Tinkerbell Theology - Part 2|
Tolerance the Ultimate Good?
How to Survive in a Post Modern World
One of the first things we should do in our Post Modern World is to understand the language and meanings of the words used.
To begin with the word "modern" now means old and "post modern" means new. If you are over fifty, you will soon find that definitions and modern usage of key words have changed. The following is a partial list with which we feel we all must become familiar.
These terms are gleaned from McDowell's "The Last Christian Generation," pgs. 22-23:
Used to Mean: Accepting others without necessarily agreeing with or sharing others beliefs or lifestyle choices.
New Definition: Accepting that each individual's beliefs, values, lifestyles are of equal importance regardless of their validity or benefit.
Used to Mean: Giving due consideration to others beliefs and lifestyle choices without necessarily approving them.
New Definition: Wholeheartedly approving of others' beliefs or lifestyle choices.
Used to Mean: Embracing people for who they are, not necessarily for what they say or do. (Love the sinner/Hate the sin).
New Definition: Endorsing, encouraging and even praising others for their beliefs and lifestyle choices without making moral judgements.
Used to Mean: Making moral judgements about life and people was good. It spoke of one's discernment, training and heart. Certain things were morally right and wrong as determined by God. These rights and wrongs never change with the times or circumstances.
New Definition: We have no right to judge another person's view or behavior. Each individual makes their own code of life. And of course that will change as the person lives out their life.
Used to Mean: Preferences of color, food, clothing style, hobbies, etc., were personally determined.
New Definition: Preferences of sexual behaviors, value systems, and beliefs are personally determined.
Used to Mean: Everyone has the right to be treated justly under the law.
New Definition: Everyone has the right to do what he or she believes is best for himself or herself.
Used to Mean: Being free to do what you knew you ought to do.
New Definition: Being free to do anything you want to do.
Used to Mean: An absolute standard of right and wrong.
New Definition: There is no truth and there are no absolutes.
Intolerance is Intolerable (except for Islam)
Exclusivity and intolerance is the worst crime imaginable in a Post Modern world. Your children risk ostracism in a culture where tolerance is the greatest good.
Ostracism means "shunning," where others avoid contact with or put down a violator. Families and the popular culture might avoid associating with a Christian who proclaims he or she has the "truth" or follows a Christian lifestyle.
It may mean the loss of a job in a global corporation or govenment agency. In the not to distant future those found to be intolerant may risk jail time or "re-education" due to "thought or hate crimes."
There is No Truth
In this new world our children and grandchildren have been taught that Christianity cannot be true because there is no exclusive truth. All religions are equally valid. No religion has the right to proclaim itself as the only truth.
Our Counter Claim
Christianity is Not a Religion but a Person
To counter this mindset, we must begin to teach believers and their children that Christianity is not a "religion" per se. It is not a list of "do's and don'ts." Rather, Christianity is based upon a person, The God/Man Jesus Christ.
Christianity is Not a Political Party but a Person!
Christianity does not consist of party affiliations or catchy slogans. It is not the equivalent of Democrats versus Republicans, Sadducees vs. Pharisees.
Rather, Christianity is based upon a belief in who Jesus is: "Jesus is Lord." "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9, ESV).
Christians Saved from What?
Saved from what? Have you ever been asked such a question? "From what are Christians saved?"
In response to a question such as this, Christians are advised not to answer that unbelievers are "saved" from "sin." To the post modern mind, sin is irrelevant! It has no meaning any longer to a culture devoid of concepts of right or wrong, truth or untruth.
Rather, Christian teachers must learn to explain that believers are saved from death - a death which is the consequence of sin. Faith in Jesus Christ promises that His children will die but they will be reborn to a new and exciting life. Do you see the subtle difference? Sin has no meaning in the post modern world. However, sin's consequence, death, is an undeniable reality.
Not a Philosophy but a Person
Christianity is not a philosophy among many other philosophies. Christianity is based upon a person, its founder, the God of the universe coming to earth in the form of a man for the sake of His people. This man was the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth.
The witty English Literature Professor states, "When God becomes a man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary. A modern pantheistic philosopher has said, 'When the Absolute falls into the sea it becomes a fish.' In the same way, we Christians can point to the Incarnation and say that when God empties Himself of His glory and submits to those conditions under which alone egoism and altruism have a clear meaning, He is seen to be wholly altruistic." (The Problem of Pain, 44).
