Whether we like it or not we are all influenced by the thinking of the world around us. The way we were brought up by our parents, our education and the media around us, all affect the way we decide what is true. It’s important to remember that man’s ways of thinking always challenge what God has said. Paul tells us that:
“the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”Romans 8 v 7
The challenges have been different in different ages. Over the past fifty or so years there has been a radical change in the way the world thinks. This has had a profound effect on our community and on our preaching and this change explains many of the problems we see.
The older ones among us were educated in a period when “Modernism” was the world view. Younger ones have been brought in the “Postmodern” era which has a very different view. The change has been gradual, but we see the effects all around us both in the world and in our community.
Some of the information in this article comes from the book “The Death of Truth” by Dennis McCallum. For those who want to know more about postmodernism this book is an interesting and enlightening read.
The “modernist era” began in the sixteenth century. The ideas of humanism and evolution developed in this period. It was thought that we could prove everything by logic and reason. But people realised that some things that the church claimed to be true had been proved untrue by science. For example, the church claimed that the earth was at the centre of the universe. So the church was discredited and people rejected religion completely including the Bible. Academics and universities took over as the source of authority and what is known as “humanism” developed. If there was no God you could do what you liked as long as it didn’t hurt anyone else. “Truth” was something we could discover by our own investigation and reasoning. Hence there were many debates in religious circles about what was true.
It can be said that modernists:
- view the world, including themselves, as an enormous machine
- believe they can do as they please and should use their reasoning powers to choose their own direction in life. However society should be structured to preserve freedom.
- are confident that they understand their world and believe that knowledge can only be gained through their senses. Belief in the supernatural has no place in modernism.
- believe humanity is progressing towards a bright future through technology and democracy
Academics, the thought-shapers who teach in our colleges and universities – whose opinions sooner or later influence the rest of society – are discarding modernism and embracing postmodernism in growing numbers.
The idea now is that “truth” is created, not discovered. It is asserted that there are no absolutes when it comes to “truth” so the only thing they can trust are their own feelings. They each construct their perception of our world according to their culture. If they feel an idea or principle is good, that is their “truth”. They would say that we all have different feelings and cultural biases, so we can all have different “truths”. So the quest for “truth” is pointless because we are all imprisoned by our own culture and upbringing. No-one can say that they are “right” and others are “wrong”. All “truths” are equal and valid.
It can be said that postmodernists:
- see people as cogs in a social
- reject the modernist idea that we can ever find the truth about anything. We can’t take self or culture out of reason, so reason can’t be trusted more than intuition or feelings.
- believe people do what they do because their culture has made them who they are.
- assert that “truth” in the past has been used by the powerful in society to supress the weak.
- claim that authors of literature (including the Bible) are no longer authorities over their texts. The authority now lies with the postmodern reader to put his own meaning into the text.
- say that postmodern readers should “deconstruct” texts and unveil their cultural biases. Readers are then empowered and liberated from the cultural constraints of the powerful, and freed to give texts their own meanings.
- put the individual at the centre of things in religion. Worship becomes self-worship and self-empowerment. Self also becomes the arbiter for truth. There is no place for statements of faith.
It is interesting to note that in 2 Timothy 3 v1 the first thing that is mentioned about “perilous times” is “lovers of self” – a perfect description of postmodernism!
The challenges to our community
Both modernism and postmodernism challenge what God has said in the Bible.
The older ones among us who were educated in the “modernist” era may suffer from doing a little too much “reasoning” and attaching the same authority to our “reasonings” as we should give to the Bible text. We need to be very clear about the difference in authority between what the Bible text says and our opinions based on our “reasonings”.
The younger ones among us have the problem that their generation as a whole has little respect for authority. So they might not naturally have as much respect for their elders as happened in previous generations. They also have the problem that they have been educated in a system that tells them to be self-centred and question everything.
It’s little wonder then that older and younger brethren and sisters sometimes have problems understanding each other! If we appreciate what the problems are, it may help us to understand each other better. We must strive to be one in looking at the Bible text to decide the actions we take, the things we believe and how we live our lives. The scriptures are the only place to discover the truth on these things and it is with this attitude that we need to unite.
The challenges for our preaching
In the “modernist” era, people were willing to debate issues, so we could show people Biblical truth.
The real challenge we all face now is preaching to an increasingly postmodern world that accepts no outside authority and believes that we can each have our own ideas.
Postmodernism leaves our world with no real meaning in life and no real hope for the future. This is an area where we can try and fill the vacuum left by postmodernism.
We must try and show:
- that we may eventually have problems trusting our own “beliefs” and “feelings”
- that there are some aspects of life where we can’t all have different views
- that there is a source of information that has a good track record of being right, so maybe we ought to at least consider it
- the Bible has much evidence to show that it can be trusted to be true
- the Bible message gives meaning to life and a real hope for the future
Some ecclesias are already reacting to this problem and our current preaching material addresses some of these issues. Whatever we do must give opportunity for God’s message to be shared.
If we all appreciate the problems, we may be able to help each other rather than resenting the differences.
We hope that this brief outline of what is happening in our world will help us all in our efforts to encourage each other on our walk to the kingdom and to encourage others to join us.
- Awe inspiring Nature and Awe Inspiring Modernism – the USA
- What is Pop Culture and Postmodernism?
- The History of Social Justice
- Modernist fundamentalism
- Metamodernism and ‘La La Land’
- Hunger and Isolation: Hamsun’s Treatise on Human Suffering
- A Call to Arms
- 4 Reasons Why Truth Is Important to Christians
- “We Could Not Call it True…”
- Reality’s Unsaintly Ethics
- Postmodernism is Nothing
- Revenge of Post-Modernism
- Building Bridges to the Current Culture
- Church S/Hopping in 2017
- ‘Meaning in an increasingly meaningless world; Post-Structuralism and the departure to (Post) Modernity’
- Encountering Truth in a Post-Truth Society
- It’s Not Post-Truth, It’s the Zenith of the Post-Modern Condition
- The Supremacy of Christ by Voddie Baucham