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Monday, November 21, 2005

PROPM--Part 1

Pointless Ramblings on PostModernism--Part 1, "Jesus is not a postmodernist."

It seems that everywhere I've turned recently, the issue of Postmodernism is right before me. It's been the focus of some books, lectures and conversations I've had lately. As I've stated here before, I've struggled to understand the entire movement, and thought I'd take the next couple days to hammer out some of my observations. The observations don't mean a whole lot, remember, because I probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Jesus is not a postmodernist.

It seems that much of the pressure lately is to show how the church is truly a postmodern entity. We re-examine texts and determine that passages like Acts 17 truly connect with our postmodern hearts. We then look to messages by Jesus and establish that He as well was a postmodernist.

But Jesus is not a postmodernist. There are values of postmodernism that He shares. There are tennets of postmodernism that He despises. Any effort on our part to prove that Jesus is postmodern typically misses the point of Who Jesus is. Postmodernism, even by its name, is a counter-reaction to the modern movement. Often the rationale seems to be that if I can prove Jesus is not a modernist, then that means He too must be a postmodernist.

Jesus is not a modernist. He isn't whatever philosophy dominated the Dark Ages either. And He isn't even the philosophy of whatever era preceeded the Dark Ages. I don't believe Jesus would have even classified Himself as whatever era fell during 5BCE-35CE.

A closer look at Scripture suggests that the I AM (John 8:58) extends beyond time eras. Therefore, we have to acknowledge that there were teachings in the Dark Ages, the Modern Era and the Post Modern Era with which Jesus would identify and embrace. However, there were/are also teachings that Jesus would call people to abandon.

It seems to me that part of discipleship is calling people beyond a "postmodern/modern/whatever else" mindset. Part of laying my life on the altar is acknowledging that even the way I previously viewed the planet needs to change. That does not mean we don't reach the postmodernist where they are. It just means that we should not see discipleship completed if we leave them there. (And the same applies to modernity.)

I understand that are ways the church has clung to things only because the resonate with modernity. I also understand that some may spot those issues much better than I. However, I think it's important that we keep in mind that our goal is not to turn the church into a postmodern entity either.

My goal should be to let Him define me, not my era.


  • At 5:47 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    I wonder if 1 Corinthians 9 comes into play.

    To the modernist, we become modernists... to win the modernist.

    To the postmodernist, we become postmodernists.. to win the postmodernist.

    This is all about culture and contextualizing the message of Christ.

    Just like missions.

    The problem is, most of the American church has done the following:

    (1) Forgotten to be involved in, understand, or try to reach people in today's culture. (Note: please don't assume I mean "try to look like those nasty sinners in the culture" like many narrowminded Christians would think after reading such a statement.

    (2) Acted like the church is about "us" (the already-convinced) rather than about going and making disciples right here at home. We should be thinking about how to win and grow disciples!

    (3) Acted like America is still in the 1950's and assumed everybody knows they should be in church and know how to find the book of Jonah.

    Why can't Jesus be a postmodernist and a modernist at the same time? Why can't Jesus be American and African at the same time?

    I believe Jesus is...
    - superior to culture.
    - relevant to all cultures.
    - concerned about culture.
    - poorly represented by "Christians" in our culture!

    Finally, whether postmodernism is a reaction to something or not is immaterial. Protestantism was a reaction too. America's zest for "religious freedom" was also a reaction.

    We cannot assume that reactions are wrong and therefore invalid.

    We cannot assume that Jesus himself didn't react to the status quo and try to change it.

    Good thoughts as always, Danny.

    The trick is - "How do I become all things to all men?" - especially in your current context?

    The more we can understand and interact openly with postmodern thought, the sharper we'll be in making disciples in today's world.

  • At 9:12 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i suppose we could bring I Cor 9 into this discussion. However, I would suggest that when Paul says, "to those under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law..." (v 20) that Paul is saying he approached the Jew with deep respect for the Law knowing that ignoring the Law would isolate his audience. However, he again states that he himself is not under the Law, and I believe he clearly taught that to converted Jews (Ephesians and Romans). Therefore, he reached them as they were, but he did not leave them with their current understanding of the Law. He called them beyond it.

    I think it's more accurate to say that Jesus is neither a modernist nor a postmodernist than to say He is both. Rather than saying Jesus is a little bit modernist with a sprinkling of postmodernity and a smidgen of Dark Ages, it's probably more accurate to say that each of those eras have elements of truth in them. However, each of those eras espouse some things that are not truth either...and Jesus can have nothing to do with falsehood.

    I didn't say that because postmodernism is a reaction to modernism it is wrong. I don't believe that reactions, by definition, are wrong. But I don't think you ignore the origin of something either. Postmodernism is unique in that it's start is due more to frustration with the modern era than to any outside influence (invention, government, great thinker).

    However, I do think one reason that being aware of its reactionary nature is helpful is checking personal motive. It seems that since it is a reaction to modernism, some make the mistake of thinking that postmodernism is the antithesis of modernism in everyway. The two eras do have some things in common, and those shouldn't be ignored. Rather, they should be enlightened so the modernist and postmodernist can see where they agree.

  • At 2:24 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Actually, I agree with much of your statement, Danny.

    Just food for thought. You concluded one paragraph by saying "Jesus can have nothing to do with falsehood."

    Could you explain that?

    Cause I think Jesus is very interested in using "falsehood" as an opportunity to point out or "incarnate" the actual truth.

    Acts 17 - Paul observes "false" gods, and uses these observations as an avenue of describing the "true" God in terms the hearers will understand.

    I think this is, again, a matter of putting the truth forward clearly in a given context.

    Postmodernism is merely a "context" for the truth to be told.

    Modernism was merely a "context" for the truth to be told.

    The "Dark Ages" were merely a "context" for the truth to be told.

    Am I being too simplistic here?

  • At 3:34 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    simple really.

    Jesus can acknowledge falsehood. He can use it as a springboard. "You have heard it said..."

    But He can not teach falsehood as if it were true, or speak of it as if it were truth. He must correct false teaching with truth.

    Therefore, He can not attach Himself completely to any "ism" if the "ism" has elements of falsehood.


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