The Gospel and Postmodernism by Ross P Rohde This article can be found in www.postmission.com
2011 postmodern ma classroom
Used by Joshva Raja from the Web
Premodern Telescope Psalm 8 Reality explained in terms of far-off transcendence
Modern Microscope “I think, therefore I am” -- Descartes Reality is observable, dissectible, and explainable
Modernity: The Triumph ofReason The Tenets of Modernity True knowledge is determined with certainty by reason Two levels of knowledge: objective/scientific (open to debate) and subjective/spiritual/moral (only personal conviction) World exists in cause-effect relationship Knowledge is good; facts are “value-free” Progress and scientific discovery will lead to better world and happiness Humanity basically good and reason can solve all problems Individuals are autonomous in society and have rights society must honor Graham Johnston, Preaching to a Post-Modern World, Baker, 2001, pp. 25-26
Modernity and Progress A Challenge to the centre of our society from the margins Progress Via Modernity (1470 – the beginning of the Italian Renaissance) and Enlightenment (1700 – the start of the enlightenment) Modernity – a. secular, natural and this worldly b. power of individual minds, no more submission c. belief in Progress d. experimental study of nature, inventions to control nature and subdue for social use
Dewey’s Modern Man Self Assured In control of his own destiny Knows what he knows and knows with certainty Needs no authority outside of himself as he is autonomous, a law or authority unto himself Needs no salvation outside of himself Liberated from past authorities and superstitions and follow reason Enjoy the fruit of human progress
Faith in the progress The spirit of modernity is a spirit of progress Progress is what the Columbus story is about – dominant motif in Western Society – the working faith of our civilisation The progress ideal functions as an article of faith, the unifying commitment or civil religion of Western Civilisation It tells a story – similar to Myths – Myths history begins with Egypt and Greece not with China or Africa
Myth of Progress and Tower of Babel Grand dream or vision or cultural aspiration symbolised by the Columbus’ vision Dreams of cities, buildings and towers Genesis 11:1-9 Building a city with a tower reaching to the heavens – Western dreams of progress – towering civilization, a social and cultural accomplishment of immense and achievement - Eiffel tower, Toronto CN Tower
Genesis 11:1f The Tower of Babel 1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, [a] they found a plain in Shinar [b] and settled there. 3 They said to each other, "Come, lets make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
Genesis 11 contd… 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel [c] —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth
Floors in the Babel Ground floor of modernity was science first floor is enlightenment and Scientific rationality -Age of industrial revolutions –age of machines Second floor is technology – gives power over environment.. Third floor Economic growth - Market forces – entrepreneurial spirit and the profit motive Western Culture as final floor
Modernity in trouble When finished our street will be platinum, never mind gold. Too good to be true! Progress myth is losing its power! The foundation of Babel tower is founded on Human autonomoy (Gen 2:17 and Gen 3) Independence from the Creator by eating the fruit of the tree Auto – self; nomos – law – self determining freedom
Idols of Modernity The idea of progress was based on idolatrous faith – on science, technology and economic growth. Science as authoritative knowledge, technism as power and control over the creation, standard of living economic growth raises the standard of life and route to personal happiness and social harmony…
Anxiety War and Bombs? Hiroshima and Nagasagi – economic Progress? – WW1 as war to end all wars – Vietnam war Loss of hope and sense of anxiety Catch-22 film in 1986 – US being destroyed? Fear of new world order – economic security, sexual morality different and odd ideas that emerge
Biblical references Isaiah 46:1-5 become like them Psalm 115 instability of idols Jeremiah 10:3-5 like Scare crows
Isaiah 46:1-5 Isaiah 46 Gods of Babylon 1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. [a] The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. 2 They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity. 3 "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. 5 "To whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?
Psalm 115 Psalm 115 1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. 2 Why do the nations say, "Where is their God?" 3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. 4 But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 6 they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. 8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
Jeremiah 10 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."
The Changing realities Realisation - Centre of Universe is no more centre Suspicion that modern West inflicted violence on others and non-Western too but claims of higher moral status Questioning everything – responsibility of US to lead the world, the ability to solve all environmental problems by Western Technology, the strength and durability of market system, the superiority of Western intellectual tradition
What is reality? Three umpires after a baseball game One, “There’s balls and there’s strikes and I call ‘em the way they are” Second,”There’s balls and there’s strikes and I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Third, “There’s balls and there’s strikes and they ain’t nothin’ until I call ‘em
What is Reality then? First umpire is naïve realist – human knowing is direct correspondence between the external world and epistemological judgements - Objective Second umpire is perspectival realist – the way he sees the world invariably affects his epistemological judgements - Subjective - Third umpire is radical perspectivalism –his perspective is all there is or atleast all that matters - Honest position
Reality Reality is a human construct and also a social construct Whose reality? From whose perspective? Why someone’s perspective of reality rules? Why someone’s construction of reality is given privileged status?
