Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Postmodern" Is Not A Bad Word

"The shape of the evangelical challenge in postmodern America comes down to this--we must be continually on the alert to defend the faith, for the Christian faith now faces unprecedented attacks. The rise of a postmodern culture has produced an intellectual context in which the very concept of truth is held under suspicion, and claims to revealed truth are simply ruled out of order."

- Albert Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
I cringe every time I hear the word "postmodern" used in a negative way like this, or in a mushy marketing positive kind of communication like "come to our postmodern church". Where folks are looking for wolves, most of the time it's just sheep trying to ask questions, trying to make sense of it all in a way that's meaningful and transformational. At the same time, when there is too much deconstruction and no foundation left (pitfall of the postmodern culture we find ourselves in), folks leave the flock and branch out somewhere else on their own. I've seen people take away the Gospels and the writings of Paul as pieces of literature that are too harsh if taken literally and too flimsy if taken rhetorically - and they abandon Christ altogether to make their own way. That's not good, and that's why it's so important to keep the conversation alive - to bring the Bible to bear, to bring Jesus back into the discussion, without the name-calling and categorical generalizations.

The change that's very much a part of our culture opens us to STORY - where there might be a resistance to absolute truth, there's an openness to story, to meaningful and impacting things happening in each of our lives. There's not much room for arguments or for logical debate, but there's a receptivity to telling your story, to spinning new parables through conversation, through film, through music. It's all over the place, and I think it's that much more rich because this is the way Jesus tended to teach others: not so much through lecture and bullet points, but through questions and story and just hanging out together and living amongst ourselves.

My fear is that I'll be lumped under a stereotyped label as an apologist for "the emergent church". My fear is that I'll be blown off because I like what some folks say & write, and because I don't like what some other folks say & write. My fear is that my disagreement will pigeonhole me into one or the other camp, closing me off from conversation and real relationship. My fear is that "postmodern" and "emergent" will be adjectives that become walls rather than bridges. My fear is that when people are looking for stories, the church will offer formulas, and we'll finally be left alone.


Anonymous Rebecca said...

I must say i'm impressed with the post-i've spent a lot of time recently with teenagers who are afraid of asking their questions for fear of being labeled "postmodern" and having the negative connotation that goes along with that-our culture is full of questions-that should be not feared, but openly discussed-anyway, enough of my soapbox-all that to say good post

27/4/05 12:12 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

thanks, rebecca - really, for the encouragement :). i'd hate to think i couldn't ask questions for fear.

27/4/05 6:17 PM  

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