What is Postmodernism?
Postmodernism is the general rejection of certainty. Adherents to postmodernism shy away from absolute truth statements and will often argue as if they are absolutely sure that there are no absolute truths. The irony here is that adherents to postmodernism often believe that it is absolutely true that absolute truths do not exist.
Postmodernism is also often associated with deconstructionism. Deconstructionism is the belief that the meaning of any particular text is not determined by the author, but by the reader. The irony is that the deconstructionist doesn’t want his or her own texts to be deconstructed.
Today were going to look at how postmodernism has affected the Emergent Church and what Emergent leaders have to say about postmodernism.
“Truths” evolve in the Emergent Church
Emergent Church leaders teach that truth; including gospel truths, evolve with the changing culture. As the culture changes, so should our doctrine.
“I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet….I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.” Brian McLaren
God can’t be described by words…or can He?
“The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not” Rob Bell
Didn’t Rob Bell just definitively put God into words by saying that God cannot be definitively put into words? Funny thing about arguments for postmodernism and the denial of absolute truths; they always refute themselves.
Denial of Absolute truths
“We see modernity with its absolutism’s and colonialism’s and totalitarianism as a kind of static dream, a desire to abide in timeless abstractions and extract humanity from the ongoing flow of history and emergence, a naïve hope to make now the end of history (which actually sounds either like a kind of death wish or millennialism). In Christian theology, this anti-emergent thinking is expressed in systematic theologies that claim (overtly, covertly, or unconsciously) to have final orthodoxy nailed down, freeze-dried, and shrink-wrapped forever.” Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
Here Brain Mclaren is giving us his theology, “nailed down, freeze-dried, and shrink-wrapped”. He is giving us his absolute view that we should have no absolute views of theology.
Because theology is connected to real life, answering particular questions, concerns and opportunities of the day, it will be ever-changing. (Did Paggit just say that theology changes?) If it is not so, then it may well not be theology – it may be dogma, history, or a collection of random facts, but not theology. Theology is the living understanding of the story of God in play with the story of our lives. Doug Paget, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five views.
Doug Paggit has just told us that theology is ever changing. This is Doug Paggit’s theology. Is Paggit’s theology that theology is ever changing going to change? Does that mean that theology that is ever changing will change to the extent that it will no longer change? If ever changing theology changes to a never changing theology than ever changing theology can’t be ever changing. I know that sounded funny and I meant it to. Again postmodernism proves to be self-refuting.
How do “I” know the Bible is always right? And if “I” am sophisticated enough to realize that I know nothing of the Bible without my own involvement via interpretation, I’ll also ask how I know which school, method, or technique of biblical interpretation is right. What makes a “good” interpretation good? And if an appeal is made to a written standard (book, doctrinal statement, etc.) or to common sense or to “scholarly principles of interpretation,” the same pesky “I” who liberated us from the authority of the church will ask, “Who sets the standard? Whose common sense? Which scholars and why? Don’t all these appeals to authorities and principles outside the Bible actually undermine the claim of ultimate biblical authority? Aren’t they just the new pope? Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
These would be good questions if they came from somebody who actually wanted an answer. Unfortunately, Brian Mclaren has demonstrated that he doesn’t want answers. Mclaren feels that just by asking the questions he has torn down the idea that we can actually understand the Bible. Mclaren goes out of his way to make the reader feel that the Bible is so confusing one can’t read it without understanding it. Yes, there are some deep theological concepts in the Bible, but God has written the Bible in such a way that even the most simple of readers can understand its most essential teachings.
It’s ironic that Mclaren first wants us to question how to interpret the Bible and then within the same book, tell us how he feels we should interpret the Bible. In other words, “don’t try to read or understand the Bible. It’s just too complicated. But hey, let me tell you how to interpret the Bible.” This is the kind of reasoning you see coming from manipulative cults. They first tear down your trust in the ability to understand the word of God, and then they proceed to give you their own special revelations. Isn’t this how Satan first deceived Eve? He first questioned the word of God (“Yea hath God said”) then he inserted his own interpretation (“Ye shall not surely die”).
“Emergent doesn’t have a position on absolute truth, or on anything for that matter. Do you show up at a dinner party with your neighbors and ask, ‘What’s this dinner party’s position on absolute truth?’ No, you don’t, because it’s a nonsensical question.” Tony Jones
The Emergent Church doesn’t have an absolute position on anything? Isn’t that an absolute position? The first sentence refutes itself. Secondly, the Bible is not a dinner party. It’s nonsensical and irreverent to compare Gods word with something so trivial. Thirdly, saying that the dinner party question is nonsensical is in fact an attempt at an absolute truth statement. Tony Jones cannot even make the claim that the question is nonsense without believing he is absolutely right. If his statement is true, then absolute truth does exist and therefore his position is false. If his statement is false; why should we take it seriously?
“Stop looking for some objective Truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible.” Tony Jones
Why would you even crack open the Bible if you weren’t looking for truth? What would be the point?
“Let me offer 10 suggestions for reclaiming the Bible for contemporary readers…Drop Any Affair You May Have with Certainty” Brian McLaren
Is Mclaren certain about that? If he is, maybe he should drop his affair with certainty. If he is not, why should we take his suggestions seriously? Do you see how attacking absolute truth is self-defeating? Any attempt at saying absolutes don’t exist is in fact an attempt at making an absolute statement.
I’m sorry. I’m having a really hard time understanding how anyone could consistently live out this worldview. Everyone knows instinctively that absolute truths do exist, and they make up most of the decisions we make in life. Why do we eat and drink? Because if we don’t, we absolutely know that we will die. Why do we try to make money? Because we absolutely know that if we don’t have a means to purchase or attain food, and shelter, we will die. Think about your every choice in life. Nearly every decision is driven by the belief in absolute truths.
A Christian cannot be postmodern
Why read the Bible? We read the Bible because in it we expect to find the very words of God. We expect truth. How do we live? How do we escape the effects of our sins? How did the world begin? Who is God? Etc.
Postmodernism is simply not a Christian position. You cannot trust in the work that Christ did on the cross if you do not believe in absolute truths. Christianity is a faith built upon truth. To say otherwise, would be preaching another gospel.
Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
For more information on postmodernism and the Emergent Church check out the following article on carm.org
For further study of the Emergent Church