Postmodernism 11 – Reaching Postmoderns

The postmodern church began as a reaction to the megachurch movement and the impersonality of the big churches. The emerging churches all started small and promoted the superiority of their smallness. That is not heard so much anymore, now that some emerging churches have become the next megachurches. Some of the postmodern church members and leaders may not be believers; this is obvious as you look at some of their beliefs. There are, however, some believing postmoderns; there should and could be many more. Most postmoderns are outside any type of church. We have a great opportunity to evangelize them.

Postmoderns like groups, and there is much to be said for the use of small groups in reaching the postmodernist. Those who are truly postmodern still value the group and the group mentality. Small group Sunday Schools (perhaps too formal for some postmoderns) and home-based small groups (more inviting for the postmodern) can be used effectively to reach this group (and Read more…

Postmodernism 10 – Theological Declarations

Because there are no absolutes in postmodern religion, identifying a specific theology for the movement is essentially impossible. So rather than try to develop a comprehensive theology, here are some statements from emerging church leaders that might help at least give us an idea of where they are and where they might be heading.


“God can’t ever really be an object to be studied.” – Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian

“I am not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. I now incorporate a pantheistic view, which basically means that God is ‘in all,’ alongside my creedal view of God as Father, Read more…

Postmodernism 9 – Spirituality

In premodern and modern times, religion frequently included a debate over facts, such as:

  • There is a God or there is not
  • Jesus is the Son of God or he is not
  • Miracles happened or they did not

In postmodernism, however, religion is a preference. Since there are no absolutes, aesthetic criteria replace rational criteria. We hear people say, “I like Jacob’s Well.” “Why do you like it?” “I don’t Read more…

Postmodernism 8 – Churches

One of the differences between “modern” churches and “postmodern” churches is the way they seek to “do church.” The modern churches have been heavy on programs – Sunday School, children’s church, youth programs, camping programs, visitation programs, and on the list could go. The postmoderns are more interested in relationships. They are generally not interested in separating the family during church times or conducting visitation campaigns or developing similar programs. Postmodern church events, as well as the spontaneous gatherings of church members, are less about learning, doing or accomplishing some specified goal, and more about just being together. The emerging church is willing to take the time to develop relationships.

The postmoderns have reacted most strongly against the two ultimate kinds of “modern” church philosophy – the megachurch and the seeker-sensitive church. The megachurch, however, is not a recent evangelical invention. In the mid- to late-20th century, fundamentalists worked at growing their churches through a wide variety of programs, especially the bus program. Elmer Towns Read more…

Postmodernism 7 – The Postmodern Church

There is a rising feeling among emerging church leaders and followers of Jesus, that in many modern contemporary churches, something has subtly gone astray in what we call “church” and what we call “Christianity.” Through time, church has become a place that you go to have your needs met, instead of being a called local community of God on a mission together. Through time, much of contemporary Christianity subtly has become more about inviting others into the subcultures of Christian music, language and church programs than about passionately inviting others into a radically alternative community and way of life as disciples of Jesus and Kingdom living. Sadly, we are now seeing the results of this. While many of us have been inside our church offices busy preparing our sermons and keeping on a fast-paced schedule in the ministries and internal affairs of our churches, something alarming is happening on the outside. A great transformation is happening in our own neighborhoods, schools, and colleges. What once was a Christian nation with a Judeo-Christian worldview, is fast becoming an unchurched post-Christian nation. Tom Clegg and Warren Bird in their book Lost In America claim that the unchurched population of the United States is now the largest mission field in the English-speaking world and fifth largest globally. There are many great churches ministering to modern-minded people, but we must be also be passionate about emerging generations who aren’t connecting with current forms of ministry and thinking. Yet, there are some exciting things developing and stirring. So many people are beginning to experience the same sort of unsettledness and beginning many positive and healthy conversations. More and more emerging leaders are re-seeking the Scriptures, studying the early church and church history and rethinking a lot of what we are doing. In our desire to engage the current culture and emerging generations, perhaps we need to spend time looking more to the values and ancient roots of our faith, instead of looking out primarily for what is “cutting edge,” the next “model” or the latest programs. Vintage Faith is simply looking at what was vintage Christianity. Going back to the beginning and looking at the teachings of Jesus with fresh eyes and hearts and minds. Carefully discerning what it is in our contemporary churches and ministry that perhaps has been shaped through modernity and evangelical subculture, rather than the actual teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures. We need to begin asking a lot of questions again. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Too much is at stake not to.
Quotation from (this site is currently down, with a promise that it will be revised and restarted January 1, 2013 – yes, that’s the correct date; even the postmoderns struggle with maintaining relevance)

As postmodern thought in general developed, it was adopted by church leaders who sought to incorporate postmodernism into a broad form of Christianity, what most of the early leaders called the “emerging” church. It was originally a Western European and North American movement (with some down-under participants). The postmoderns raised several concerns about the modern church and its lack of relationship to postmodern philosophy. First, they were routinely opposed to orthodoxy’s doctrines and practices. Orthodoxy has a modern mindset; the concept of “orthodoxy” is that something is true and that which is not that something is false. This flies in the face of postmodern pluralism. The postmoderns were also suspicious of the market-driven mentality of the ultimate modern church – the megachurches – for these churches sought to attract the masses. Second, the postmoderns were concerned about the neglect of ancient Christian tradition and practices.  Modernism desired all things modern; postmoderns use a mixture of ancient and contemporary elements in their churches – think Gregorian chants accompanied by a punk rock band. Third, many of the postmoderns are concerned with the lack of progress toward ecumenism among the moderns; they have dismissed the organized attempts at ecumenism and seek low level ecumenical connections. Fourth, it is suspicious of the missiology of the market-driven megachurches and institutionalized Christianity.

