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.
Tag: Postmodernism Page 1 of 2
The following is an essay from 2001 by political scientist James Kurth on the “Protestant Deformation” or what could be described as the radical secularization of Protestantism. As he notes, we’re now entering the final stages of this deformation, a long and twisty road that has led us to a radical individualism that threatens a new form of totalitarianism upon the free world: the totalitarianism of the self. Enjoy.
Analysts of American foreign policy have debated for decades about the relative influence of different factors in the shaping of American foreign policy. National interests, domestic politics, economic interests, and liberal ideology have each been seen as the major explanation for the peculiarities of the American conduct of foreign affairs. But although numerous scholars have advocated the importance of realism, idealism, capitalism, or liberalism, almost no one has thought that Protestantism – the dominant religion in the United States – is worth consideration. Certainly for the twentieth century, it seemed abundantly clear that one could (and should) write the history of American foreign policy with no reference to Protestantism whatsoever.
Update: To her credit, Rachel Held Evans has come out and apologized for jumping the gun and assuming the worst about John Piper’s motives. I still maintain this brand of evangelicalism is on the Downgrade, but it’s good to see her admit a wrong committed and seek reconciliation (based on a number of tweets to that effect). http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/forgive-me
I fail to see how Rachel Held Evans theology (and others like her) escapes this assessment of liberal theology in the 19th and 20th centuries by H. Richard Niebuhr:
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” – H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America.
The “universal acid” (Mohler) of skepticism and doubt eventually swallows up every doctrine of Scripture. Just ask Shelby Spong or Marcus Borg, they’ll tell you what they think. “Did God actually say ______?” (Gen. 3:1). This is the fundamental root of all sin, a doubting that God would actually speak clear truth in love toward us. What could be more loving than God giving us His words, preserved through centuries for our salvation? Maybe giving His own Son to suffer in our stead? Then again, penal substitutionary atonement is probably interpreted as “divine child abuse” (Chalke) to her. (Mohler)
For the postmodern, everything having to do with Scripture is vague or unclear and left to interpretation and therefore any interpretation is a go, or at the least entertainable, even though multiple ecumenical church councils over many centuries may have denied it, since that was merely their interpretation. But don’t worry, Rachel Held Evans and crew are here in their vast knowledge and research to rescue you from… Christianity, with its archaic, repressive doctrines and symbols that need a liberal, feminist, egalitarian, postmodern, 21st century makeover. James White is right to say that every generation must fight its own version of the Downgrade Controversy. This is ours and it’s here.
Interesting how the explanation of why Piper tweeted what he did and his response to what can only be described as cynical, hyper-emotional, unthinking criticism didn’t seem to make the presses though. But so goes Rachel Held Evans. Whatever fits the meme that Reformed people or conservative evangelicals in general are bad people, I guess. Smear the character, don’t actually engage the argument or the position. Sounds like far-leftist politics is invading the theological world. Eh, whatever gets blog hits right? Celebrity leftist evangelicalism at it’s finest, letting the Xian PR machine take over. Boy did this get her some traffic.
Also interesting to note is that Evans cites a sermon by open theist Greg Boyd after updating her blog post. Explains much. “Escaping the Twilight Zone God”
Evans represents a brand of evangelicalism that sits atop shaky ground; building a house on the sand. It’s been a long time coming and looks to be giving way. In my absolute frustration at what I read from her and other likeminded individuals is utter sadness. Once emergent theology started blending more with average evangelical churches, it was only a matter of time and tilt of the slope. Unfortunately it won’t end well.
Douglas Wilson gives Rachel Held Evans a well-deserved response for such sloppiness and avoiding the glaring problem that remains: http://dougwils.com/s16-theology/rachel-held-evans-denies-the-cat.html. Don’t miss it.
