Welcome Back to the First Century

This is a follow-up blog to the previous one on the DaVinci Code. If you read any of the posted comments you noticed a mention of post-modernism. This may or may not mean anything to you, but it is the term coined in an attempt to identify our current cultural mind set.

I do not know a textbook definition of post-modernism, but I do recognize it when I see it. It is a skepticism that questions basically everything and views truth as a subjective choice rather than any kind of moral absolute. “Is” (if you recall the words of our former president) can have another meaning and the truth about God can just as easily be found in a book about a code as in a book called the Bible. In fact it is not necessarily a truth that brings fulfillment, it is the search for that truth and it is the knowledge acquired along the way that elevates- hence the shades of gnosticism that many have noticed.

At first glance post-modernism may see to be truly a horrific evil. Anything that questions the validity of Scripture cannot seem to be a good thing. But in reality there is an element of post-modern thinking that can be good- not only is the truth taught by Scripture challenged, but so too is the “truth” of Darwinism or the “truth” of other sciences and philosophy. Nothing is sacred, but nothing is necessarily dismissed either and in this environment the Christian message can make major inroads.

But don’t take my word for it- there is a precedent- back in the first century. The more I learn about first century culture the more I am convinced that 21st century culture mirrors it in numerous ways. The societal climate of the first century was multi-cultural, poly-theistic and- can I say it- post-modern. Go back to Mar’s Hill and Paul’s exchange with the Greek philosophers. There were a plurality of “truths” represented on that hill yet Paul had some success with his presentation of the gospel. They didn’t enthusiastically embrace it, but they didn’t totally discount it either. They were open to discussing it further. I see the same opportunities now.

We have to be wise however. “Churchy” talk usually doesn’t connect to post-moderns. We have to educate ourselves to speak in their language- like Paul did on Mar’s Hill. This takes us back full circle. Maybe we do need to read the DaVinci Code. Paul was well versed in the philosophers of his time.

Post-modernism is here to stay- for a while anyway- but instead of despairing let’s take God’s truth through the door it is opening and see what happens. I believe God’s Word is up to the challenge.

I would greatly enjoy your thoughts on this topic.

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14 Responses to Welcome Back to the First Century

  1. JD says:

    I was saving this for a post on my blog some day, but I’ll tell the explosive truth on your blog!

    I believe Post-modernism is a myth. It is a grid placed upon our culture by think-tank theologians that is designed to talk about the same old issues using new terminology that can only be understood by purchasing their books. The media and booksellers have gone along with it because there is money to be made. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon because it sounds new and fresh.

    You mean people TODAY think there is no absolute truth? I wonder if when Cain killed Abel he believed in situation ethics?

    You mean people TODAY are skeptical of traditional Christianity? Anyone read Colossians lately?

    Anyhoo… I think if we really look at post-modernism we will see that it is not post nor modernism, it is simply a new way to talk about old things with a new vocabulary that requires the purchase of new books to understand. I think I’ll write a book about it.

  2. Gary W. Kirkendall says:

    I agree with John. Post modern thougth is little more than self-serving pride, i.e. Eden, Babylon, Samson, Pilate, and soon. For a contemporary view, follow the stripper who is trying to cash in on the Duke lacross team mess. There is no perspective for truth seperate from God — that’s why a book from the fiction rack (DaVinci Code) can become close enough to pass for truth for so many. Hang onboys, the next 20-30 years are going to be quite a ride!

  3. Gary W. Kirkendall says:

    “soon” should be “so on” — sorry

  4. CFOURMAY says:

    JD, I agree with you. Post Modernism (is there an absolute truth?) has always been a topic just in different words. Gary had some good biblical examples. Theologians are just applying an old principle to current cultural issues that have always been around. Different religions, different culturally excepted issues that are really no different than biblical times is what the discussion seems to be about. And Danny, I guess JD is saying if you want a textbook definition buy the book. No doubt the question of absolute truth is here, but it has always been here. YOU WANT THE TRUTH, YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! I also tend to agree with Danny, since people don’t follow the scientific method like has been done in the past there are lots of people who have an open mind about things that can’t always be explained by science.

