Theology has been referred to as the queen of the scientific disciplines. In more recent times. its right to govern has been challenged by the rise of postmodern idea. The increasing credence of postmodern thoughts have led many to inquire if traditional divinity can coexist with postmodern believing. Can theology be expressed in the linguistic communication and constructs of postmodernism without losing its significance? There are two possible results. Either divinity can be adapted to talk to postmodern life in postmodern footings or it can non. If it can non do its averments in postmodern footings and remain meaningful. as many have concluded already. so another manner must be found. Since divinity can non talk in postmodern footings without losing its credibleness. this paper will demo that the best manner for divinity to turn to postmodern people and idea is to stay true to Scripture and two thousand old ages of Christian informant.
Is Postmodern Theology an Oxymoron?
In order to understand the trouble of pass oning divinity in a postmodern clime. it is necessary to analyze the two constituent parts of the equation. Once the two single parts are understood right. it will be confirmed that the two are reciprocally sole as normally understood and defined. A Definition of Christian Theology
Harmonizing to Millard Erickson. a good “basic definition of divinity is ‘the survey or scientific discipline of God. ’” [ 1 ] which is good as a simple statement. but does non capture the full scope of what Christian divinity is. Christian divinity is needfully based in Scripture as its foundation. In its nature so is the thought that God has revealed Himself to mankind in propositional communicating. Francis Schaeffer asserts that it is non unreasonable to state that God has communicated His nature to adult male in a manner that adult male can understand ; the same manner that work forces communicate with each other. [ 2 ]
For divinity to stay true. it can non be separated from its Biblical foundation and it must take the Bible as a whole into history. [ 3 ] Christian theology’s premier aim is to pass on truth about God to all of humanity in a manner that can be understood. It is non meant to be a strictly academic exercising for bookmans in their towers. This nonsubjective really sets the phase for the issue at manus. Because postmodern idea is existent and permeant in the universe of today. divinity must happen a manner to convey forth the truths of God in a manner that can be understood by postmodern adult male. The job with this communicating is the gulf between the significance of the footings of traditional Christian divinity before the modern and postmodern epochs and those same footings since modernism began its passage into postmodernism. Specifying Postmodernism
One of the biggest jobs with trying to specify postmodernism is the fact that it resists definition by its really nature. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology notes it so: Those who attempt to specify or to analyse the construct of postmodernity do so at their ain hazard. In the first topographic point. postmoderns reject the impression that any description or definition is “neutral. ” Definitions may look to enjoy in the freshness of nonpartisanship. but they constantly exclude something and hence are complicit. knowingly or non. in political relations. A definition of postmodernity is every bit likely to state more about the individual offering the definition than it is of “the postmodern. ” [ 4 ]
This cautiousness is non to be taken lightly. In fact. Vanhoozer goes on to despair that a definition of a postmodern place is all but impossible and alternatively chosens to mention to postmodernism as a “condition” . [ 5 ] But holding noted the built-in trouble. a definition is needed in some signifier for an intelligent treatment to take topographic point. For the intents of this treatment. postmodernism is a system that rejects nonsubjective cognition and/or metanarratives. Postmodern thought is “decentered” and “situated. ” which is to state that it doesn’t accept a common land or cosmopolitan attack to truth. but instead a localised version of truth which is really determined at a personal degree. [ 6 ] From this brief effort to trap down a simple definition of postmodern belief. it should already be evident to the reader the built-in trouble presented in “adapting” divinity into postmodern footings. Can Theology be Synthesized with Postmodernism?
This brings up an of import inquiry upon which this whole treatment will either win or neglect. Is there a manner to pass on divinity in postmodern footings so that it doesn’t lose its significance in the procedure? There are surely those who would state yes. In the last few decennaries. many attempts have been made to discourse divinity and its assorted facets in modern and postmodern linguistic communication such as it is. One of the jobs that has been encountered in this procedure is the opposition of postmodern believing to covering in concrete constructs that are universally true. What has frequently happened to those who seek to make over and paraphrase theological constructs to a postmodern audience is that the theologists making the work have become postmodern every bit good. This has had black effects for the field of divinity as the conflict for truth is now being fought amongst those who should theoretically be on the same side of it.
