge, it is dependent on action. It is not intellectual, it is our hands and feet getting dirty in love, prayer, and praise with our community of Jesus-followers."

I mean that sounds great but it is what you are against that bothers me, against "knowledge" against the "intellectual". Well in short, knowledge is a part of salvation:

"correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth," (I Tim 2:25)

"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness," (Titus 1:1)

There is knowledge of the truth delivered to the saints, which really is to be their message. There is a message given to the saints a "knowledge" and this message leads to life. Now I don't want to negate the fact that we will produce fruit if we believe in Christ. The anti-intellectual mood bothers me because we need right thinking if we are going to be right doers. We can do all sorts of good works for all the wrong reasons and build with wood hay and stubble.

Lastly, you said:
" If the DG conference is going to help churches mold to this motivation, then I'd love to be there. If it's just a way to firm up same old, same old, then I'll prayer for the Spirit to move in a new and marvelous way."

Well the conference is based upon how to respond and reach pot-modernists through ministry I can't see that as being a shallow thing. In part, I hope it is a firming up of the same old...for there is a truth once and for all delivered to the saints, there is no new truth. I know this isn't what you mean but this is why I wonder why we need to change, the gospel message is always relevant no matter what culture, we don't need to strive to be relevant because the unadulterated gospel is always relevant. Anyway, I really do want to hear more from you I am just expressing some issue I may have with your stance on this, I want to understand where you are on these issue more so please don't feel like you can't disagree with me or reply.

myquestioningmind said...

I thought his video was interesting. I am not all that famliar w/pop-Christianity but I don't really care for what I've heard of it.

All I know is if you preach the Gospel unadulterated and the church is a praying, fervent church that is obedient to God's word, then the power of God's presence will shine and that will draw people. People want to experience the presence of God but you can't fake it with 'relevant message' approaches, gimmicks and hype.

The church I go to was definitely not 'my style' but the one that was my style (cool bookstore, cafe, lots of 'programs') just felt watered down and weak in comparison. There was even this church I went to where a band played but NO ONE WORSHIPPED. I felt like I was being entertained instead of being encouraged to worship God and entertain his presence.

Bob said...

That was really good MQM. I think you got a handle on the problems raised when we strive to make the gospel relevant. Like I said earlier the gospel is always relevant irregardless of culture and we don't need to conform the message to fit the culture.

What you said though about feeling as though you were merely being entertained was really astute of you. I also have been at "worship" settings where I too felt as though it was more of a rock concert than saints drawing into the presence of God in adoration. Praise God for your hunger for an authentic Christian church service.

Tim said...

Hey Bob - sorry for the lateness in my response. I was on vacation with no Internet access (which was kind of nice).

I need to preface this in that I know very little of the Emergent movement. I haven't read any of Brian McLaren's books or his colleagues, so I can't really speak intelligently about it. I have read a couple interviews online and the only thing I've gathered so far is that he is motivated to re-examine scripture outside of the traditional and passed-down conclusions. This is not necessarily to reject the traditional conclusions, but more so to not be dependent on them, going directly to the source. I find that good and encouraging. But that's all I can say at this point. Also, I was wrong to lump David Wells in my comment. I will have to try to find a copy of his books to read.

It might be helpful to read my reply to Jayneyre in my post to find more context, but I'll try to summarize them as I go along.

I completely agree that the natural result of genuine bible saturated Christ exalting preaching will be to go out and make disciples of every nation, but this has not been true in the preaching in many of churches I've experienced regularly over the last 10 years. 90% of them were more worried about their financial bottom line rather than preaching the gospel and encouraging the followers of Jesus to be in community, and to invest in those communities AND outside of the church. The local church is the end-all-be-all of their commitment to Jesus, often says the preacher in subtle words. "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal presents this problem and challenge perfectly. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0787965685/002-0058675-1984004?v=glance&n=283155

I'm not really anti-intellectual, though I can understand that I appear that way. Context from my other reply on my blog will help, but in short, I've grown up with a lot of knowledge gathered (and sometimes forced upon me) by the church in which I grew up - a very conservative Baptist church. None of that knowledge spurred repentence. None of that knowledge spurred experiencing Jesus' love for me (quite the opposite, actually). None of that knowledge encouraged living in community - that knowledge was enough for my to be equipped to save other people. It wasn't until I got involved in my high school fellowship (at a secular, private school) that I really experienced the love of Jesus, the joy of his salvation, and the calling to spread the gospel to others - through love, not just words.

Like Francis of Assisi and the letter of James, faith knowledge without the evidence of love and action is not true faith. It's just plain knowledge. I have colleagues where I work that intellectually acknowledge Jesus and God and have much of the same church knowledge I received, but don't care to act on that. They still do good, are still nice and moral people, but I think you and I would agree they aren't saved. They are not following Jesus actively, not "getting their hands and feet dirty in love, prayer, and praise with [a] community of Jesus-followers."

But I also agree that we need right thinking to be right doers, but again, I think that is founded in the experience of Jesus, not just the knowledge. A cursory look through the gospels will find lots of examples active responses to Jesus, that had none of the doctrinal or theological knowledge we expect of Christians today.

