The church has been labeled by many as an opposer of societal progress. Historically speaking, religious factions have certainly given cause for this characterization. Seemingly, the church is the first to oppose advancement in nearly every realm of influence, including its own. This, however, is a crass generalization. It pertains only to a margin of believers who are the first to resist and the last to embrace. In fairness, the heroes of faith, (Abraham, Moses, Deborah, David, Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther, among numerous others) were agents of serious change. Each daringly broke a mold to become a prototype for a new historical epoch he or she singlehandedly inaugurated. Anyone who acts in faith will always be on the side of progress, seeing it takes great faith to instigate change. Religious resistors operate in the anti-faith power of fear. If we grow too comfortable with our way of life, the world will change around us while we fight to hold onto the blinding bliss of the way things were.
Not all change is progress. Progress, however, absolutely cannot happen without change. Reformers, like Christ, channel their energy towards creating a new norm, rather than trying to hold onto something they feel is threatened. The purpose of this post is to bring illumination to the reformative purposes of the Postmodern era as I see them evolving. Let us not waste time nursing fear that nonnegotiables are in jeopardy. Truth is inextinguishable and under fire it thrives. This is perhaps the most exciting time to be alive! If knowledge is power, knowing our time and season will empower us to inaugurate a period of enlightenment and reform.
Who’s behind this change of season? Might we blame the secularists for poisoning the minds of our young? Maybe backslidden Christians have pulled the plug on passion with sinfulness and lagging attendance? Perhaps its the blatant disinterest in programs and special events that once drew ample participation? Though we’ve tried to blame others, we fail to see the Bigger Hand at work in what seems to be negatives. Daniel 2:21 NIV says, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” Discerning souls see the truth of what is happening. Wise people see wisdom in some of the changes that are afoot. Rest assured that God is at work, my friend. His purposes WILL prevail.
The term “Postmodern” was first coined in 1979 by sociologist Jean-Francois Lyotard, in his book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Since, it has come to represent to some, the best of times – to others, the worst of times. Both views are certainly true depending on how you wish to view things. We are responsible, as believers, to identify the purpose of our times and to play our redemptive role in that story. May this and subsequent related posts inspire you to this end. According to sociologists, there are three main philosophical eras.
- 1500s and earlier
- Absolute truth is revealed by God or a god.
- Authority is rooted in the church or religious systems.
- 1500s – 1900s
- Truth is discovered by the five human senses (empirical evidence).
- Truth is also discovered by human logic or reason.
- Authority shifts to universities, academia, political realms.
- Late 1900s – current
- Truth is revealed by all prior mentioned methods, as well as…
- Socially, relationally, and experientially.
- Because authority sources are distrusted, less hierarchical authority structures are preferred.
Fundamental differences in philosophy determine how truth is defined and stewarded in each era. The modern era, though seemingly humanistic in description, was brought on by a religious revival. German inventor, Johannes Gutenburg in 1439 AD invented the first printing press for the purpose of mass producing Bibles. Heretofore, Bibles were rare, chained to pulpits, printed in Hebrew, Latin or Greek, and only available to educated clergy. Fast-forward to 1517 AD when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Castle Church Door in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther effectively waged war on the Catholic Church and called into question 95 different points of doctrinal difference. He supposed that every man should have access to the Bible in his native language, and be the arbiter of his own faith. If man could have and read his own bible, he would quickly discern and abandon the faulty doctrines of the church. Gutenburg’s press was now improved and capable of meeting the demand of mass production. With this revolution, great light flooded the earth fueling aspects of the Renaissance and subsequent Enlightenment. [NOTE: I am not suggesting that the church should be abandoned, but merely reformed. Neither am I suggesting that the ideas and philosophies of the Renaissance and Enlightenment were fully congruent with Biblical thought. There were, however, advancements in the disciplines that would have never come about without the light of God at work within human minds of that time.]
It was Gutenburg, Luther, and their contemporaries who championed the individual as capable of discovering truth, outside of the religious organization of the day. Characteristic of the Modern Era, these men played their role in the redemptive story for their times. Likewise, there are godly people alive, operating in the characteristics of the Postmodern Era, who will play their role in the great reform that is underway.
In the next post, I will discuss the 10 Characteristics of the Postmodern Era, and describe the mindset of today’s influential thinkers. Please feel free to ask questions, comment or contribute to our ongoing conversation through a “reply” to this post. I really want to hear your heart and communicate with you as well as explore what God might be doing in our generation.
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