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A Reply

Over on http://russellsmusings.blogspot.com/ Presbyweb linked to a list of 12 important things for the Postmodern church that he was introduced to in his Presbytery.  Here was my reply…

What I don’t see on that list is what I think is the most important: the ability to articulate our faith to a post-Christendom world.  

The majority of PCUSA churches that I have worshipped in are designed for people who are already familiar with a liturgical service to participate in.  Assumptions are made regarding people’s know that a number next to a title denotes picking up one of two books in front of you, that comments in parenthesis saying “debts and debtors” should clue you in as to what to say during a prayer, etc.  We continue to sing hymns written in a beautiful and poetic language, but one that sadly has lost contact with a generation that didn’t grow up with those hymns and words.  In other words, most PCUSA worship services are an insider’s show.  

In the Postmodern world we must admit that worship will have to change.  We may need to do more education about worship as part of worship, and explain what we’re doing in a prayer of adoration and a prayer of confession.  We also may need to find new ways to worship, perhaps even new places to worship.  We may find that elements of participation, especially in a world that is wired for quick response, is of great benefit to many people currently outside the church.  

The second pressing concern, related to the first however, is that we must be willing to rearticulate the truth of the Gospel to a Postmodern world.  Simply put, CS Lewis’ “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” won’t cut it anymore in evangelism.  

In the beginning of his book, Postmodern Youth Ministry, Tony Jones tells a story of a friend of his who he tried to convince of the truth of the Gospel through Lewis’ method.  After an extended discussion Tony said, “But Jesus is Lord for everyone!”  Her response came “Jesus is Lord for everyone for you, but not for me” he realized that times had changed and our modern methods of deductive logic weren’t going to speak to this world anymore.  

This does not mean that we abandon the faith, but we must now find a new way to articulate that faith.  We must find the language to proclaim the historic truth of the Gospel in a new way for a new time, where there’s a new set of rules.  The old claim to “universal objective truth” will not be universally recognized anymore, because many will say “there is no such thing”.  

These are what I see as the keys to transforming the church into the Postmodern era.  

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 30, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    I must be nieve.

    I found myself in a very similar instance not so long ago. I was actually having a very in-depth conversation with a lab mate about christianity (something I’ll admit, that doesn’t happen very often). During the course of the conversation she mentioned to me that she despised C.S. Lewis because there’s no way to “use reason” or absolute objectivity in matters of faith. The assumed, but ommitted rest of the statement would say, “the way you can use them in science.”

    I guess this just struck me as funny because here we are, doing lab work, essentially trying to uncover truths (at least that’s how I look at it) and this labmate essentially said there are no absolute truths outside of the physical. We spend all day working on things that we can’t physically see even with the aid of a powerful microscope, and we assume the forces that govern cellular processes function in a rational and logical way. Otherwise, how could we ever make testable predictions? Can we not then assume that things outside of the physical can be governed by rationality and reason either?

  2. September 30, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    Quick correction — The list of 12 characteristics were not mine but Jill Hudson’s from her book “When Better isn’t Good Enough” — I’m not 100% in agreement with the characteristics — but we’re discussing the book in presbytery, and I thought the blog a good opportunity to generate discussion (which obviously it has)

    Thanks for your post and your thoughtful comments


  3. September 30, 2005 at 9:14 pm

    Sorry Russell, I edited the post to be more accurate.

    Seth, I think you’ve hit on a major issue in theological discussion. Can we have objective knowledge of only God’s works or can we also have objective knowledge of God himself. In my “theooze” post I talk more about this.

    I do think it would be interesting to ask your lab mate how she intends to verify that one cannot use reason or absolute objectivity outside of the physical realm. It sounds very similar to J. Alfred Ayers “Verifiability Principle” which said that unless something could be empirically verified you can’t talk about it. His failing? His own principle could not be verified.

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