This was a question I’ve had for some time now since the heyday of the Emerging Church came and went, but I haven’t put a whole lot of thought or research (read, Google search) into it until recently. I knew that postmodernism wasn’t quite as pronounced as it had been in culture in general, and particularly in the church, and personally I don’t hear much about it anymore, like during the Emerging Church days, which attempted a synthesized version of postmodernism with Christianity. There are certainly still elements of relativism as it pertains to how you know something for sure (epistemic humility, as it’s called) such as “you have your truth, I have mine,” but this is almost kind of assumed in culture now, not debated like it was.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t ever taken a selfie. Still do with the kids occasionally. However, something about this just feels wrong. So much of the endgame of what the enlightenment has wrought (though much good was brought about to be sure) can be summed up in this one picture; that we would memorialize as important something so vain and trivial. As the center-point of what defines objective reality shifted from the external to the inner-self, the subjective, how could this not be the end? A society centered on making itself great and known to a watching world. As we’ve soaked in celebrity culture, and now possess mediums to broadcast ourselves, how could we not become our own celebrities with our own fans? And how much, in such a short time, has social media enabled all of us to put this narcissistic tendency in full throttle? And now we memorialize such overt self-centeredness? What an age we live in.
Brian Davis, the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, a PCA church plant in Fort Worth that is starting up in August (that our family will be attending :)), recommended a couple of books that look really interesting on spiritual formation: Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.
There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.
This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.
I love Will Smith. I think he’s such an awesome actor. But we part ways on issues concerning Jesus. We do not worship or speak of the same Jesus together. Al Mohler pointed this article out on his radio program the other day.
Of particular interest, Will Smith says,
“I love the nature of humanity’s search for meaning. For me I’m certain about my relationship with the model of perfection of human life that’s laid out with the life of Jesus Christ. I’m certain of that. So I’m at home and not fearful when I sit in a mosque or a synagogue or a Buddhist temple, the same way that I’m home in the Church of Scientology. I like anywhere people are searching for the truth, and I respect their path and I’m intrigued by their path. I think when you are certain in and of what you believe in, you can open your mind to seeing the ways of others. I’m not bothered when someone says “Allah” because they’re talking about God—we are talking about the same person. I was in India recently and my hotel was near the Taj Mahal. Five times a day there would be a call for prayer, and it was the most beautiful thing. I was lying in my bed thinking, no matter what your religion is, it would be great to have that reminder five times a day to remember your Lord and savior.”
Within our “Christian culture,” more and more there seems to be a rise in the number of people believing in a moralistic, worldly version of Christianity instead of a Christ-based, Biblical version, abandoning belief in Him as the only Savior and Lord, and instead relying on their own behavior change. They simply view Christ as a good teacher or good example of how a person should be devoted to God. In addition, they believe their works in some way get them in better with God somehow, as if the death and resurrection of the Son of God were not payment enough that they would have to add something to it. This couldn’t be further from what Christianity is all about. The point of the commandments is not for us to show our moral strength and superiority, but to show our inability, that we can never fulfill the law of God to the T, just as John Hendryx says in this blog entry. It’s about taking your eyes off yourself, what you can do or what you can’t ever live up to, and seeing that Christ is the one who has fulfilled all of this. He is the Son of God, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, come in the flesh, born in a filthy feeding trough. He lived a perfect life, submitted Himself in obedience to the Father, where He was beaten and ultimately crucified for the sins of any who would believe in Him. And He then rose three days later, conquering sin, death, and hell. If you think you can give God something comparable to Christ and His work, you are putting the finite up against the infinite. Our works don’t even begin to compare to Christ’s work on the cross and nothing we could ever do would ever be enough to satisfy the wrath of God as the death and resurrection of His own Son. It’s all about Jesus Christ, taking our eyes off ourselves, our spirituality, our works in both the positive and negative sense, forgetting about ourselves altogether, and fully looking to Christ as our all in all, our great King, Savior, wondrous maker, the one who desires to give you life, eternal life in Him, offering pardon from the wrath of God that we all deserve because of our sin. Consider these things and look to see if you are falling in the trap of a moralistic endeavor to win God’s favor, and turn to Christ, leaving yourself and your works behind, embracing the Son of God as your Lord and Savior.
I’m finishing up Ethics in Management today and man am I glad. This class was a good exercise though in not only defending absolute truth (as it pertains to scripture and such), but also taking down the whole system of relativism which much of ethical theory is based on.
Post-modernity has infiltrated every facet of the West, and it seems people are slowly discovering it’s a dead-end philosophy. However, many within the academic community seem to still be holding on to this thought (not sure why, they’re supposed to be the smart ones). So, taking some of the apologetic arguments from one of my favorite books, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, I was successfully able to take down this system which is what a majority of the theory behind ethics in our day comes from.