Monday, February 05, 2007

Deconstructing Postmodern Discipleship - Characteristics Part 1

Characteristics of Postmodernism
The Loss of a Cultural Metanarrative

For the purpose of this series I will identify three main characteristics of postmodernity, which have the greatest impact on the church's attempt to evangelize and disciple younger generations. I, in no way, calim that this is a perfect or definitive list of postmodernism's traits. It does, however, offer a glimpse in a summary fashion at basic realities that each church must face, understand, and traverse in order to establish an ongoing evangelistic conversation with the youth of our society. The first is found below. I will offer the next two over the coming days.

Loss of a Cultural Metanarrative
A metanarrative is an all-encompassing account or story of the historical record on which personal experience and belief is and can be built in order to explain the surrounding world, society, and individual culture. Essentially it is the foundational truth on which you construct your personal worldview. History is generally divided into three distinct periods each of which maintains its particular metanarrative.
The Classical, or Pre-modern period featured an inherently God-centered metanarrative. The world was explained, understood, and defined through the church. Most know of the dangers of ecclesiastical/papal rule. Anyway, the world and humanity was seen as innately sinful and in need of redemption from sin.
The Enlightenment, or Modern period found its apex in Rene Descartes' cogito ergo sum. We know this phrase as, I think, therefore I am. The full phrase actually goes, I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. And they call postmoderns skeptics. The prevailing rationalism of the day held that mankind would progress to a euphoric utopia through the exercise of his own ability to think and reason. Society would experience continual progress in moral, social, and ethical norms. Well, the world did progress. The advances that make our current world possible find their genesis in this time. As I alluded in a previous post in this series, postmillenial thought ruled the day as the world witnessed the power inherent in the human mind. What many failed to remember is summed up aptly by Martin Luther, Reason is the Devil's greatest whore. Something got in the way of this progression to utopia. We now call it World War 1. If that wasn't enough to nail shut the coffin of humanistic optimism the world decided one massive war wasn't enough so it launched into World War 2, which accounts for some the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen or experienced. Needless to say, doubt crept into society's ability to rationally bring about utopia. Some subcultural movements housed within this period are Marxism, Captialism, Freudian Psychology, Communism and Socialism.
The current period, Postmodernism, finds its metanarrative in not having a metanarrative. I would dare say that the root of this reailty is found in modernity's inability to secure its own true metanarrative. What happenned when man put all his faith in his own thinking ability is that a multitude of ideas and -isms developed. The chaotic result led the youth of the current generation to reject the need for a metanarrative at all. It isn't a full scale rejection, but a general skepticism towards blind acceptance of an overarching explanation for the way things are. To be frank, the postmodern generations have watched the reality of the prime of modernistic thought bring forth selfishness, foolishness, moral relativity, Watergate, Whitewater, Monicagate, Vietnam, Irag, Enron, Worldcom, world poverty, AIDS crisis, and so much more. Postmoderns look at all narratives as holding equal weight. This is not totally true. Basically, the postmodern is willing to entertain the veracity of Hinduism just as easily as Christianity, but will make an individual choice that could be one or the other, or even some of both! The postmodern has seen what the modern did to the world and society, and has little interest in conintuing down that path. Unfortunately, they don't tend to find a path very easily. The influx of scandal to the church, a la Haggard; Swaggert; Baker; and more, coupled with the reality that church people have taken a do as I say, not as I do mentality had driven much of the young postmodern generations out of the church building to parachurch, pseudo church, and other ministries. Barna has done plenty of work on this. Read about it here.
Their loyalty is closely guarded and not easily won. They haven't rejected God, but have walked away from the god often preached in today's churches. Today's church, in its quest to reach postmoderns, must help them identify with and personalize a Christian biblical worldview. It is imperative that the church recognize the postmodern's need to search out truth on his own and to take an attitude of guiding, or leading, that person to faith in Christ. This is most often done, not through a sermon on Sunday morning, but by that sermon being lived out through faith during the rest of the week. If you, or your congregation is uninterested in living your faith out loud Monday through Saturday don't bother opening on Sunday. We must seek to help them take ownership and apply their loyalty to accomplilshing God's purposes in and through the local church while making a significant impact in other people's lives and the surrounding community.

Previous Posts:


The Evangelism Shift

The Disillusionment


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