Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Musing


I have struggled as to what to write this week. I am tired…it has been an emotionally charged week and I almost didn’t post, but I knew that I had to. I wanted to post about the future of denominational lead educational institutions, but that will be later. How about the consumer church mindset? No, that will just get me angry right now and I will piss off others when I use the term “dead weight.” Maybe, the communion experience we had this last Sunday? Nope, too personal. What about this whole “emergent church” bandwagon discussion? It was Rob Bell who said that "If you use the word postmodern… you aren’t." enough said on that topic.
Today is a time reflecting…I have read a number of blogs and have followed a number of threads in various email-groups and what I find is a huge “anti-church’ sentiment which I totally understand BUT…there is also this deep pessimism amongst church leaders in their current situation. So I want to ask a few questions…

What Do I Believe About the Church?
1. Do I really believe that people need the Church as a corporate body that gathers throughout the week? What is the purpose of the church? If the church is not something worthwhile that God pours his blessing into, and works through, then why even be a part of it?

2. Do I and others just play Church?
Personally, the answer to that question is that I do not have time to play church…life is just too short. But why do people and some leaders play church? Why do people play mind games (spiritual mind games), why go through the motions and see little to no change in personal lifestyle and attitude? Why not just walk away and play another game?

3. Do I really believe that God is working and that I am a part of it?In the “christian culture” it appears that many self professed believers are aloof, non committal, angry, hurt, filled with gossip, back biting, and are just plain ignorant of the needs of a world other than one’s own. (Do I sound a Tad Judgmental or and I just stating the obvious?)

So what do I believe about the church……simply put…GOD IS working and in some strange twisted way, I find myself a part of it…and in the words of Saint Garth and Saint Wayne… “we’re not worthy.”

11 comments:

Mark B. said...

Ah, good that you mention postmodernism. I say this, not because I have anything intelligent to say about it, but rather I have a question. When people who write books (some of which are on the sidebar saying: "Purchase ME!!") that talk about postmodernism, what the heck do they mean?!

I don't ask this because I've never had anyone try to explain it (I had a friend who's a pastor in Toronto try to explain it just last weekend); my problem is simply that I don't understand the concept.

Thanks, if anyone can be more illuminating than all the people in the past.

SoulPastor said...

Mark B
Postmodernism is a difficult term to define. It has become a buzz word in Christian circles, and often used to describe things that are anything but postmodern. At this point, it is important to articulate a pseudo-functional definition of postmodernism. The problem is that defining postmodernism is a very unpostmodern thing to do. Postmodernism is defined as “an intellectual mood and an array of cultural expressions that call into question the ideals, principles and values that lay at the heart of the modern mindset.” (Stanley J. Grenz. A Primer on Postmodernism)
Time will tell how the full effects of postmodernity will impact the culture in the long term, but its reality and rising influence cannot be denied. The church cannot ignore the effect of postmodernity on our culture; rather, it must acknowledge and engage it. The church in North America is entering a critical point. The established church can attempt to ignore this current change and go on with a methodology that is no longer effective in reaching people, or the church can with great excitement and passion rethink what they are doing and how they are doing it, and begin to enter a new missional adventure.
The term “postmodern” was first used in the 1930s as a reaction against modernism by historical writers. In order to understand what the Postmodern Period is, one must look back at history and examine the world-view prior to today. My question is do you want a history lesson?

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Sounds like you may have your next post brewing here in the comment section...

Peace,
Jamie

Mark B. said...

Gerry,as always, I have a response. First, let me make a few points.

(1) By saying: "I don't understand the concept" I wasn't necessarily asking for a formal definition. There are, of course, a number of ways to elucidate a concept. I have to admit that the "formal" definition that you gave was not helpful. I understand the words used in the sentence, but I don't understand the sentence. This is probably because I am not entirely clear how I am supposed to understand some of the non-literal language.