The ways in which postmodern idea has infiltrated the church were predicted by many before it happened and it is exemplifying to look at the warnings of some of these Prophetss of the modern church. Francis Schaeffer noticed these tendencies get downing over 30 old ages ago and noted that it was nil new. In fact. he accused divinity of stating things that were already being said by doctrine and other rational subjects and feigning that they were the first to come up with the thoughts. [ 7 ] Wells echoes these sentiments in God in the Wasteland. stating. “evangelicalism has bought cultural acceptableness by emptying itself of serious idea. serious divinity. serious worship and serious pattern in the larger civilization. ” [ 8 ] The effects of accommodating divinity to postmodern point of views has been mostly negative and arguably unsuccessful. The Effects of Postmodern Thinking on the Church
The ways in which postmodern idea has influenced divinity and Christian pattern has been good documented by many bookmans already. This work will take a narrow focal point on three primary countries of influence and the effects that each have suffered. The countries considered here are the position of truth in the church. the position of worship in the church and the position of sermon and instruction in the church. Postmodernist Influence on the Christian View of Truth
In reexamining the claims of some postmodern theological statements. it is evident that one of the first thoughts that falls on the chopping block is in fact the thought of absolute or nonsubjective truth. The cardinal truths of Christianity. that God exists. and has communicated with adult male. come under fire in postmodern thought. This is the ground that Francis Schaeffer’s good known trilogy of books bear the rubrics that they do: The God Who Is There. Escape from Reason. and He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In the opening sentence of The God Who is There he states. “the present chasm between the coevals has been brought about about wholly by a alteration in the construct of truth. ” [ 9 ] One of the first truths that is questioned by postmodern adult male is in fact the being of God Himself.
For theologists wishing to be postmodern the inquiry can besides be seen as one of whether God is who He has ever been thought to be. [ 10 ] In postmodern idea. even truths that were by and large accepted sing the existence are in drama because no cosmopolitan truths are acknowledged as existent or true either. [ 11 ] What becomes of truth in this civilization? It degenerates into bunk. In seeking to specify the postmodern apprehension of God’s jurisprudence. Lokken falls into absurdness: The jurisprudence so received as artefact is far from a axiomatic object. as modernness contends. but in a postmodern manner is unfastened in that it invariably presents itself of all time afresh and fruitfully in a multiplicity of ways. imparting itself to a fruitfulness of readings. all of them potentially true from the point of view of the integrity of some legitimate position. Therefore. the truth of a jurisprudence is ne’er finished. Further. we as translators of the jurisprudence. as a 2nd skyline. are besides ne’er finished. [ 12 ]
Here truth as a cosmopolitan construct has clearly been superseded by an entreaty to the single reading of truth itself. He goes on to explicate that God’s jurisprudence becomes an “empty generality” when one attempts to use it so that the jurisprudence has no significance whatsoever until or unless it is experienced personally. [ 13 ] And this is non an stray belief in postmodern divinity. In his review of Reginald Stackhouse. Richard Davis shows that Stackhouse came to the realisation that none of the things he believed by “faith” could be verified independently in such a manner that another individual couldn’t challenge them in true postmodern manner.
Because of this. he came to the point that he could no longer see his ain religion to be objectively true and alternatively felt the demand to keep it subjectively without any claim to catholicity of its truth. [ 14 ] In forcing these logical gymnastic exercises to their foregone decisions. Davis comes to the realisation that the truth of God for postmodern theologists boils down to a symbolic concept. God is conceived of on an single degree and found to be whatever that individual decides Him to be. [ 15 ] This is confirmed by Schaeffer’s observation that postmodern divinity can non give any replies in the kingdom of facts or cognition as truth because it insists on destructing the foundation of that cognition as based on any objectively discernible truth either from history or the universe itself. [ 16 ] Therefore. the terminal consequence of postmodern influence in the country of truth is to sabotage or ignore it wholly. Postmodernist Influences on Worship
Jesus one time said. “God is spirit. and his worshippers must idolize in spirit and in truth. ” [ 17 ] Having seen the desolation that postmodern theologists have brought to the constructs of truth as God has revealed it. it is easy to understand that worship in spirit and truth is a slippery proposition in a postmodern frame of head. Postmodern worship in the church has taken some features that are immanently predictable. One of the jobs is that worship is more focussed on the single worshippers and their “felt needs” . Churchs are trying to model their worship services to run into the demands of the bulk. This leads to combat over music manners and presentation quality instead than theological content in the music or even the engagement of the fold. [ 18 ] It is a contemplation of the egoistic nature of postmodern idea and has been observed that more and more modern-day “Christian” vocals are identical from secular love laies. A point in instance would be vocals like. Every Pulse. made popular by Amy Grant some old ages ago.
