Postmodernism and the Image of God

postmodern identity is not given to an individual by God or nature or tradition—in postmodernism, we create ourselves—through consumption.  Often the consumption of images.  The identity made up of images is fragile, and so it is in constant need of reinforcement.  Consequently, it is easily influenced by entertainment and advertisements, and social media. And because of this, identities can be in continuous flux.

Young people spend a lot of time on their phones,  They might be desperately trying to create and curate their very identity and the meaning of their life.

 Yikes.  I wish they were just wasting time. 

Postmodernism 2: The Flattening of Reality and Ourselves

One of the characteristics of Cultural Postmodernism is “depthlessness.” We experience the world through our phones as flat images. We plunder the past and other cultures for images to empty and then use to curate our identities. What happens to the self in this context? The Bible describes human beings as images too, but it means something very different.

A New Apologetics

 

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

Christian apologetics has its justification in this verse from 1 Peter.  Be prepared to make a defense of your faith.    How one defends the faith has changed from the early centuries of the church.  In the last few hundred years, with its appeals to reason, Christian apologetics has been distinctly Modern.  But, it seems the times are changing again.  Apologetics as we know it will be changing.  Interestingly, it may be changing toward something similar to an ancient apologetic.

Modern apologetics developed in the context of Modernism, a worldview that came to full flowering in the latter half of the 19th century.  If you need a refresher on the basic ideas of Modernism, here is a short video.

In this battle of ideas, Christians used the weapons of Modernism against it.  We used appeals to autonomous, objective, supposedly neutral, Reason.  But it wasn’t just using Modern weapons against Modernism.  The Church itself was greatly influenced by Modernism.  We came to accept the primacy of Reason as the arbiter of Truth–we sometimes lost sight of the fact that human reason is fallen, like every other good thing that God has made.

So now we find ourselves in the transition from Modern society to a postmodern one.  Christian apologetics will need to change as well.   But, it seems to me, on the popular level, it still leans into a more Modern flavour of apologetics.  Logical, historical, scientific evidence is offered to argue the existence of God, the reliability of the Gospels and the historical Resurrection of Jesus.  The problem is that the old Modern approach is becoming less and less convincing to a growing segment of our culture.  The one that doesn’t put too much stock into any truth claims, let alone those of religion.  Because we are in this transition to a more postmodern society, we have now an opportunity for Christian apologetics to recover a more ancient apologetic–one that will resonate more with our culture.

So what is the difference between the Modern and the postmodern approaches to apologetics?

The truth of the Resurrection is central to the Faith.  The modern apologist will defend by demonstrating that the Biblical account of the resurrection is historical using the accepted rational principles for investigating historical events.  It will point to the four gospels which include eyewitness testimonies of the resurrected Christ.  It will point to the works of pagan and Jewish writers who confirm that the early Christians believed that Jesus has risen from the dead.  They will point to the martyrs who willingly died rather than deny they had seen the risen Lord.  They will point to the empty grave and the behaviour of the Jewish authorities who would have been very eager to produce the body.  The explosive growth of believers in Jerusalem is another piece of historical evidence, as is that Jesus predicted his death and resurrection in advance.  I recently heard a very interesting sermon on the arrangement of the grave clothes in the empty tomb that were evidence not only of the Resurrections, but of the characteristics of the resurrected body.  It was a great sermon.  Using these, and other rational arguments, the modern apologist will demonstrate the truth of the Biblical account of the resurrection.

What apologetic approach will resonate with a postmodern audience?

Stories, habits, routines, patterns of living will speak more loudly to a postmodern audience than argument.

Integrity is key.  We tell the same story that we live.  Then shape of our lives will be the new apologetic.

And I am not talking about individuals here.  This is about communities–Christian communities that are conformed to Christ by his Spirit This is the new apologetic.

We are talking about the Church here.  It is The body of Christ.  The Church, then, is the foundation of our apologetic.

The new apologetic is the Christian life.  Being sanctified through living in community.  Our sanctification will be seen in how we live, day to day; it will show the fruit of our core commitments to the life into which Jesus calls us.

 

* * *

Postmodernism is a challenge to the idols of Modernism.  It sometimes feels like it is the new enemy of the faith, but it’s often just the enemy of the modern ideas that have been syncretized into our Christian expression.  In some very important ways, postmodernism is a means by which we can reconnect with an ancient apologetic.