Critique Scientific objectivity is to master the world once and for all by enclosing it within an illusory but absolute system which represents or corresponds to a unitary being beyond history, particularity and change Mastering means to legitimate Western conquest and political superiority and masters and possessors of nature
Postmodern Kaleidoscope “an ever-changing mosaic of pieces of broken glass that is beautiful when light shines through it” Erwin McManus Reality is evolving and understood through brokenness and interrelationships
Post-Modernity: The Triumph ofIgnorance The Tenets of Post-Modernity (Johnston, 26) Reacting to the all the tenets of Modernity Reject idea of objective truth Suspicious and skeptical of authority (family, government and society) In search of identity apart from knowledge but through relationship less morality, only expediency In search of transcendence, to experience otherness
Christian Mission in the Postmodern World Peterstephenson A. Suspicion of All Big Stories progress vs ecological disaster Deconstruction as mission? Come clean about the churches’ past Examine ourselves for oppressive tendencies Search ourselves for signs of syncretism
B Distrust of Authority and Institutions Big stories are construction of those in power built to legitimise and preserve that power No favours to elders due to ecological disasters – Live for today Image – free to choose – any truths Global awareness – ecological destruction, human rights, destruction of ethnic cultures, racial and religious intolerance, sexual discrimination, abuse of animals
Modernism vs. Post-Modernism Modernity’s Post-Modernity’s View of Life View of Life Romantic view of life Absurd view of life Have a purpose Play instead Design Chance Hierarchy Anarchy Word-oriented Silence-oriented A completed work Work in process Analysis from a distance Analysis thru participating Creation/synthesis Deconstruction/antithesis Metaphysics (philosophy that Irony deals with first principles to “The Simpsons” explain the nature of reality) “Father Knows Best”
From Modern to Postmodern Modern Postmodern Conquest and Control Conservation Mechanistic Organic, ecological Analytical Holistic, passionate Secular-scientific Spiritual-scientific “Knowing God” “Experiencing God”
Here are some things that allow the flourishing relational context of time and space in which people can become disciples of Jesus Christ:
“We’d better learn to count not just conversions but conversations.” Brian McLaren Seeing evangelism as a relational dance rather than a win/lose conquest › Don’t press for decision now, just keep the conversation going Takes 10+ for conversion
Opposite of modernity Member-first, then included Rhetoricof inclusion rather than exclusion Jesus threatened people with inclusion “People don’t become disciples in the right order any more.” George Hunter, How to Reach Secular People, 1990
Both precede “Believing” In Alcoholics Anonymous: “I come … “I come to … “I come to believe.”
It’s about • their story (listen!) • your story (share) • and God’s story (proclaim) The Gospel must be presented in story form rather than a set of facts, rules, propositions, laws • Bible itself has God speak to us via prophets, poets, philosophers, priests
“The greatest hermeneutic of the Gospel is a community that lives by it.” › Leslie Newbigin Belonging precedes becoming precedes believing
Instead of: Decision-Discipleship Evangelism-Follow up Think: “disciple-making” Understand but collapse the Engel scale A holistic process Space/time Teach “how” rather than “what” to believe (McLaren: Finding Faith)
Believe that God is already “out there” and at work in everyone (Blackaby) › There are others on the case besides you! Others in the church Not just in church but also culture God is always trying to “get in or get out” of peoples’ lives
See evangelism as part of my own discipleship, not just the other person’s “There is enough bad in the best of us and good in the worst of us that it behooves all of us to speak no ill about any of us.” Abraham Lincoln
See evangelism as recruiting people for God’s mission here on earth, not just souls for heaven Gospel of John: eternal life begins now!
You do need to love emerging generations and have your heart broken for them – they need you.
“As he approachedJerusalem and sawthe city, he wept overit and said, “If you,even you, had knownon this day whatwould bring youpeace…” - Luke 19:41
“When He saw thecrowds He hadcompassion on them,because they wereharassed andhelpless,like sheepwithout a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36-38
Postmodernist church Strong tendency toward personal spirituality Deep thoughtful Christians Tendency to live out their faith in society Desire for community Less tendency to fight with other Christians over the doctrine Living in Metaphors
Weakness of the Postmodern Church Desire for Individual spirituality Desire for Individual Truth Potential to get attracted with Spirituality itself Tendency not to reflect biblically about social issues Pragmatism without biblical reflection is no good Tendency to hold personal doctrine above biblical doctrine
Postmodern models Testimonies, symbols, paradox, parables and stories to share Creative artistic expressions Talents and gifts of spirit using them in ministry Sharing through the web of relationship Avoiding denominational identities Using all media
Models of churching Non-church-like names Home web of cell groups Smaller churches Corporate worship is like a theatre room Churches filled with art meeting non- traditional hours Distrust marketing techniques No leader but leaders