The first poetry uses the words testimony and informant in talking about the vocalists “one and only” . The chorus says that “every pulse bears your name” without stipulating who the “your” is and the 2nd poetry returns to a narrative of a male child and miss falling in love. [ 19 ] Some have labeled this tendency as “God is my girlfriend” music. [ 20 ] It has even found its manner into modern hymnals. The newest hymnbooks put out by Lifeway imperativeness contain vocals that could be sung by anyone in love. like Draw Me Close. Not merely is God’s name nowhere to be found in the vocal. it includes phrases like. “to experience the heat of Your embrace” . [ 21 ] Fortunately. the word Your is capitalized in the wordss or one might ne’er cognize that God is being sung about here. With the significance left wholly up to the vocalist in a postmodern scene. these vocals finally lose any concrete significance.
Postmodern worship so is about wholly oriented around the worshippers instead than the One who is to be worshiped. Wells speaks to this in his treatment of the lightness of God in postmodern life. He says that in a postmodern. “psychologized” civilization there is a preoccupation with the love of God as reflected in the worship of that love possibly combined with an embarrassment or edginess at the sanctity. truth or morality of God. [ 22 ] Dawn offers some penetrations on how the church has been influenced by postmodernism by proposing a better manner to idolize in a postmodern clime. The church must travel off from singing “narcissistic ditties” and toward vocals that have “theological deepness. scriptural images and motive to be about God’s intents of witnessing. justness edifice. and peace devising in the world” . [ 23 ] Since worship is about more than merely the music that is sung in church. another cardinal constituent of this treatment is the consequence of postmodernism on sermon and instruction in the church. Postmodern Influences on Preaching and Teaching
The influence of postmodern thought on the pattern of sermon and instruction is widespread and insidious. In a universe where two plus two does non needfully equal four. courtesy of “whole math” in the school system. it will be progressively hard to happen curates and instructors in church who are willing to state that Jesus is the Way. the Truth and the Life with authorization and strong belief matched with worshippers and scholars who can give their hearty understanding. What happens in this clime is that spiritual truth becomes subject to the same thought that allows the reply to two plus two to be “creatively” determined. Postmodernism has given the church a clime where truth is determined by the single listener or reader and God’s Word has become a casualty. Harmonizing to Wells. this “captivity to our ain selves” must be broken in order to understand God’s Word right. [ 24 ] The postmodern influence on the church has yielded a organic structure of trusters who still demonstrate and perchance confess traditional Christian orthodoxy. but who have no steadfast footing for their belief that would keep up to scrutiny. Many in fact believe that the Christian reply is merely one of many and that other religions with seemingly contradictory beliefs are besides true. [ 25 ]
In fact. faith is going little more that a model from which to do determinations which benefit the person. It is a faith which is “non-theological because it is a faith in which God is distant. his truth is non-invasive. and Christian religion is non-particular. ” [ 26 ] It is this clime that allows Oprah to mention to herself as a Christian while at the same time stating that Jesus isn’t the lone manner to heaven because that doesn’t “feel right to her” . In fact the whole thought of showing instruction or sermon that are unapologetically Christian is now thought to be a bad thought in some circles. The terminal consequence are events like “holiday” visible radiation shows put on by a church to avoid the “stigma” of the word Christmas in the hope that they will pull more disbelievers. [ 27 ] Postmodern influence has intimidated many trusters from a willingness to do sole claims sing Christ. Preaching and learning are more a affair of position and mensurable effectivity in a postmodern church than they are about pass oning truth. When the Culture Defines the Church
Many churches and parachurch ministries have become so concerned over influence from postmodern civilization that they have turned their primary focal point to counter the influence of that civilization instead than doing or developing adherents as Christ commanded. Rather than seeking to “strengthen those things that remain. ” [ 28 ] many are seeking to weaken those things that they feel may weaken trusters. A study of Jesus Christ’s instruction in the New Testament doesn’t reveal any bids to “change the civilization. ” His bids to be salt and light spells manus in manus with the bid to do more adherents. Light doesn’t change the darkness ; it overcomes it by its presence. The more light there is. the less dark one can happen. Possibly the most unsafe error made by the postmodern church is the effort to alter the civilization outside the church alternatively of going complete interior and making out to do more adherents. In some quarters. the church has become so intermeshed with the civilization around it that it is no longer possible to separate the two. Talking to Postmodern Culture with Biblical Theology
There are several of import lessons to larn from the church’s experiences with postmodern believing both good and bad. Postmodernism has allowed the church to see some countries of idea and action that were and are weak or deficient. David Wells points out that one of the positive apprehensions to be gained is the reminder that the Christian religion is non limited to a individual civilization or country. The globalisation that has accompanied modernism and postmodernism has made it clear to Christians all over the universe that there is a far broader manner to look at the religion than merely the “Western” position that has dominated widely for many centuries. [ 29 ] It is a awful indictment to recognize how closely the church has tied itself to civilization in the Western universe when people speak of Christianity as a “white man’s faith. ” Truly this is ne’er what Christ intended His Church to be. Based on the countries that have been examined for postmodern influence. what are some normative steps that the church can take in those countries to repossess its position as the salt and visible radiation that it is intended to be? Recovering Truth in a Relative Universe
