May 31, 2012 2 Comments
As we have looked at postmodern thoughts and how it has influence the church we have laid the foundations of culture and community. We see that in this view culture has given us language and even the very meaning it wishes to ascribe to sounds and words as well as the practices or ways we approach life. Community gives postmodernism way to interpret language and practice a way to re-adapt. How life should work should not be unchangeable in this view. But as these communities arise there must be something that brings continuity and conviction. There must be someone who can bring things together and drive them forward. If not then things will just stay the same.
Why do all anarchists groups have to have a leader? – Ravi Zacharias
Looking for a Hero
You will find these ideas in various forms, however the goal is the same. Something or someone is needed who can make the ideas or enact the ideas from culture and community practically. These new ideas need a leader, a role model, someone pragmatic to drive change. But it must be understood that the concept of a leader, role model or hero in post-modern thought is not the same thing as what we traditionally think of. In post-modern thought what is achieved is more important than how it was achieve.
The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. (Alinsky 1972: 24)
He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of ‘personal salvation’; he doesn’t care enough for people to ‘be corrupted’ for them. (Alinsky 1972: 25)
These quotes from Saul Alinsky are a somewhat radical example of post-modern thought and we can see these ideas in the church in “Liberation Theology”.
As the church progressed in the 20th century it looked for ways to appeal to the “unchurched” public. In this “Church Growth Movement” churches adopted methods from the business world which were used in marketing. Some examples would be branding and talk-show style services. These tend to be more stylistic choices, however care must still be taken as styles can come from underlying attitudes and values or lack there of. For example the use of coarse joking or potty humor may entertain the children but can step beyond the bounds of style to a disregard for acceptable decorum and becomes inconsiderate of others senses. The bible says that we should avoid coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4). Some good ideas did proceed from this as the church made its appeal it tried to be more practical with biblical teaching focusing on application and useful systems and methods taken from scripture. The inclusion of methods from behavioral, social and psychological studies furthered this practical focus. The problem is that often it seems that the bible started taking more of a back seat.
The idea is taken further when the church brings in secular business leaders, motivational speakers and other public figures to speak and teach. Some churches will even go so far as to limit the amount of scripture used in services and even remove crosses and other christian symbols from their church even to the extent of limiting the use of Jesus name during services. As churches progress down this path one has to ask, “Do we believe that the Bible, the cross and Jesus are sufficient and compelling?” Jesus chastised the pharisees for “teaching as doctrine the principles of men” and in many ways the church has been doing the same. Sure we can learn things from others outside the church but how much should we be asking the congregation to sift through worldly ideas to find what is useful and biblically acceptable? Apart from the fully devoted child of God living under Jesus Lordship this is often done to appeal to those outside the church. Emergent thought takes it a step further focusing on what can be accomplished through these methods whether or not anything spiritual or moral is sacrificed. It should be clear from scripture that the end doesn’t justify the means. Also the warning from A W Tozer below highlights the problem with this thinking.
How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die. – A W Tozer
The church then moves from looking for heroes to redefining Jesus and His role in the world. You might see John 14:16 “I am the way, the truth and the life” taught as Jesus teaching not that He Himself is the way but that how He lived his life is the way. The picture then that is painted of Jesus focuses on his interactions with people and particularly those that are deemed more compassionate and less confrontational unless of course the confrontation was with leadership. We like to focus on what Jesus accomplished helping others and its impact. There is value in this but the post-modern or emergent view takes this further to the point that it paints Jesus as a hero just like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. More value is placed on how Jesus changed the world practically than on how he changes our relationship to the Father and gave us hope for eternity. You might also see someone question the virgin birth and whether it should have been translated virgin in biblical prophecy. If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin then he was just a man and the objective is the same; to see Jesus as just a man. It is much easier to deal with a hero or activist than it is to deal with the fact that our rebellion was so heinous that the Author of Life Himself had to become a man to make up for our debt.
Jesus was not a moralist who came to make bad people good; Jesus is a savior who came to make dead people alive – Ravi Zacharias
Not only is Christ reinvented as a social hero but the gospel may be redefined. True the bible talks about how God deals with those that never have the opportunity to hear the gospel but the outcome seems somewhat ambiguous. It is probably ambiguous because we are commissioned to go into the world and spread the gospel. But even this idea of spreading the gospel is being questioned. You may hear questions or comments such as, “People can find the way Jesus lived in other religions and remain in that religion”. This is called inclusivism which essentiall states that though we are saved through Jesus Christ as the only way to the father one doesn’t have to have knowledge that it is Jesus they are believing. You can follow the path you are on and believe you are worshiping God XYZ and then find out you were really trusting Jesus in the end, at the final judgement. They are not saved apart from Christ but saved without knowledge of Christ. Another view takes it further and just asks them to see the way Jesus lived and just pull from that as they continue on in their native religion. Again this puts the focus on the way Christ lived and takes it away from the work which He did on the cross. I have heard renowned Christian leaders whom I respect greatly make similar statements. Paul’s talk in Acts 17 at Mars hill should make it clear that the early church taught that other gods where not gods at all and that faith in Jesus was the only way.
In the next article I will bring it all together into the final stage of the post-modern or emergent perspective and take a look at the end of it all. The final article will take a look at post-modern focus on society and society building or in emergent christian movements on uses of the term “kingdom”.