  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    My goodness. There are four in a row here who say that PM is a myth. I have a hard time disagreeing with JD about anything but I find myself doing so.

    I do not think PM is limited to the situation ethics of Joseph Fletcher (which some would argue would be an early harbinger of PM). It is not limited to pagan tolerance (though not all pagans are tolerant . . . cf. Hinduism).

    But there is something different about the contemporary situation. Yes it does have echoes of the ancient world (i.e. PRE-modern). It seems to me that the worldview that was constructed out of the Enlightenment that dominated the 19th and 20th centuries is dead. That was world deluded with self confidence, humanism and the like. These do not seem to be the halmarks of the present age.

    Fifty years ago they would as a scientist but today they will consult a medium.

    Thirty-Seven years ago, when I was born, Spock was in quest of pure “rationality” as the answer to univeral problems. But as the ST movies came Spock began to evolve until we have Spock’s brother who has rejected logic for pure emotion (and wants to feel “god’s” pain). Data is the direct opposite of Spock. He is a logical machine who wants to simply be “human.”

    There has been a shift. What we call it I do not know. I am grateful for the shift in many ways. It is not difficult for me on Thursdays when I go to Starbucks to have a deeply spiritual conversation. People are interested in The Gospel of Judas, the Da Vinci Code, meditation and the like. This is certainly a new thing for the “modern” world.

    I do believe we have someting to give the world. It is not inferences, syllogisms, arguments about the geography of nowhere (i.e. hermeneutics of silence). We have the “personal” touch of Jesus that has been neutered by the “modern” and “scientific” worldview. This is what we have to give to folks.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  6. Danny says:

    Well, I find myself agreeing with parts of what all of you posted.

    Maybe PM has been made into a bigger deal and exploited by some for personal and profit reasons.

    We all know and agree that it is not new- the point of my blog.

    But the shift Bobby mentioned has taken place. Call it what you want- modern to post-modern or something else but the idea of the “come let us reason together” message of the CoC in earlier generations which actually resonated culturally now no longer does. We do have to connect on a deeper, more spiritually driven level.

    And for me I think we should be excited about that. Talk about opportunities! The church grew rapidly in such a culture once- why can’t it again?

  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    I am going to sound negative here, even though that is not my intent.

    The church we read about in the NT, and post NT, certainly did explode upon the scene (but even in Constantine’s day only about 6 to 8 percent of the Empire was “christian”).

    There is a big difference, however, in the church of the NT and what we see in contemporary CofCs . . . and I believe this difference directly relates to the tension that fills our brotherhood today. That difference is that “we” are a “modern church” in a culture that is no longer “modern.” The early church would never had a discussion about the following matters:

    1) Spirit can work ONLY through the word. Indeed this position can ONLY arise in light of Lockean epistemology. The early church would ask “can the word work seperate and apart from the Spirit?” That is their question.

    Off of this one issue spins a plethora of other issues related to spirituality. Most (in MY experience) in CofCs have tended to ‘institutionalize’ their walk with God (he/she is a “member of the church”) Again this is a purely modern stance. But PMs (in and out of CofCs) have a negative view of “institutions” but a craving for “relationships” and “spirituality.” In our modern church we have told folks how to identify the “real” church with some “mark” but never told them how to connect with Jesus. And to connect to Jesus has a direct connection to what we say about the Holy Spirit.

    2) the early church would never have had a discussion about (much less a schism) over instruments. The early church was thoroughly Jewish. It gathered in the Temple where the Hallel Psalms were sung and PLAYED everyday. The apostle Paul certainly had no problem with offering an animal sacrifice for his Nazarite vow.

