A few years ago it become apparent to me that “postmodernism” and “the Emergent church” were getting some pretty loud, bad raps among evangelicals. Since I hadn’t seen much to be unhappy about from a Wesleyan perspective, I spent a month-long sabbatical and the following year reading 50 of the primary books written by emergent authors, and then writing my own book-length summary and analysis. I called it “40 Good things About Emerging, Postmodern Christian Faith.” The publisher who had encouraged me to write the book and I came to a disagreement regarding the publishing details, so it never saw the light of day. Here’s a spot where I list some characteristics widely common to postmodern Christianity.
Postmodern Christians hold these truths to be self-evident:
That the church in the modern era, while it accomplished many wonderful things, has gradually become less and less effective at drawing people in our changing culture to life-changing experiences with Jesus.
That the modern scientific worldview focused the church’s approach to spiritual life to the mental side, learning data and doctrines, to the neglect of other aspects. That our culture’s hunger for spirituality and connectedness to the Divine is not being effectively met by a head-oriented, institutionalized Christianity that spends far too much of its energy, time and money on internal (inside the church walls) maintenance ministry, to the neglect of the world around us.
That something new is required to meet the call of introducing people in our culture to Jesus. That modern Christianity’s assumptions, theology and worldview are just as intertwined with the modern worldview as the medieval church’s assumptions, theology and worldview were intertwined with medieval culture, and new strides in theology and practice will be required to answer the questions of this new culture. In worst-case scenarios modern churches have even become monuments to upper-middle class values, rather than radical, subversive-of-this-world-order communities following Jesus.
That the message of Jesus (and the Bible!) is about more than getting my soul to heaven.
That God is interested in all of me (body, soul, mind, relationships) and all of His Creation (Col. 1:22,
That far too much of the evangelical church has hidden in its own subculture bubble, Christian ghetto, ‘hunkered in the bunker’, for far too long, and Christians need to be in our communities, in our culture (not withdrawn from it), engaging, loving, interacting, dialoguing with the people all around us.
That conservative Republican politics are not the equivalent of the message of Jesus.
That no one church (Baptist, Methodist, Assembly of God, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Nazarene, Amish, Russian Orthodox, Presbyterian, etc etc etc) from any particular era (55 AD, 300s, 600s, 1500s, nor 1950) captures the whole fullness of the Christian faith; that only via the center common to all these iterations of Christian spirituality, enriched by the insights from each of them, do we find the full stature and beauty, value and essence of the Christian faith. That is, your denomination is not the only way to be faithful to Jesus.
That the postmodern world is not primarily wondering if Christianity is true, nor if it works, but is it good at all? It is this last question, along with ones of beauty, redemption, justice, community and wholeness, that the followers of Jesus need to be living a visible answer to.