The biggest challenge for many may be keeping the line on the thought of nonsubjective truth as revealed by God and even as shown in nature. The truth of the Bible can non be compromised if Christianity and the church are to hold any significance in this postmodern universe. Before any sort of evangelism to a postmodern universe can be accomplished. whether one-on-one or in a group puting. the authorization and truth of the Scripture must be both steadfastly believed and shamelessly taught. Wells says that God must interrupt each person of the imprisonment to self and to subjectivist authorization over the Word of God. before anyone can hear it or understand it at all. [ 30 ] In a sense. postmodernism has helped the church in this undertaking harmonizing to Wells. because they have affirmed that the egoistic position a individual brings to the text impacts their apprehension of the text. Christians can confirm this and open the door to speak about the influence of wickedness on human apprehension and the demand for God to interrupt those bonds. [ 31 ] Schaeffer says much the same thing about truth for the modern and now postmodern universe. He says that the Bible can be avowal of God’s being and His truth at the same clip. Science was originally based on the thought that an organized Godhead made an organized creative activity. Those facts have non changed and stand ready as a informant to objective truth. [ 32 ] Intellectual Challenge or Spiritual Penetration
There seem to be two methods so suggested for facing postmodern adult male with Biblical truth which must stay foundational to the gospel message. Should it be an rational challenge or should the church entreat God to alter peoples Black Marias and heads with His Spirit? Frankly. both will be needed to undertake the job to the full. but based on the single instance one or the other attack may be a more effectual get downing point. Some people respond really good to rational statements and excusatory manners. Peoples like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel who have come to cognize Christ through rational chase can talk to people who are unfastened to that type of informant. They besides do a valuable occupation of keeping the unity of cognition and truth in the church. On the other side of the spectrum in many ways are ministries like Way of the Master. whose primary method of making out with the truth of God’s message begins in the country of the scruples before needfully prosecuting the mind and excusatory defences. Both are effectual in their ain right and neither of the attacks gives an inch when it comes to upholding Biblical truth. The chief challenge before the church in a postmodern clime is keeping God as the centre of all that is done. believed. taught and preached. The Church in the twenty-first Century
So what is the church to make in the twenty-first century to see that it doesn’t lose the informant of the old 20 centuries before it? Francis Schaeffer had some interesting penetrations that are still relevant to the church today and beyond. He challenged the church non to run on
“the footing of memory” of the past and long for the good old yearss. but to alternatively take the freedom that God has given in Bible to be salt and light to the civilization in which it is found. [ 33 ] The church must be the polar antonym of the postmodern universe. It must supply the option to the hopelessness and muddled thought that prevails in postmodern civilization. by standing up for nonsubjective truth and ground. The church can non frame its statements in the linguistic communication of the postmodern head and hope that nil is lost in the procedure. it must be willing to specify and explicate what the truth is and why. These are non times for the swoon of bosom. As Paul said two thousand old ages ago. “for our battle is non against flesh and blood. but against the swayers. against the governments. against the powers of this dark universe and against the religious forces of immorality in the celestial kingdom. ” [ 34 ] Decision
Finally. what is the best manner for divinity to turn to postmodernism? There have been many different solutions proposed and even tried with assorted consequences. Based on the research for this survey and observation of the universe around us. I would hold to state that we can non squinch or shrivel back in the face of this challenge to the religion. We need to see that the religion we teach is Biblically sound and unapologetically so. We must do certain that the truth we claim is backed up by the life we lead or others will non take us earnestly in this postmodern universe. [ 35 ]
Most significantly. the Church must cognize and understand that God is non shocked or surprised by this development in our civilization and universe. His Word was given to us for such a clip as this and His Spirit works with us in this universe to carry through His program. His bid to the church is still the same 1 that was given in Matthew 28 and His promise to be with us is still true. As Paul said in Romans 3:4. “Let God be true. and every adult male a prevaricator. ” In a clip when every adult male seems to hold problem spoting the truth from a prevarication. we have a house bridgehead that hasn’t changed and will non alter. He is the same yesterday and today and everlastingly. [ 36 ]
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[ 1 ] Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology: Second Edition ( Grand Rapids. Myocardial infarction: Baker Books. 1998 ) . 22. [ 2 ] Francis A. Schaeffer. The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview. Vol. 1. A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. ( Westchester. Illinois: Crossway. 1982 ) . 99-100. [ 3 ] Erickson. Christian Theology. 23.
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