For many Christians, the word “postmodern” causes an immediate allergic reaction. The severity of the reaction depends on the amount of exposure to D.A. Carson, Albert Mohler, and John Piper one has received and whether or not one has completed to the “Truth Project“.
Fear is the automatic response for many – fear of “relativism” and the erosion of “absolute truth”; fear of difference; fear of doubt and questions; fear of losing control (familial, cultural, political, and economic).
However, are these legitimate fears or are they symptomatic of the continuing influence of modernism in Protestantism? (There are good historical and theological reasons as to why the Enlightenment followed the Reformation…sola scriptura and the erosion of ecclesial authority are two that immediately come to mind).
Fear always breeds ignorance. The Christian fear of postmodernism is based on ignorance. It relies upon caricature and the unwillingness to charitably engage with the objects of one’s critique.
Ignorance prevents engagement because it causes people to rely entirely on the opinions of talking heads and to simply adopts those positions as their own.
The irony is that Christian anti-intellectualism is often bred by Christian intellectuals. Since what they are saying is obviously orthodox, they don’t want you to engage with their critique; they want you to simply accept what they are saying as fact.
However, reading their books, listening to their sermons and regurgitating the contents does not qualify as critical thinking. And yet, this seems to be the accepted practice of many Christians, especially when it comes to responding to our “postmodern condition”.
And yet, this failure to constructively engage with postmodernism has blinded many to the possibility that Christianity may have more in common with postmodernism than modernism – that Christians have more to fear from modernism than postmodernism – that many of the problems that North American churches now face are of their own making, rooted in a stubborn refusal to abandon their modernist apparatuses – that the fear of postmodernism is nothing more than the last gasps of Christian cultural hegemony masked in the form of Christian “apologetics”.
Are we ignoring the voices of postmodernism, voices crying out in the wilderness, at our own peril?
I think we are.
This fall I, along with my good friend Spencer Boersma, will be leading a discussion group called “The (Im)Possibility of Postmodern Faith”.
The purpose of this discussion group is to explore the question – what does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century?
The format for our discussions is simple – Spencer and I will present the topic for discussion, open up for a time of “Q & R” and general group discussion. The goal of this discussion group is not to seek the resolution to a problem; the goal is exploration of a theme using the resources of postmodernism.
Here is a list of our discussion themes/topics. Let me know what you think!
“Postmodernism: A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness” – exploring the landscape of our postmodern condition.
“The Politics of Truth” – is truth simply about knowledge or is it also about ethics?
“Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” – looking at sola scriptura and reading the Bible in the 21st century.
“Theology: Bringing Wisdom Back” – the importance of theology for/in the church
“God Incorporated” – the divine and human nature of relationality
“Suffering, Evil, and the God of Love” – is God the cause of evil? can evil glorify God?
“Ancient-Future Worship” – the importance of the liturgy and ancient Christian practices.
“Hospitable Ecclesiology” – becoming churches where all are welcome
“Getting Beyond the Sacred/Secular Divide” – exploring the connections between materialism and spirituality
“Christianity and Science” – what is the relationship between the Bible and science?