The Modern worldview is still out there, and it is still appropriate to engage this view with rational arguments, understanding that reason is not neutral, nor objective.  But our culture is in transition.  Who knows where it will end up, but in the meantime, we are going to be encountering postmodernism as well.

So we will need to have two apologetics.

Zombie Jesus Day

In recent years, some have taken to calling Easter, Zombie Jesus Day. That’s not cool. But what is cool is that the zombie horde is a picture or the resurrection if materialism is correct.

The ubiquitous zombie monster is questioning, by its very presence and form, some of our culture’s foundational assumptions.

The Apostle Paul faced a similar problem in his day–many Greeks also had an inaccurate anthropology. They too saw a zombie when Christians told of a bodily resurrection. His challenge to that culture if just as fitting for ours.

Happy Easter!

A Textbook Talks Religion, and Fails

Textbooks are supposed to be neutral when it comes to religion.

What textbook authors fail to realize is that this is impossible. We all start with beliefs and assumptions that are unprovable. In this video, I have a conversation with a textbook, The words of the textbook are taken verbatim from the introductory section called “Religion and Civilization (xii).

My essential critique is that the textbook presents a very Modern view of religion. This is not a religiously neutral position from which to understand religion, because it takes its foundational and unprovable beliefs and sets these up as the way by which we will understand all other beliefs.

Are We Worshiping the Idols of Modernism?

Why do we fight about Creation? Why do we avoid secular music? Why do we hesitate to talk about Jesus at work? Why is Jesus passive in Communion?

It’s often because we are heavily influenced by the Modern worldview.   So much so that we see reality from, not only a Christian perspective, but a Modern one as well.

Modernism might be in our church!

Modernism has gotten into the Western Church and has shaped how we think about God, how we read the Bible and how we worship. It’s a big deal and we need to understand it.

 

Willful Destruction of Poetry!

I was teaching away and as often happens, I needed to quickly pull up something on the computer to make a point, or give an example of something for the edification of my students.  I needed to project Robert Frost’s “Nature’s First Green is Gold.”  I just typed the first few words into to search bar and hit enter.

I immediately notices the images that the search brought up.

I couldn’t believe what I saw!

Compare that travesty to this:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
                                                                     Robert Frost

When he wrote it, Robert Frost composed a poem.  He didn’t write a paragraph.  And if he were to write a paragraph, you can be sure he wouldn’t have justified, both right and left.

You don’t get poetry?

Well, this re-presenting of Frost’s original, is analogous to any of the following: (you choose)

  • Putting the front of a Volkswagon Bug on a Rolls-Royce
  • Mixing a can on Sprite with a glass  of Espetacle del Montsant 2017 because it’s not sweet enough
  • Ordering Lobster with a side of Kraft Dinner
  • Listening to your Aunt Edna doing Kareoke–Bonnie Tyler’s “Turn Around” (with your High School PE teacher doing the second voice)
  • Adding a cheesy chorus to Amazing Grace–with a mixed metaphor to boot

Suffice it to say that everything in a poem contributes to its meaning.   In this violent restructuring of the poem, the rhyme is lost.  The correspondence of the alliteration in lines 2 and lines 7 is lost, as is the correlation between “Nature” and “Nothing”–the first words of the first and last lines.  Not to mention the first words of each line (“Nature’s . . . Her . . . Her . . . But . . . So . . . Then . . . So . . . So . . . Nothing”).

And what’s the deal with the background picture?  Grand mountainous cliffs that have grass on them!?  That might be a poem, but it ain’t this poem!  Sure it’s green.  Big deal.  It’s the green of the second leaf in line 5.  This poem is about the “first green,” a green so fleeting it needed a profound poem to hint at its beauty and significance and value and fragility.  You can’t capture that by slapping a green mountain on the background.  If a picture was possible, Frost wouldn’t have needed to write the poem!

As Bugs Bunny would say: “What a maroon.”

And you shouldn’t do this to Bible verses either!

Worldview and the Idols We Worship: Dumb as the Ancient Israelites

Christians want to have a Christian worldview, but we are actually just like the ancient Israelites–we worship idols. No matter how much we want to live a life around what the Bible teaches, we fall into idolatry. We get our idols from our culture, and we also make up our own idols for worship in the Church.

Our worldviews can often be hiding idolatries, which are hiding in our closets with our cheap shirts and even in the soup over at grandma’s house. It’s a good thing we are saved by Grace, because we’d never make it otherwise.

« Older posts

© 2021

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