“Brian McLaren and his ilk of the emerging church … all it is, is late 19th century protestant [theological] liberalism in a postmodern dress. There isn’t anything new in it at all. And the only reason they can get away with it is because people are so a-historical and ignorant of theologies of the past.” – David Robertson, Emergent Calvinism (MP3)
Notice how McLaren doesn’t defend his orthodoxy (or lack thereof), he pleads the victim card and calls out the majority of evangelicals for essentially being separationists, you know, where seperationism actually matters. He clearly doesn’t see what is at stake. I mean even one of the New Atheists sees what’s at stake and knows where the dividing lines are! Christopher Hitchens is quoted as saying in a debate against a theologically liberal Christian, “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”
This is a “prophetic” word from Calvin out of the Institutes related to the postmodern sensibilities of Western Christianity. I’m not implying Calvin was speaking directly against postmodernism itself as a formal philosophy, as it had not yet been articulated, but this certainly does speak against its core tenets asserted today, to be sure. And I would say that ultimately, postmodernism, within the setting of Christianity, leaves a person without certainty that they will be accepted before God, which is exactly what Calvin explains in this section. The reason for this is because if you have no certainty and a house built on solid rock, ultimately, you will try and pick up the slack of uncertainty through your own deeds, works and effort in order to please God, which oddly enough, is what we see happening with many (though not all) postmoderns in the focus of various ministry focal points (i.e. deeds versus creeds).
Quoting anonymously from the The Shack Facebook group, discussing my post found here, someone said in response to the person who posted my article as a discussion point: “____, I read a portion of your link and after about 7 paragraphs of beating around the bush and Paul-bashing, I quit. Why? Because I loved the book and I’m not going to let anybody’s negative comments ruin my experience in reading it. Why don’t you just stop busting our chops and give up? Most people love it; some don’t. We agree to disagree. End of debate.”
Ahh, pure intellectual integrity. Haha, Paul bashing? (Paul Young of course) Right. You decide. Instead of working through the difficulty of beliefs (or rather denials) that can lead people to hell when accepted, it seems some are content to just shut you out of the conversation altogether instead of seriously and honestly engaging any kind of debate because of what the book has done for them, at least emotionally speaking. Since when did the individual become the standard-bearer and authority on what’s truth or not? They just don’t want to talk about any criticism of it, even if it’s a legitimately serious issue concerned with none other than the very Gospel itself by which one is saved.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Hebrews 10:26-31
“Sin is divine treason.” – Thabiti Anyabwile, from the Ligonier Conference, speaking on the divine treason of sin in light of God’s holiness. How often do we really see sin as it is? I confess that I just don’t many times because well, I’m a great sinner and am still blinded to a great amount of my own wickedness. We certainly don’t talk about sin like this nowadays, even in church where we should be. Sin is treason, divine treason. Think about the seriousness of treason at the political level. You can be thrown into prison for life or worse, executed for committing this crime, because you, being a citizen of this country, are betraying her through your actions. Yet how much worse is divine treason against a holy, eternal God! And this is every sin! God has every right to punish all of us to hell for eternity. He would be right and just to do so. And yet in great mercy, Christ condescended of His own free will and choice in order that we would be rescued, not because we were worth it or even wanted it or even saw our need for it, but because He is Amazing.
A Beginner’s Guide to Postmodernism (MP3) – 6.30.2006
(FYI, if you’re coming from a politically liberal-leaning point of view, please ignore the caption at the beginning and end of this video … that’s totally irrelevant to the main issue at hand: Oprah’s deceit. In addition, I realize there is a book mentioned apparently directly linking Obama to the occult and New Age movement at the end of the video. I have done no investigation of these claims or the book and would liken such a title to far-right fear mongering of some kind … though certainly the actual proposal of establishing a Department of Peace does sound eerily familiar to the Ministry of Love in Orwell’s classic 1984, a place in the story in which the main character, Winston, is tortured into submission to “love” for Big Brother, but I seriously digress from the real topic at hand 🙂 )
This is the absolute essence of false religion, the antithesis of Christianity, the antithesis of the Gospel. In this thinking, You are the starting point for all that is in your world and the world that is out there, as it were. How utterly vain. This kind of thinking, left unchecked, will eat our culture from the inside out, because the ultimate end, the ultimate goal of the type of person this creates is a sociopath. A society of sociopaths? Frightening prospect, just on a worldly level, let alone the abandonment and suppression of the Gospel.
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.”