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The New Art of Confusion
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It usually takes the Church several years to accurately reflect American Culture. This can be seen quite clearly in the Christian Music Industry which always seems to be behind the times for one reason or another. Unfortunately, Christianity has now caught up to a postmodern culture and is influencing both Christians and non Christians.
Similarly, Churches themselves seem to have buffer room between them and the latest social philosophies. Modernism, put simply, is the thought of throwing out the old, and embracing the new. Modernism began in the early 1900's and it focused on a push to modernize the world in both the physical and in the thought process. For many years modernistic thought lead the way in terms of art, architecture, as well as leading to great improvements in communication and infrastructure.
Eventually the modernist mindset set into the culture as well. Throughout the late 1900's modernism lead to redefining old concepts such as the family, women's roles in culture and society, relationships, as well as the birth of psychology and psychiatry.
Many churches began to yield to the modern mindset as well by throwing out anything that did not work or produce "results", and embracing newer methods of preaching, relating, inviting, sharing, and growing. The modern evangelical movement still represents much of these turn-key church solutions.
Modernism gave birth to two distinct ideas; postmodernism and holism. Holism in terms of culture is similar to many eastern philosophies such as Buddhism. It is the concept that a system can not be explained by the sum of its parts. This idea is the breeding ground for many eastern mindsets such as Hinduism and Buddhism.
Postmodernism came out of the modern mindset in the late 20th century. It was a response to many problems with modern thought. One of the foundational principles of postmodernism are the ideas of equality in every aspect of life and the willingness to redefine everything that does not meet this goal. Many movements have come out of these lines of thought such as the feminist movement, racial equity movements, gay rights movement as well as anarchism and peace movements.
Today, in 2007, this thought has so saturated the present-day culture, that churches and leaders are yet again folding to the pressure.
Postmodernism has influenced the church in many ways. Today the dominant use, or misuse, of this thought deals with interpretation of scripture. Rather than reading scripture as it was written to understand the ideas that were expressed, many churches of the day are pulling out passages and redefining them to mean what they want. This materializes in many forms, but none more destructive than the prosperity gospel churches and the open-door do-what-you-want churches.
No longer are morals seen as black and white, but postmodernists see multiple shades of gray. There is no right or wrong in this mindset, but rather, whatever you think is the truth.
Another grand aspect of postmodernism is the tendency for personal meaning methodologies. When a church or institution has embraced the doctrine of postmodernism, it can no longer give rules to follow, nor can it exercise church authority. Rather, the church is forced to ask things such as "what does this scripture mean to you", then give a weekly pat on the back and urge people to be good until next week. Then to maintain the different viewpoints, they must always encourage "dialogue" to discuss differing thoughts and opinions, and insist that everyone is always right.
The next stage in the postmodern movement of the church is the emergent church. This concept of church is a constant modification of their ideas and thoughts, and adjusting their doctrine based on new thoughts. In order to keep a steady flow of ideas, the emergent church has moved from asking what passages mean to the person, and started deconstructing the passages based on what they think the people of the day thought the text to mean.
So rather than reading and applying passages in the modern mindset, the emergent movement depends on in depth study of history in addition to biblical documents, to generate, continuously modify and tie together thoughts and concepts. By studying the culture of the time and making endless speculations as to what they think those people of that time thought of the scripture, emergent ideas give a whole new twist to postmodernism.
Put simply, they see the bible as a historical storybook they call "narratives" in which the goal is to build verbal pictures and images of the culture and give multiple possible interpretations of each story. In doing this, they are sure to examine every possible influence upon the text or passage to be sure everyone's perspective is given. Once this happens, theological concepts are extracted from all of the material and proclaimed as truth. Then from there, personal meaning and responsive actions are suggested.
This method is very popular in culture suffering from attention deficit disorder; who are always looking for new twists and new ways to be entertained. With the mixture of music concerts each week, dramatic stories from the bible and history, no condemnation for sin, and practical ways that you can be a good person, who wouldn't want to be a part of this phenomenon?
In the postmodern moral decay, the term Christianity is also corroding. In America, Christianity no longer means adhering to a moral standard or upholding a creed, but rather it has become a generic catch-all term, diminished to mean nothing more than a spiritual social club with good music. Liberal feel-good philosophies are no match for the entertainment value and appeal of the postmodern emergent church.
Postmodernism - where every way is accepted as long as you accept every way... coming to a Church near you.
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