More Reflection on Postmodernism and the Gospel

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Reflection on
Postmodernism and the Gospel

Last week, I posted on "Humility as the Bridge Between the Gospel and Postmodernism", reflecting for a moment on John Armstrong's Weekly Messenger article, "Modernity and Postmodernity: What's a Non-Specialist to Do?"

In this week's Weekly Messenger, John writes "More Thoughts on Postmodernity." Now, what strikes me in this current article is the way in which John explains the basic problem that us modernistic folks have in reaching a postmodern generation of unbelievers with the gospel. He writes,

"Put very simply, there are reasonable and logical folks out there who do not believe the gospel and who reject your assumptions and Christian perspectives. The Christian perspective' has not yet convinced them of Jesus as the Truth. This does not mean truth is relative. It is not a 'wax nose' to be bent and shaped to mean whatever you want. What this does mean is that our Christian arguments must be offered persuasively to people who are really there, not simply to answer the logical assumptions we make about how people think and make decisions. Put a bit differently, we must win whole persons. We do this by appealing to the mind, emotion and will. We must win people to Christ as whole persons, not just as souls who become convinced of an argument so that they accept Christ as their personal Savior because it is logical or empirically provable that he did what the New Testament teaches."

To be frank, I believe that I am at last coming to see the perspective of pastors and leaders in the Emerging Church movement. Being able to see things the way others do is of paramount importance when critiquing a movement, system, theology, doctrine, ministry, etc. Simply launching out in lambasting mode because it sounds wierd, different, unusual, strange, or whatever is not the way Christians ought to critique others. That's not gracious. I want to be gracious with the EC movement, with Open Source Theology folks, and with postmodern Christians. And the only honest way to do that is to see what they see, from where they are standing, trying to come to grips with an understanding of things from their mindset. If I don't try to do this, then any critiques I offer are simply useless, void of any real integrity.

John Armstrong is helping me see things from the perspective of the other side. Statements like the one above resonate with me, very, very loudly. He's right, regardless of how it makes us feel, or where we think it might lead us. To be sure, his analyses don't have to lead to the EC movement, or to OST, or to a John Eldridge type of ministry. John's analyses don't lead me there, personally. But they do force us to come to grips with reality. And reality says that the modernistic way of 'doing' ministry and 'sharing' the gospel just don't work on those who are not enculturated in Christianity. We must stop and reassess what we are doing for that part of humanity that is not and has not been exposed to anything Christian. If we don't, then can it be said of us that we are truly 'ministering the gospel' to them with integrity and effectiveness?

"What I have come to conclude, by reading and interacting with postmodernism, is that we need a new missional strategy that stops trying to make arguments in the old empirical way. This new (old) strategy will choose to lead a person to the Truth, both by the story we tell and by the way we live. We are truthful witnesses of the Christ and we live his life in community so the world can 'see' we are his disciples. "
"The Christian story then is basic. It is what it has always been¯the story of creation, fall, and redemption. And this story is profoundly rooted in the love of God for the whole world (John 3:16). "

"Now the Christian story is not something we can 'prove,' at least in the modern sense....[I]t is a story we should offer to the world by means of the 'rhetoric of peace in contrast to [the] rhetoric of violence.' This approach...stands in sharp contrast to the old rational certitude pursued by
apologies for the Christian faith that I grew up with in the 1950s and 60s. Put another way, this newer way of presenting truth is primarily about living and telling our story well."

Read the rest of John's article for yourself and leave feedback with John or I if you have time.

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