* "leave your nets and follow me, I will make you fishers of people."
* "take up your bed and walk, your sins are forgiven."
* the Samaritan woman at the well
* the rich young man, who knows all of the knowledge of Jewish law and tradition, leaving Jesus when He tells him to sell everything he had and follow Him. (obviously the negative example)

Much of the gospel is showing Jesus thwarting the lifelessness of knowledge of the law (see Pharisees, Saducees) and living out the experience of God's love through personal redemption, by Jesus being with the "sinners" and ultimately his death and resurrection.

All of those are based with the experience of Jesus irrespective of their previous knowledge of either Jewish history or law. Why can't that be the same now? We, as followers of Jesus, are called to love others as Jesus did then so that others (and in return us) can experience that same love of Jesus. That experience and love is not absent of words and knowledge of the scripture, but it is far beyond the individualized-faith tooled by the Sunday sermon.

The last gospel reference I have in mind is the most stinging to me because I realize my lack of action. The parable of the sheep and the goats shines a whole different light to the great commission. It is true that a whole lot of people may be going to hell with full bellies, but we are called nonetheless to act in love to the "least of these" as if they were Jesus Himself. And in our love to them, motivated by Jesus, we pray that God will motivate them to respond.

But the importance of this all is that the gospel is more than just words, more than just a message, more than a sermon, revival, or 4-step evangelistic presentation, more than just knowledge. The gospel is Jesus, his words and actions of love included, which we are to experience and follow, words and actions love included.

I really appreciate the chance to interact with you through this medium. It's great that we can converse, agree or not.

Cheers!

Bob said...

Hey Tim, I like to hear your thoughts, and your comments are always welcome espescially challanges to my points of view. On McLaren you said:

"I have read a couple interviews online and the only thing I've gathered so far is that he is motivated to re-examine scripture outside of the traditional and passed-down conclusions."

Now I bring McLaren into this because he really is seen as the most influential person spearheading the "Emergent" movement, so although not all emergents follow all that he teaches, however he is the most prominant voice from the emergent camp. Now I highlight what you said because there is no open-minded Christian who will disagree with such a statement. YES lets look at the doctrines we hold and not just accept them as they are handed down to us as "true". I would never object to that, but we have to ask: "rethink based upon what standard?"

This is my hangup it seems much of McLaren and Emergents beef with classic orthodoxy is that it really isn't palatable for POMOS (post-moderns). This is case and point with McLarens rejection of the classic view of hell. In an interview this is what McLaren had to say:

"Q:What made you want to tackle the concept of hell in the final book of your trilogy?

In the message of Jesus, I think there is a balance between how the message relates to our world in history as we know it and how it relates to the experience of people beyond death, outside of history. For many Christians, their faith is primarily about what happens to people after they die. That distracts them from seeking justice and living in a compassionate way while we're still alive in this life. We need to go back and take another look at Jesus' teachings about hell. For so many people, the conventional teaching about hell makes God seem vicious. That’s not something we should let stand."


So from the outset I question the motive of wanting to rethink hell from McLaren's perspective. It seems that it is because people don't like the orthodox view of hell McLaren thinks we should rethink it. There's more:

"The language of hell, in my view, like the language of biblical prophecy in general, is not intended to provide literal or detailed fortune-telling or prognostication about the hereafter, nor is it intended to satisfy intellectual curiosity, but rather it is intended to motivate us in the here and now to realize our ultimate accountability to a God of mercy and justice and in that light to rethink everything and to seek first the kingdom and justice of God."

So hell then in the bible is reduced to a motive to seek first the kingdom rather than a literal place hereafter in which sinners will suffer eternally for their rebelion against God. My main point is not McLaren's view on hell or really this or that Emergent doctrinal compromise, rather I think this is simply what happens when you decide to "rethink" things on a POMO basis. The same thing really happened to Liberalism years ago they said roughly the same things lets just rethink the authority of scripture...until they really just rethinked there way out of Christianity.

But yeah Tim, I really don't disagree with anything you are saying on the surface. What you are saying on the surface is biblical...faith without works is dead. Orthodoxy without orthoproxy is dead. My concern is that we like old Liberalism become so enamoured with "doing" faith that we really lose sight of the gospel. People aren't saved by soup kitchens and new clothes, they are saved by the message that Christ died for sinners that those who hope in Him alone will be saved from the wrath to come. The soup and clothes is just an expression of the mercy of God. I am kind of beginning to see what you are saying as you write:

"All of those are based with the experience of Jesus irrespective of their previous knowledge of either Jewish history or law. Why can't that be the same now? We, as followers of Jesus, are called to love others as Jesus did then so that others (and in return us) can experience that same love of Jesus. That experience and love is not absent of words and knowledge of the scripture, but it is far beyond the individualized-faith tooled by the Sunday sermon."

My hang up is traditionally the one generated the other, there may be a false dichotomy here. I think preaching which calls individuals to repentance equally invites them into fellowship with a corperate body called the church. And if there is genuine faith in Christ it will bear loving your neighbor fruit. So I just don't see a problem with the proclamation of the gospel in bible centered churches in itself. The only problem there may be and I think this is what emergents are over is a kind of routine dead orthodoxy...I would equally bewail this. Truth is to be delighted in...and if we delight in the truth we will seek to spread that joy to others (thus the works).