Friday, December 07, 2007

One Response to Postmodernism - DMin

As I continue posts from my DMin paper, we get to the point where I list some of the responses to the current situation the church finds itself in. The church is found in the midst of a post-Constantinian, post-Christendom, postmodern world where few of the old church rules and norms apply. One of the reactions to this situation is what has been called the Emerging Church Movement - which some people call "the conversation." In the paper I quote some of Scot McKnight's material which I have found quite helpful. He blogs at Jesus Creed. Here's the next section of the paper ...

Gibbs and Bolger, define emerging in this way: "Emerging churches destroy the Christendom idea that church is a place, a meeting or a time. Church is a way of life, a rhythm, a community, a movement. Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures.”

This definition encompasses nine practices. The core practices of emerging churches are then illustrated in their book with comments from those who are "practitioners" of contextualizing the gospel of the kingdom of God in the postmodern world. The nine core practices are:
1. Identifying with Jesus (and his way of life)
2. Transforming secular space (overcoming the secular/sacred split)
3. Living as community (not strangers in proximity at a church service)
4. Welcoming the stranger (radical and genuine hospitality that is inclusive)
5. Serving with generosity (not serving the institution called "church," but people)
6. Participating as producers (not widgets in the church program)
7. Creating as created beings (releasing God’s creativity inherent in each one)
8. Leading as a body (beyond control and the CEO model of leadership)
9. Merging ancient and contemporary spiritualities.

Although it has not yet become a formalized institution (and actively resists becoming one) there are a number of distinct commonalities in this emerging movement or “conversation” as many prefer to call it. Not all of them are positive.

Scot McKnight, in an article for Christianity Today, has summarized five themes that characterize the emerging movement.

1. Prophetic (or at least provocative). The emerging movement is consciously and deliberately provocative and provides a sometimes scathing critique of the Christendom tendencies of modern Evangelicalism. Emerging Christians believe the church needs to change, and they are beginning to live as if that change had already occurred.

2. Postmodern. Living as a Christian in a postmodern context means different things to different people. Some will minister to postmoderns, others with postmoderns, and still others as postmoderns. The vast majority of emerging Christians and churches fit these first two categories. They don't deny truth, they don't deny that Jesus Christ is truth, and they don't deny the Bible is truth. The third kind of emerging Postmodernity attracts all the attention. Some have chosen to minister as postmoderns. That is, they embrace the idea that we cannot know absolute truth, or, at least, that we cannot know truth absolutely. They speak of the end of metanarratives and the importance of social location in shaping one's view of truth. They express nervousness about propositional truth.

3. Praxis-oriented. A notable emphasis of the emerging movement is orthopraxy, that is, a focus on right living. The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes (although belief is also needed). Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things necessarily live the right way. No matter how much sense the traditional connection makes, it does not necessarily work itself out in practice. Public scandals in the church—along with those not made public—prove this point time and again. "By their fruits [not their theology] you will know them."

4. Post-evangelical. The emerging movement is a protest against much of evangelicalism as currently practiced. The vast majority of emerging Christians are evangelical theologically. But they are post-evangelical in at least two ways. i. Post-systematic theology: The emerging movement tends to be suspicious of systematic theology because God didn't reveal a systematic theology but a storied narrative, and no language is capable of capturing the Absolute Truth who alone is God. ii. In versus out: Even if one is an exclusivist (believing that there is a dividing line between Christians and non-Christians), the issue of who is in and who is out pains the emerging generation. Most prefer a centered-set approach where salvation is measured by the direction one travels (toward the center/Jesus) and proximity to the center as opposed to a clear in or out distinction.

5. Political. A final stream flowing into the emerging lake is politics. Put directly, they are usually Democrats – in the faith-based, activism style of the Catholic Worker or of Sojourners. And that spells "post" for conservative-evangelical-politics-as-usual.

1 comment:

postmodern redneck said...

Your post rang a few bells with me (saw it in the sidebar on Next Wave). I'll number my comments according to your points.

2. Francis Schaeffer wrote back in the 1970s--maybe late '60s--that we can know truth; but because we are finite beings, we cannot know it exhaustively. I think "substantially" was the term he used. I suspect this comes close to the position of a lot of post-modern Christians.

3. James 2:19--"You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." The whole point of that chapter is that intellectual assent to a list of doctrines is not enough.

5. In the book "Modern Times" Paul Johnson wrote that the real divide in politics was between "statists", who believe the power of the state is the answer to all problems; and those who believe in individual freedom (he didn't come up with a catchy short name for them). Liberal and conservative statists may differ about what problems they want to apply the state's power to, but their method is the same; and I'm afraid most elected officials of both parties in the US are statists.