In preparation for our time together next Tuesday night, I wanted to give some introductory thoughts as we gather as a young adult group to discuss issues such as ‘postmodernity, emergent church, and emerging church.’ These are huge issues that people have taken hundreds of thousands of pages to write about and countless hours in conversation trying to hash through. Definition of any one of these terms does not come easy (partly because lack of definition is what defines each of these movements) however, I believe that we can begin to look into the world of postmodernity, evaluate what we see and respond as Christ followers in such a way as to honor and glorify Jesus Christ. I’ll treat each of these terms as very separate terms because to try and lump them all together would not be fair to any one of them. I’ll try to give some basic resources where you can go and read a little for yourself on this issue. The ultimate question that we will eventually get to next Tuesday night as a group is this:
“What is the ‘right’ ‘orthopraxy?’ That is to say what is the right way to practice theology in our context? This is a question that both the emergent and emerging church are attempting to answer. Postmodernism is simply the context that we find ourselves in.
Postmodernism – The phrase scares some people and some would say that they ‘disagree’ with people that would say that we are in a postmodern age. I wonder why they disagree and if they heard the characteristics as described by Derrida, Hartman, and others wonder if they might actually see the reality that we live in as very much a tangible part of our culture. Postmodernism literally means “after modernity.” So, to better understand this word, we seek to understand what modernity is/was so that we can understand what the reaction to modernity is and why. Modernity is a reaction to pre-modern thinking and so we must also briefly visit that discussion.
When discussing the “moderns” we are essentially saying that this is the way that society as a whole (our American society or whatever society you are a part of) is addressing questions that most people have in the world around us. A pre-modern way of addressing questions that people had was to simply kill and destroy those who disagreed with you. For instance, in the Old Testament, when there was disagreement over land, women, or kingdoms, there was bloodshed. It was a pre-modern response to the world around them. It was not necessarily deemed right or wrong, it was simply life. Something changed around the time of the “Reformation.” We entered what is commonly dubbed a “period of enlightenment” where humanity began to reason with facts and logic. Instead of responding to issues with an “I’ll Kill you!” mentality, problems were solved with words and reason and logic instead. The age of science began and everything needed to be answered according to fact and statistic. We still regularly live in this world today in the area of business and administration, but something happened during the mid 1980’s and early 90’s. The shift to “postmodernity” is the shift to a rejectionist mindset that ‘fact and reason’ are the things that trump our understanding of the world. It is a rejection of the perceived ability of humanity to completely know and understand facts and truth. In this mindset, we cannot know what it means to be “right” or “wrong” because there is not one authority that can be deemed the ‘one’ to set such things. Often, this comes out when people say things like, “You believe what you believe and that’s good for you and I believe what I believe and that’s good for me.” This is postmodern thinking. There is a lot more that goes along with this, but with a culture that continues to respond to issues and problems this way, we must begin to think in terms of how to respond to this shift of thinking from a Christian worldview.
Enter the Emergent Church. The emergent Church is very different then the “emerging church” (which we will talk about later). The Emergent Church is essentially a denomination started by Tony Jones. It’s a denomination that is reactionary to the Evangelicalism that we find today throughout America. It’s a denomination (or movement as it would prefer to be called) that desires to be more of an open group, not having “in’s or out’s”. You can read more about this movement here if you would like more background. In no way do I recommend the website except to gather information about the Emergent Church.
Emerging Christianity is something that is totally different then the Emergent Church. Scott McKnight treats this well and you can read about Emerging Christianity by clicking here.
After all of the above discussion, the question that we will eventually ask is, “What is the right way to DO church?” And this is where we will spend most of our time on Tuesday night in discussion together.
I look forward to meeting with all of you!