Since postmodernism rejects any absolutes, it is hard to nail down what postmoderns think and believe. There is no postmodern “orthodoxy.” There are, however, at least some similarities. First, there is a common language; this came about undoubtedly because of the technologically interconnectedness of the postmoderns. Some of the favored terms are Missional, Liquid/Aqua, Ancient/Future, Post-whatever, Community, Derrida, Liturgy, Global, Creed, Experience, Social Justice, Conversation, Spiritual, Ritual, Beauty, Art, Blog, Ooze, Journey, Discussion, Open, Random, Culture, Technology. With the internet, they all read each other’s blogs and out of that came a similar language, complete with its own set of code words. In conjunction with this, the postmoderns are fluent in the new media. The postmodern churches communicate in blogs, online message boards, and wikis and some even exist in virtual format. There is not always a need to “attend” church; just show up online at the appropriate time. Second, there is a creative expression in music and worship. The churches use a holistic worship expression. Everyone is supposed to involved (there are no “lurkers”) and anything goes. Quality is unimportant, as long as the participants are authentic and transparent. Originally, the postmodern churches were small groups and sought to stay that way so that all could be engaged in the ministry. Now, however, numerous of the early emerging churches are the megachurches of the 21st century. Since there are no absolutes, however, it is perfectly legitimate for a postmodern church to change its positions and practices. Third, there are no common doctrines or church order; common doctrine implies an “orthodoxy,” and thus there can be no common theology or church practice. Truth is whatever each church decides it to be. There are, however, a couple of key beliefs that are commonly held – ecumenism and social justice. Fourth, the postmoderns desire organizational simplicity. There are routinely no boards. The pastors in the modern churches are CEO’s. The pastors in the postmodern churches are poets, prophets, or friends. Fifth, the postmodern churches are mission-minded. Understand that this is not necessarily missions-minded. If there are no absolutes, then each church must establish its own purpose for existence. Thus each church must have a “mission” statement. In the next few posts, we will focus attention on the characteristics of the postmodern churches.

Postmodernism 6 – Politics

Constitution Day seems an appropriate time to discuss postmodern politics. While postmodern thinking has been around for a number of years, we have now in the White House America’s first postmodern president.

America was founded by people deeply engrained in the modern mindset. Individualism, with both the protection and encouragement of the individual, is at the heart of the American political system. Our country was established upon “self-evident” truths, an acknowledgement of absolutes. Because so many of our founders were Christian (and I’ll use the term rather broadly here – some were faithful to their denomination, but may not have been true believers) and others were deists who believed that Christianity was the best form of religion, we find numerous Scripture references and allusions in the founding documents and in the writings of our early patriots. Read more…

Postmodernism 5 – Society

How does a postmodern mindset affect the way we live? Its effects upon art, literature, and architecture are, to a great extent, merely “interesting.”  We can ignore the postmodernism in these areas without it affecting how we live. When postmodernism begins to change the society in which we live, however, we will take notice.

There is a great interest in multiculturalism in the postmodern mindset. An American family drives their Japanese car to a Mexican restaurant, returns to their English Tudor house, watches a western on TV and listens to African music on their Chinese stereo system. By doing so, they believe that they are experiencing a variety of “cultures.” We believe that we live in a global smorgasbord. However, is eating a burrito at Taco Bell really a Mexican experience? Does driving a Japanese car give me any cultural understanding of Japan? Are we truly multicultural, or do we simply skim the surface of other cultures like a tourist on a ten-day tour of Africa? Read more…

Postmodernism 4 – Art

Art brings philosophy down to earth. While this writer is not artistic, he does understand to a limited extent the philosophy of art. Modern art believes in several concepts. First, modern art believes in the uniqueness of the artist. The artist is the creator. Because of the emphasis on the individual, the modern artists are highly trained and elitist; there are only a small number of true artists. Second, modern art believed in the integrity of the art itself. The product of the artist is singular, a unique product different from all other art works. Modern art is absolutist – pure form and disembodied beauty. Art exists for the sake of the product. Third, the art of the modern artist is a vision of truth. There is some connection between the art and the world around us. It may not look like truth to the viewer, but the artist himself had some intention of linking his art to the world.

Not every current artist is postmodern in his or her philosophy because artists tend to be countercultural. Some artists today have reacted against modern art by using past styles and going back to Read more…

Postmodernism 3 – Characteristics

Gene Veith identifies a series of characteristics held by most postmodernism.

Social Constructivism. Meaning, morality and truth do not exist objectively. This is at the heart of the postmodernist worldview. Truth, with its attendant concepts of meaning and morality, are “constructed” by society. Everything centers around the story that the community has created to establish its validity. The community in which a person places himself creates their own versions of these things. Thus, what is truth for one group is not necessarily truth for another. Rewriting history for the good of the “story” is the basis of truth.

Cultural Determinism. Individuals are shaped by their culture. Culture is created by language, and we are trapped in a “prison of language.” We are trapped because language does not Read more…

Postmodernism 2

Characteristics of Postmodernism

There are several characteristics of postmodernism that lie at the foundation of this worldview. Just as in the previous two meta-worldviews (premodernism and modernism), not everyone accepts all of these. Nevertheless, we can see some similarities among the postmoderns and draw at least some general conclusions.

Gene Veith has identified five key steps that have been taken in the movement toward postmodernism. First is Abandonment; this is antinomianism, a rejection of morality and objectivity of any kind. This is predicated on relativism. Truth is not fixed and objective, but variable and relative. Truth is personal—something can be true for one person but not true for another. This “personal” Read more…