(2) I think I do understand a good deal of the history. I took a class on Modernism that examined modernism from both a religious and historical perspective. I think the best way to understand modernism is as a period of vastly increased social interaction. This period plausibly began around the time of (but, not because of)the reformation. This was the time that there was a vast increase in urbanization as well as the professionalization of a number "jobs" that were previously carried out by most people individually. If the term 'postmodernism' is at all to be taken as indicating the meaning of the term, then postmodernism should have something to do with modernism.

I also understand that one of the first places that the term was used was in architectural circles; primarily as a descriptive term used for the new form of architectural design that was becoming prevalent in the 1920's and 30's. I'm not suggesting that the term, as used today, has anything to do with architecture; instead, I mention this as a historical point.

(3) I am well aware of the "buzzword" status of 'postmodernism', this is the primary reason that I asked the question in the first place.

End points

Comments: Given that most people who use this term don't understand the history, I am doubtful that one must understand the history in order to understand the concept. Also, given that I doubt any "formal" definitions will be very helpful, let me make a suggestion.

Suggestion: I know the grammatical roles that the term 'postmodern' and its cognates play. Given this, I know how to use the term sensibly in a sentence. Why don't we try to look at some sentences using the term in various ways and then you can appropriately paraphrase the sentences so that they don't use the term. I think that this will help me understand the concept. Here are some sentences:

(a) She has a very postmodern attitude about going to church.

(b) His is a paradigm example of the postmodern youth.

(c) Understanding postmodernity is essential to understanding society today.

(d) He interacted with his elders postmodernly.

[I am aware that these sentences are multiply ambiguous. I suggest that we just pick one disambiguation and have your paraphrase match that disambiguation.]

Grey Owl said...

Soul Pastor,

Good post. For some odd reason I have Queen playing in my head...

I've been asking myself several times lately what my relationship is/ought to be with the church. I know I fit into many categories that I despise when it comes to my christianity, and I felt challenged by your post.

Cheers.

Mark B. said...

Okay, I found an attempt at a definition of "postmodernism." How would the people who write the books we were talking about the following:

Postmodernism is a generalized skepticism about truth, meaning, and knowledge.

Good? Bad? If bad, then why?

SoulPastor said...

Mark B

If you are happy with the definition of pomo, then so am I...and if you are not, either am I.

How is that? But seriously...does the definition really matter in a forum like this? Ultimately the answer is YES...BUT we could argue/discuss/define all week, the fact that really matters is that people must attempt to understand the culture in which they live and attempt to work within and through it.

We must recognize that every culture is different. This week, I had a great conversation with the choir director from Vintage Faith church in California...I asked her many questions of who, how and why
for the choir at VFC...the fact of the matter is that they have a choir and it works for them, I am not sure that if our church did the choir thing the same way that VFC does would work for us... but it is a cultural difference.

I am of the opinion that definitions and trends and 'stuff' are changing and redefining themselves so fast that it sometimes becomes pointless to label...rather I would just acknowledge that things are different and we need to respond to the needs around us.

Mark B, look at the culture where you live and how different is it from Winnipeg culture? How much more different is it from the culture of southwest Winnipeg? I am sure that there would be many simularities, but even those are uniquely expressed in every locale...

To me, the term postmodern is a worldview, held by any particular age group, that is represented by an intellectual mood and an array of cultural expressions that calls into question the ideals, principles and values that lay at the heart of the modern mindset.

Now the term worldview(according to James Sire)is a set of presuppositions or assumptions (which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make up of our world.
And all this works for me...today.


Be Blessed

Mark B. said...

Gerry,

When I wrote my first comment in this thread, I said that I didn't understand what people meant when they say Postmodern (or any of its cognates). I asked what the word means. One way of communicating this to me is by a definition. Another way, as I mentioned above, is to use the word in a number of sentences and maybe I can gleen something from its use. There are other ways, but the basic idea is that I was asking for you (or anyone else) to try and communicate what users of this term are referring to when they use it.

