“The Simpsons”animated sitcom may not be a viewing preference for you but you have probably heard about it or viewed it at least once. The very structure of the television show follows the classic era of the family sitcom while the misadventures of its cartoon characters ridicule all forms of institutionalised authority –patriarchal, political, religious and so on.
For many, it is just a light cartoon show, but it is much more than that. It is an expression of a change in thinking/belief that has been going on for a period of time now. This thinking is often called postmodernism and the more intense effects of postmodernism on the Western value system and on Christianity appeared around the beginning of the 21stcentury. This coincided with the growing disillusionment with what has been called modernism, especially the version espoused in the west throughout the 20thcentury. The children of this new era have been raised in a world that is wrestling with the emergence of the global economy, the tension between the idea of progress and the environmental consequences, and the nature of war and terror.
Following are some examples of postmodern thinking:
- Thereis no absolute truth – no scientific, philosophical, or religious truth can explain everything for everybody. Truth is a contrived illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others.
- Truth and error are synonymous – facts are too limiting to determine anything.Changing erratically, what is fact today can be false tomorrow.
- All religions are valid – postmodernists value inclusive faiths and gravitate towards New Age religion or syncretise existing beliefs to become more inclusive.
- Traditional logic, objectivity and scientific methods are to be shunned and replaced with individual opinions.
- The world is in a state of perpetual incompleteness and permanent un-resolve –modern science worked towards an explanation of everything only to discover that new discoveries turned old discoveries on their head. Instead of providing the answers to questions, they produced more questions.
- Traditional authority is false and corrupt – postmodernists reject the constraints of religious morals and secular authority. Morality is personal – they believe ethics is relative, subject to personal opinion. They define morality as each person’s private code of ethics without the need to follow traditional values and rules.
- Globalisation– many postmodernists claim that national boundaries are a hindrance to human communication. Nationalism, they believe, causes wars. Therefore, postmodernists often call for the uniting of separate countries.
- Pro-environmentalism– defending ‘Mother Earth’, postmodernists blame Western modern society for its destruction. (Adapted from Theopedia)
So Christianity in the postmodern era finds itself in a world where there is no unifying religion, no single philosophical way of thinking to give coherence and unity. Culture has been secularised and post-Christendom has arrived. Regardless of whether you are postmodern or not, you now live in the postmodern era and you are affected by it on every level, whether you give in to its demands or not.
Unfortunately many followers of Jesus are still thinking and living in the past modern era. We not only claim to have the truth but also seek to control the moral behaviour of society. We have an emphasis on reason and understanding and a propensity to want to prove the Bible to be scientifically accurate.
I am not for a moment suggesting that the Bible is not the inspired word of God. What I am suggesting is that, in this era where“What’s true for you may not be true for me” is foundational, we need to encourage people to connect with Jesus where they are at, and then to discover and experience for themselves the “truth” of the Biblical account. We can finally stop being the moral policeman whose voice is no longer listened to,partly because our past unjust, abusive and immoral practices are coming out into the open. We can again, in obedience to Jesus, decisively take up our missional commission.
A Different Approach to Discipling
To those of us accustomed to forming disciples by teaching a discipleship class or by telling people how a Christian should behave or by inviting people to church services and other church events, this can be quite unsettling. We may feel cut loose from our moorings. But the premise of our first book As You Go, MakeDisciples… suggests an intentional process that is worked out relationally, not a haphazard journey. This kind of discipleship takes TIME and authentic relationships, and progresses at the pace of the disciple’s connection with and growing commitment to Jesus.
If you are on a mission WITH Jesus, who is with you as you do what He has commanded, you might find it helpful to connect regularly with us as we open up the ideas of Discipling As You Go.