The famous apologist Josh McDowell offers a charming analogy of God having reached out to man by becoming a man, in the following way: he postulates that if you wish to warn ants that a bulldozer will destroy their anthill, then you would need to become an ant to most effectively communicate this danger to them. (The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 286).
Likewise, Deuteronomy 18 says that the Israelites feared scary appearances of the Lord.
"You begged that you might never again have to listen to the voice of the Lord your God or see this blazing fire for fear you would die" (Deut. 18:16). So the Lord said, "Fine, I will do as they have requested. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will tell that prophet what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command him" (Deut. 18:17-18, NLT).
In other words, God sent His human prophet to communicate warnings of danger to earthlings. What is that danger to earthlings? That they will die and suffer eternal separation from God. The fact that all men die is obvious. The good news is that death is not final or permanant.
Not a Dead Man but a Resurrected Person
The central belief within Christianity is that the historical, real person of Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This concept is so key that Paul preached, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14, ESV).
Similar to C.S. Lewis' God "living as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine," God tells us that Death is our greatest foe, our worst enemy. However, our enemy of death has been conquered through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
To those who feel that a belief in resurrection is antiquated, perhaps we should direct them to the science of cloning! In a day when "cloning" is such a real possibility, it isn't as difficult to believe we will all be raised up to face judgment before a holy God, some of us to a forever-life, and others to a forever-hell.
No matter how many religions are presented to the post modern mind, none offer hope for a resurrected, eternal life such as that offered by Jesus Christ. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most attested-to-fact in history!
What Should a Postmodern Church Look Like?
Don't Preach - Live it!
In our post modern culture, we should not just preach it or teach it. Rather combine sound teaching with living. Live out our faith and help others to experience it.
Scripture tells us what to do and how to do it best:
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
(Acts 2:42-47, NKJV)
A Post Modern Church Does the Following:
1. Studying and teaching God's Word.
2. Meeting with believers for meals and fellowship.
3. Practicing Communion in homes.
4. Giving Thanks to God with prayers and songs.
5. Intercessory Prayers.
6. Meeting needs of others.
God's Word is Key
No church, be it modern or postmodern, can ignore or downplay the study of God's Word. The Bible is the only anchor and authority the individual can proclaim to a postmodern culture. Without the knowledge of Scripture and church becomes just another social club with everyone giving their own options and saying nothing. God's Word separates the Body of Christ from the world. It is the two-edged sword that cuts to the heart and convicts the hearer.
Reading is a Problem
In the post modern culture the skill of reading is being replaced with visual and audio information. Just putting a Bible in someones hands may not help.
In other words the post modern church must speak God's Word accurately and be ready to teach the gospel and train disciples in many different ways. Remember that beliveing comes from hearing.
Perhaps most important to a postmodern church is its emphasis upon relationships. Mega-sized churches are out. So are huge, expensive structures. "In" is a focus on small, neighborhood Bible Study and fellowship groups with a heightened sense of accountability to one another.
A Life of Service
Living a life of service to those in need dramatically affects and influences those born into a cold, sterile, impersonal world. They need to see us help the widow take care of her finances after the death of a spouse. They need to see us talk to the patient dying of cancer. They need to watch us drive the elderly to a doctor's appointment.
A Church of Symbols, Stories, Parables
The time-honored "hands on" Sunday school classes work fine in a postmodern church. We must continue to teach children through puppets, illustrated stories, films, scripture memory cards, and in church camps.
We must supply tangible yet symbolic items for our teenage and adult groups. For example, they need illustrated stories. We need only to observe how popular "cartoons" have become to adults. To a generation unskilled in reading, small-print pages which are devoid of pictures are almost useless to postmodern youth. The popularity of books written in cartoon format called "graphic novels" is astounding. Take a look at these the next time you visit Borders or Barnes&Noble bookstores.
Also popular at Barnes&Noble are gimmicky books with magic stones and amulets. Harry Potter books enchant children with the potions and rituals of magic. But, Christians have something to offer here, too. Lord of the Rings and the delightful C.S. Lewis Tales of Narnia also offer symbolism and biblical types in an enchanting way. Get your children and adults engrossed in these films and their paraphernalia - illustrations, rings, games, swords, and so forth. There are numerous books detailing their meaning and symbolism.
Find Christian books which have lots of illustrations, charts, and graphs for your Sunday school and Bible Study groups. For example, the MP3 format offers sound, documentaries, film, pictures, and colorful charts and graphs for those who are comfortable in a world of computers. Chuck Missler offers many commentaries on books of the Bible in this format. It is ideal for postmodernism.