    3) the early church would have no idea what we would mean by “soul winning.” This is a modern caving in to the Enlightenment’s split of humanity into the “real world” and the “spiritual world.” Biblically God is about saving the WORLD (created reality) not just some mystical “spiritaul” side of people.

    I could go and this would be a major blog. But I remain convinced that the massive cultural shift (that is as significant as going from the Medieval period to the birth of modern Europe) is (whatever we call it and whatever its antecedants) is rocking our church. It is rocking our church because our church has a modern soul.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine
    http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/

  8. CFOURMAY says:

    Bobby, that was a bit over my head. I am suprised to hear you say that the early church would have never had a discussion over instruments. I am not a believer or disbeliever in instrumental use. I will probably never attend a service regularly that uses instruments because I like to hear people sing better. Instruments usually drown out the singing or people just don’t sing. Plus I don’t play an instrument. But I was just wondering why you think it would be no big deal in the first century, or are you trying to say that they would have used instruments if it was ok because they were so used to them being in the temple where they worshiped?

  9. DJG says:

    There is a shift and to the extent that modernity means an embracing of tradition as “law” I am grateful for the post-modern era. I see (and have been) people who cannot let go of the only way they know to “do” church. But this is not the way to reach the 90% of folks not raised that way. It boggles my mind that we can change everything we do from the way we pay for gas to the way we communicate, but we get up in arms when people want to change the way we “do church” from some 1950’s mold, that ain’t working!

    I don’t believe we need new terminology we don’t need to be post-modern or emergent, however it is critical that we become relevant. I think that is what the church has become in JD’s town and I pray that is what we continue to be.

    **sorry, you hit a nerve today**

  10. Danny says:

    Donna, your nerve should be “hit” more often. 🙂 Thanks for those comments- right on sister!

  11. JD says:

    I am cracking up … danny, are you ready to shrink back into non-blogdom? Danny wants the church to hit a more spiritual nerve, but he is impassive about worship styles that have everything to do with what connects. IM is being discussed on DANNY’S BLOG…bahahahaha… sorry friend… this is rich.

    Maybe there is a shift … the Baby boomers grew up and took over church and don’t know what to do with it.

    Love and laughter,
    john

  12. Danny says:

    That is where you are wrong JD ole boy. I am not at all impassive about worship styles. I do believe that some over emphasize their preference for certain worship styles to the point of distraction.

    The key for me to worship is not the kind of songs we sing or if one or a group leads- it is the heart. If our heart focus it what it should be we will invest it completely regardless of the worship style.

    Sure some songs and styles help me connect better but if I allow those preferences to prevent me from worshipping when those songs aren’t being led or the atmosphere is not just as I like it- then my focus is on me, not God. And I deny my fellow worshippers the gift of my worship.

    But as for as passion- I want it directed to God, not to the worship style or song selection.

  13. JD says:

    Which is another way of saying… let’s keep doing it the way we’re doing it, only this time you should mean it?

    Heart is what it is all about, no doubt about it. But isn’t our discussion circulating around how to touch the hearts of the contemporary culture? Isn’t that an age-old discussion?

    I keep hearing that RELATIONSHIPS are what are important. I agree. What do we do ‘down at church’ to embellish relationships? If my vision is right, about 70% of the church can’t wait to get out of there, 20% are best friends and would hang out anywhere, and the remaining 10% are waiting in line to tell the preacher he shines or sucks.

  14. rurscmhcea says:

    I agree here I think another reason we loose young families is we push them right out the door. If My husband and I were not commited we would have stopped going along time ago. about 2-3 years ago when we were less than thirty but were told we did not belong with the young adults because we had too many kids. We find ourselves now with more NON-Christian friends than Christian friends which is an opportunity to be an influence and bring them to christ but it is also very hard not to be influenced by them because we are in the minority of things and how do I bring them in to a situation where they might be shunned as well and thus be turned off all together its a fine line aned one that affects my children wanting to go, which makes me sad to here them say they don’t want to go.

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