For better or worse, today’s Church lives in the postmodern era. When I first began hearing about postmodernism many years ago, I would always walk away with a foggy understanding of what it was. Then I just looked at the term “Postmodernism”. “Post” speaks of what comes after. In this case, modernism, which was the era we have been transitioning out of for the past 60 years. What helped me to understand postmodernism is when I started to notice the things it reacts to. Postmodernism is a reaction to the age of Modernism that began during the Renaissance and focused on science and reason as the way to find truth. In modernism, Sunday morning Church was based on many hours of Bible study, apologetics, and exegesis, which although is important, does not always connect with postmodern seekers.
Postmodernism is characterized in general by a rejection of objective truth. You might hear post modern’s say things like, “There is no such thing as one way to God”. They tend to reject a single definition of truth. In fact, for postmodern, truth is based on each person’s own experience. Postmoderns take a wrecking ball to the last era of modernism and rebuild it with materials borrowed from every religion and philosophy the world has to offer.
How is postmodernism affecting the church? Postmodernism has not been without impact on the Church. According to Erickson and others, here are some ways this has occurred.
Challenge of authority: Postmodernism challenges the authority of the Church and the revelation it stands on. This is all done in an attempt to discover truth for oneself - a personal “journey of spirituality”
No Objective Truth. Since postmoderns don’t believe in “one truth fits all”, Christianity is seen as just another buffet line where you pick and choose what you like and then go to other religions and philosophies for the rest.
The image has replaced the truth. Postmoderns tend towards a shallow understanding of truth. Because we live in a media saturated “copy and paste” society where ideas can be remixed and photo-shopped, there is a tendency for postmoderns to create their own image of the “truth”. To put it simply,
an image has replaced what is real. This is no different that Aaron’s golden calf in Exodus 32:1.
The problem with postmodernism is that Christ taught a specific set of non-negotiable truths that are relevant for every age.
“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6 ESV
No matter what “age” we are in, some things never change. Truth must never be adjusted to accommodate culture, but culture must bow to the truth.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
Ps 103:19 ESV
So how do we as the Church thrive in a post modern world? How do we reach postmoderns? Next week we will look at six suggestions.