Tapes, CDs, and videos are perfect for a generation brought up with Mc Entertainment and Mc Fun. Many who dislike reading will agree to listen to tapes or to watch videos. These are wonderful ancillary methods of learning. Use them.
For Bible reading, make use of www.visualbible.com. The book of Matthew or Acts among others is available. These are professionally-acted visual books of the Bible using the NIV text. You will be stunned by how quickly students learn about the Bible using this medium.
Likewise, make use of drama and skits or plays. Bible students learn the nuances of meaning by acting-out Scripture. Also, show "live" maps or film of current day Jerusalem or Jordan or Syria or Iraq. When shown side-by-side with standard maps, these also come alive for students.
Use your imagination. For example, several original Star Trek episodes illustrated spiritual forces in ways understandable to postmodern students. For example, one episode showed an evil, almost invisible being which fed on the anger of the Star Trek crew in a demonic sort of way. Their solution was to tranquilize the crew so that they couldn't feed their anger to the evil being.
What might you teach Christians to do when they suffer from unmanageable anger? The advice in Ephesians 4:26-27 relates to this when Christians are told not to let the "sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil."
Our post modern youth have rebelled against our baby boomer rational mindset - an age of reason and science. They love the amulets, charms, and magical allure of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
They are equally attracted to what they consider to be living faith available through the mysticism of the Catholic Church. They love beads, statues, mechanical prayers, or liturgies. They are attracted to formulaic prayers and Holy Communion, sprinkling baptisms, meditation, prayers to the saints and prayers to the dead, and all of the standard Sacraments.
While we don't need to reinstitute Catholic forms of what we consider to be "idolatry," we do need to embrace spiritual empowerment through the Holy Spirit.
In essence, we blew-it, fellow Baptists! Post Modernists reject reductionism - the breaking down of a subject into small pieces whereby we analyze each separate piece. They prefer observing the whole to see what truths may emerge from it. We need to relearn the art of teaching, meditating and reflecting upon God's Holy Word and offering prayer to the Almighty.
Post Modernists are automatically attracted to the church creeds of old such as the Westminster Confession, and to the ritualistic sacraments. They love and learn from parables, rituals, stories, and symbols.
So Protestants must learn again to teach our Post Modern youth through illustrations, Jesus' stories, and parables. Children must be taught to recite the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes.
Scripture memory-work should be part of every believer's Sunday school life. The Bible should be read in unison as a living congregation eating and breathing the Word of God.
Postmodern faith consists of believing without seeing. Therefore, we should carefully consider how and how often we present scientific data or archaeological evidences (which we previously found enlightening to our faith). They do not.
so while all believers should have reasons for the hope within them, we must carefully give post modernists our reasons for belief, perhaps only when asked.
Hebrew vs. Hellenistic Learning Sytles
In summary, churches must learn a new style of teaching to reach post modern youth. In the Hebrew model of education, Josh McDowell explains that families encourage members to play-out biblical rituals and stories, such as the hiding of leaven for children to find before the Passover meal.
In the Hellenistic or Greek model of education, "students are presented with rational and logical constructs of information that he or she is required to learn. To determine if the subject matter has in fact been learned, students are asked to regurgitate the information back to the teacher through tests" (McDowell 2002, 91-93).
"The goal of the Hebrew model is not mere memorization of repeatable facts. The goal (as Moses made clear) is to live-out the truth. In this approach, truth is designed to lead to transformation. According to the Hebrew model, the student has not learned a thing when he or she can repeat it to the teacher. It is learned only when it is reflected in the student's life. In this approach, the testing is in the living" (p. 93).
God's People Must be Holy
A critical theme running through the Old and New Testaments is that God's people are called out of the world to be a people that are separate unto Him.
If the Christian Church makes the critical error of becoming like the people they are trying to reach, we will have lost the battle. The greatest threat to the Church and the people of Israel throughout history, is that they became like the surrounding cultures. They fell into the same practices and eventually held the same values of those people they were supposed to be helping.
God's people must be different than the post modern culture so that they can show the way. The Bible tells us how to become different than our culture and yet still work within it. We are the ones that must submit ourselves to the instructions God has given us.
McDowell, Josh. 2006. The last Christian generation. Holiday, FL: Green Key Books.
Authors Ken Emilio holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. Valorie received the MA in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history.