THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: Clear direction For Bold And Innovative Ministry in a Postmodern World. – Chuck Smith Jr.
© 2001 Waterbrook pp.235 price 28.95 hc
C.S. senior pastor Capo Beach Calvary, Capistrano, Ca.
It is difficult to make sense of a changed world. Postmodernism, which is a word that describes this changed world, is a part of our culture. It states that all views of life are legitimate as long as they are not biased. Lawyers use stories rather facts to build their case in a courtroom. Victimization is an important part of these stories. "The efforts to return some semblance of moral order to the nation (America) through the political process have failed." Paul Weyrich. This book is about, "how Christians can play a significant role in our changing culture". p.8, in postmodernism.
Ch.1 Culture - Quake
We are going through rapid culture change; modernity to postmodernity. Such rapid change produces future schock. A new world has appeared, cyberspace. When cultures change people experience disorientation, ineffectiveness, and loss of identity. Modernity was introduced by the Renaissance, the
Reformation, and the Enlightenment. Modernity was the age of science and reasoning. The church did not do well in modernity. The church has to deal with postmodernity whether it wants to or not. "God’s changeless Word enters into every time and culture with compelling relevance and the hope of salvation." p.26.
Ch. 2 The Unraveling Of Modernity
Photography released artists from realism and new forms of art developed. In postmodernity art is taken a step further. Reality has disappeared. What has happened in postmodern art is indicative of postmodernity generally, i.e. "pluralism, suspicion of realism, and an undermining of authority". p.32. The pillars of modernity have crumbled.
Ch. 3 Getting a Handle on Postmodernity.
"The future of postmodernity is dystopia". p.46 (a dysfunctional world) . Postmodernity has rejected rationalism but that does does not make it irrational. Reason isn’t the only way of knowing, i.e. experience. Science and history are suspect to postmodernists as sources of truth. Even truth as it is usually presented is challenged. There are no absolutes. To the postmodernist there is no "meaningful relationship between language and reality".p.53. Postmodernists are not into ethnocentrism-ours is the best culture. Postmoderns are into objectivism- "every text is capable of multiple interpretaions". p.57. Postmodernity is about multiculturism, disconnectedness, and the leveling of hierarchies. Culture has always been changing but the rate of change is increasing dramatically. This culture to needs the gospel.
Ch.4. Postmodernism and Popular Culture.
"Popular culture is all about commodification, commercialism, and consumerism." p.65. The dividing line between high culture and low culture has disappeared. Popular culture is postmodernism. "Morals have floundered because they are based on absolute truth."p.73. Simulation has removed realism from Film and Television. Realism has also collapsed in art, politics, and law. Popular culture is really a "carnival of cultures". p.82. To postmoderns learning about life involves imagination, analogy, and intuition. We cannot expect to be effective as Christians in popular culture when we are ignorant about it.
Ch. 5 Postmodern Faith
God has never become outdated, out of style, or culturally irrelevant. The laws of nature are really created (defined) by man. Spiritual "laws" are not compelling in contemporary culture. Based on the response to the news of Jesus’ resurrection we see three different ways that people arrive at faith. One is through simplicity. They saw and believed. Another is through skepticism; e.g. Thomas. The third is through symbols and signs. This involves moving "from the story to an experience of the resurrected Jesus". p.97. Postmodernism is into symbols and the gospel is filled with symbols. In premodernity the faith journey was relatively simple. There was a general belief in God and the decision was which god would be embraced. Postmodern faith is a symbolic response. It is into Christian mysticism. As we read the Bible we need to let it speak to our heart not just our brain."lectino divina,"p.103. We need to find metaphors, symbols, etc. that relate to where people live, to communicate effectively. Symbols are the key to believing without seeing. The sources of these smbols are , "the sacred text of the Bible, spiritual community, rituals and sacraments, and our own experience of God in Christ". p.111.
Ch. 6 The Church and the Postmodern Bazaar.
"The church in any culture simply needs to be what the church is supposed to be in every culture." p.117. It needs to be cross cultural without minimizing the cross. Culture should never be viewed as an enemy, hence the error of culture wars. e.g. angry preachers taking on the enemy. Eight "pairings of binary opposites" p.123, are presented. p.123-132. e.g. Community and Individuality, etc. (This is good stuff!) We need to "recover the sacredness of our rituals". p.134. ceremonies and sacraments. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are discussed as credible smbols for postmoderns. The gospel is totally relevant to postmoderns.
Ch. 7 Online With Gen X
Here is one description of the Gen X world.- "Conversation is simulated, identities are virtual, chaos reigns, and an individualistic life stretches in many directions at once." p.144. Identity and destiny are a real challenge for Gen Xers. The label X explains the problem. They are unknown to themselves and others. They are better defined by their mind-sets than by demographics. The Gen X picture looks pretty bleak. To them institutions are suspect. Although family is important to them it is a redefined family. It is a peer group. Rage is a common emotion; "a defense against ... a broken heart". p.151. The stress in their lives makes this attitude to life often ‘cavalier’. When they become involved in religion they transform it. They have a regard for paganism. Their definitions for words have changed, re; family, values, customs, etc. Their lives are filled with chaos. In a consumer society they expect the best. Their’s is the new world. A great challenge in reaching the Gen X is that , "They are able to hold a variety of conflicting opinions without feeling the discontinuity of their incoherence." p.160. There are great lessons to be learned from the Prodical Son story about Gen X and how to reach them. We are warned of the ‘Older Brother anger’ and the challenge of reconciliation. It is Gen X that will do God’s work in the postmodern world.
Ch. 8 Storytellers and Soul Healers.
Paul models relevant preaching. The message is unchanging. The method changes, "We need to get outside our relgious subcultures and hear how the Bible speaks to other cultures."p.178. People need transformation not just information from Scripture. Wesley Kort talks about two ways to read the Bible postmodernly.We read it "centripetally"p.180 when we put aside our ‘self’ and all that it represents and enter into the minds and lives of the people we are reading about. This approach makes inspiration possible, expecting that God will speak. We are doing "centrifugal".p.183 reading when we go away having been impacted by our reading. e.g. Jacob had a permanent reminder of his encounter with God. This kind of reading requires time for ‘reflection and digestion’. Churches large or small, must have spiritual community to be effective. This has to do with storytelling, both scriptual and personal. Stories lead to experience. "Believers can legitimately present the Bible to the world as the Christian narrative." p.189. How can we engage authentically with popular culture? We need to find ‘entry points’ into popular culture. It could be a ‘site’ where God is already at work. We need to connect with those of the culture who are spiritually sensitive and share with them wisdom from Scripture about God and His provision for our needs. Postmoderns respond more readily to our message through life and experience than to words. "We have to become the men and women whom others would like to have as friends."p.196. We can be encouraged and optimistic about postmodernity and it’s opportunities for us to be difference makers and effective wittnesses.
I agree with Leonard Sweet’s comment on this book. "The most user-friendly and useful introduction to ministry in postmodern culture yet written," I came away from my reading very encouraged about ministry in postmodernity. It seems that this book would be of special interest to those who work with Gen X.