Church and Scholarship

Finding our Way Through Post-Modernity

Post-modernity, as a title for our era, describes the breakup of our foundations.  Not everyone likes the word “Post-Modernity” or thinks it is helpful. It does its good work, though, to help us understand why things like gender roles, religion, claims to know the truth, approaches to relationships, and even things like Christmas are no longer solid or easily defined.

Western Civilization in modernity, 1500s-mid 1900s, claimed that it was progressing towards more a solid understanding of reality, life, and God. People in modernity, especially scientists and politicians, grew more and more confident in human technology and told their stories professionally to bolster their agendas.  Religiously, in modernity, humans grew more and more confident in their views of life devoid of God and less and less confident in religion as a helpful contribution to society.

Post-Modernity reacted, seeing through these stories of progress and advancement as power plays and abuse of privilege.  All stories had spin, and all spin agenda.  Rather than tempering that spin, post-modernity both embraced and rejected it all at once.  As a culture, we now embrace our own spin and reject everybody else’s story.  And we no longer trust authority.

Inasmuch as post-modernity toppled narratives of objective human advancement, people of faith should rejoice.  The idol of human reason has fallen.  Inasmuch as postmodernity has over-reacted and suggested that we have no access to truth, people of faith should be wary.  Between these two movements, there is a passageway along which the people of God in the West sojourn.

  • We embrace our subjective perspectives but believe that God still speaks and pierces our inner perspectives. We have tempered access to reality. Scripture still carries authority but differently than moderns confidently claimed.
  • We look to the ancient stories for enduring human knowledge and find our way by the compass of Jesus’s vision of selfless love. This is the way that Christians must pass through post-modernity.
  • Even though we still tell the old stories, we don’t trust in our stories to convince; we give our hope to the power of self-less love.
  • We recognise that humans are created, not ongoingly creating themselves.
  • We cannot give ourselves to black-and-white thinking.  We recognize that all generations must cope with uncomfortable movements of God, all generations must wrestle with false prophets, and all generations must discern the treasure in that which is old.
  • When the foundations seem to crumble, we remember that the LORD is in his holy temple and we in this world are still on the stage of the divine drama—i.e. he is not authority incarnate but love incarnate, which makes him our king.

The horizon on the other side of post-modernity is something like love.  Not good will or passivity. But hard-won sinless self-giving.  We are in the middle of an exodus and a baptism, on our way to what must be a wilderness-paved oasis. And we hope that on the other side of this double-walled passageway, we will find solid ground once again.  Until then we cannot turn back to Egypt and over-inflated human pride. This permeates everything we must today do.

As a people though we must move on.  That is the promise of what will come after modernity, an era that will be defined by what it is rather than what it is not.  And we pray that God’s people have a hand in constructing that age with the lessons of the former hard won.

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