I was looking at Brian McLaren and postmodernism and the Emergent Church movement a few days ago, and wish to continue with that theme here. In CT an article on “Emergent Evangelism” appeared wherein we read:
Making absolute truth claims—so important to evangelism in the modern era—becomes problematic in the postmodern context. Instead, he said, we can focus on recruiting people who follow Jesus by faith (without claims of certainty or absolute knowledge) with the goal of being transformed and participating in the transformation of the world. “Our lack of example in speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity may also explain why we must rely so heavily on arguments, many of them making claims that appear to postmodern people to be coercive and colonial, and therefore immoral, heavily laced with adjectives like absolute and objective to modify the noun truth,” McLaren said.
I find the phraseology “becomes problematic” about as anemic as it can be. Let’s be clear: postmodernism has no room for absolute truth claims, and hence has no room for a unique gospel or a unique Savior. Without absolute truths about who Christ is, there is no way to stop the inevitable reshaping and reforming of Christ into the image desired by the rebel sinner who is using postmodernism as his or her chosen means to engage in kateco,ntwn , that action described by Paul in Romans 1:18 of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Unless there has been a clear and sufficient revelation of who Christ truly is, then there is no way to avoid the reshaping and reforming of Him into whatever the postmodernist wishes to make of Him, and such is the formula for theological chaos and the end of all meaningful gospel proclamation. (Need I even note the utter irrelevance of apologetics in this context?)
Note the language: conversion from sin to servanthood to Christ becomes “recruiting people to follow Jesus by faith (without claims of certainty or absolute knowledge).” What Jesus are they following? Can they follow a non-divine Jesus? How about a sinful Jesus (who would be oh so much more appealing and “empathetic” to them)? How about a Jesus who is just an idea, not a historical person? How about a non-risen Jesus? And please, can someone tell me what kind of meaningful community can be built when everyone is following a Jesus of their own imagination, their own making?
Next we read of being transformed. How? By what means? Is this the Holy Spirit applying the truths of the Word to the hearts, thereby conforming us to the image of Christ? Can we find any basis for people being “conformed” in postmodernism? Isn’t that part of what people do not like, so that they want to avoid such “colonial” language as “conformance”?
What does “the transformation of the world” mean? Is this referring to bringing the entire world under the Lordship of Jesus Christ so that we are all united in offering to Him worship that is acceptable to the divine Trinity? Does it involve repentance from sin and living a life of holiness in accord with the revealed Scriptures?
McLaren speaks of our lack of example of love, faith, purity, etc. Surely no one will claim sinlessness in this life, and there is always a call to ever greater fulfillment of God’s commands. But is it not incumbent upon us to be able to define, in categories of truth, the object of our love (lest it become self-love, or idolatry)? Do we not have to be able to explain the nature of our faith, and the object of our faith, in the very same truth-based way? And does not the mention of purity invoke the clarity of God’s law in defining what it is to walk purely before God? It would seem that in each attempt to express the unique viewpoints of the Emergent movement the proponent thereof is forced into the same inherent contradiction expressed by the late Greg Bahnsen when he forced atheists (indeed, anyone denying the uniquely Scriptural world view he defended) to see their own contradiction: without categories of clear and understandable revelation there is no way to even “dialogue” about truth and practice and evangelism. Postmodernism, being in itself a violation of the Christian worldview and standing in conflict thereto, cannot express itself without, at key points, “borrowing” from the biblically-based world-view that involves “absolute truth claims.”
One is forced to wonder: given the prevalence of apologetic argumentation in the New Testament (Acts 17-18, Galatians, Colossians, 1 John, Jude, just as a few examples), does it follow that the Apostles were somehow suffering from a “lack of example in speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity”?
I am quite certain that the unregenerate heart of the vessel of wrath prepared for destruction finds the proclamation of the claims of the Potter to be “coercive” and “colonial.” Would Jesus’ words in Luke 13:3 fall into the same “coercive and colonial” and hence “offensive” words? “”I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” That sounds very coercive, and I must agree with McLaren here that postmoderns would find this kind of language “immoral.” Many who stand before judges question the judge’s right to pronounce judgment. But the question should be, “Will those who are the recipients of divine grace and regeneration by the Holy Spirit find the truth of God immoral and offensive”? Surely not! This is one of the main problems with this movement (and with a large portion of evangelicalism today, to be honest): it is a manifest distrust of the Spirit of God that we are concerned about the “offense” of the message. Is it not the work of the Spirit of God to change hearts? Are the sheep of Christ offended by the voice of their Shepherd? Surely not. Spurgeon spoke with great force to this reality:
By this the elect of God are known—that they love the Word of God, and they have a reverence for it, and discern between it and the words of man. Notice the lambs in the field, just now; and there may be a thousand ewes and lambs; but every lamb finds out its own mother. So does a true-born child of God know where to go for the milk which is to nourish his soul. The sheep of Christ know the Shepherd’s voice in the Word, and a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers. God’s own people have discernment to discover and relish God’s own Word. They will not be misled by the cunning craftiness of human devices. Saints know the Scriptures by inward instinct. The holy life, which God has infused into believers by his Spirit, loves the Scriptures, and learns how to use them for holy purposes. (source)
Now, though I wish to continue this discussion, I need to explain the role of Psalm 73. It goes back to the beginning of this article, and the wide variety of issues facing the church today. At times it seems overwhelming. But remember how the Psalmist likewise became disheartened and discouraged at the progress of evil in his day. And where did he come to find the proper perspective? Psalm 73 tells us: in the place of worship. There, where one’s mind is taken up with eternal things, and one’s focus is upon the Creator and one has a proper perspective on oneself as a creature, a created thing who is a vapor that appears and then vanishes away—in that place, one sees with clear vision. And when I begin to lose perspective and feel overwhelmed not by God’s glory and majesty but by the challenges and tasks I face, that is where I need to go. That is why God places us in the church, and enjoins upon us the regular meetings. He is wise. He knows our needs.