I understand that what people are trying to understand their culture. A number of people think that they have understood some part of a culture and they write a book trying to explicate this understanding. One of the things that they say is: "Our postmodern culture has..." I don't understand these sentences precidely because I don't understand 'postmodern'. I am interested in the insights that some of these people have, but if I don't understand the words in their sentences, then I can't understand their insights. ('Postmodern' is not one of those terms that can be skipped over easily.)

With that said Gerry, you make a statement that starts to explicate the term near the end of your post. You say that postmodernism is a worldview. I understand 'worldview'. You say that this worldview "is represented by an intellectual mood and an array of cultural expressions that call into question the ideals, principles and values that lay at the heart of the modern mindset." Help me understand the content of a few of these concepts.

1-intellectual mood (What are the relevant characteristics of this mood?)
2-ideals, principles and values that lay at the heart of the modern mindset (I don't want to argue about what the actual ideals, principles, and values lay at the heart of the modern mindset. Instead, I want to know what ones you say are at the heart. The reason is that I can take any collection of values and plug them into the "definition" of 'postmodern' and get some concept. If I take what you think is at the heart of the modern mindset, then I'll get the concept that you have in mind when you talk about "postmodernism.")

SoulPastor said...

Mark B

We are living in a rapidly changing period of history. Today’s society is changing so fast (read Carpe Manana by Leonard Sweet for Stats) that many churches are struggling to reach out effectively with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the up and coming generations.

Church leaders acknowledge that cultural changes are occurring and many leaders are attempting to pinpoint the problem. The major problem in many churches is that people are not coming or responding any more…like they used to.

Throughout history philosophers and sociologists have been able to identify the fact that major cultural transitions have affected our worldview. This epistemology consists of the presuppositions and the foundations upon which life’s meaning and purpose are based (Epistemology refers to the philosophical theory of the method or basis we use to obtain our knowledge). This impacts our values, the way we process information and how we draw our conclusions, and it also determines how we think about God, humanity and religion.

Most scholars and historians would agree that when major worldview cultural shifts have taken place in history, such as the printing press and the reformation, profound changes to society in general resulted. We are living in an age of major transition in life and religion and more importantly in the way we think. We are moving from one cultural time period of modernity to another called by some (for now) postmodernity. There is no exact date marking the beginning of this shift, however, it is demonstrated in the shifting of the cultural landscape of music, the arts, the new philosophers and in what our children are being taught from kindergarten to university.

While many believe that we are now experiencing this great cultural shift, many church leaders make the mistake of seeing postmodernism as a narrow, generational issue although statistics indicate otherwise. Postmodernism has all the well-developed philosophical, aesthetic and cultural underpinnings that characterize a broad period of time.

The cultural shift from modernity to postmodernity is not easy to pinpoint or understand, but allow me to lay out some general background to help one understand what has occurred. The Judeo-Christian worldview is no longer the predominant worldview in North America. The biblically based reference point for the story of God and humanity is now being clouded by other worldviews. This, along with the introduction of many other cultural factors, is creating a new paradigm for our world’s perception of reality and definition of truth.

Time will tell how the full effects of postmodernity will impact the culture in the long term, but its reality and rising influence cannot be denied. The church cannot ignore the effect of postmodernity on our culture; rather, it must acknowledge and engage it. The church in North America is entering a critical point. The established church can attempt to ignore this current change and go on with a methodology that is no longer effective in reaching people, or the church can with great excitement and passion rethink what they are doing and how they are doing it, and begin to enter a new missional adventure.

Mark B. said...

Gerry,

I think we are coming to agree on one thing; namely, that this is a poor place to discuss this. I think that we are (at least partially) talking past eachother. Maybe we'll have to duke it out when I come home for Christmas.

Deal?

SoulPastor said...

Duke sounds great! I can reserve a place for you on the ice!!!