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SPEAKING TRUTH IN THE "POSTMODERN WORLD"

How does the Church speak "Truth" in a world that refuses the notion of universal truth? Consider the following mountain top views:

THIS HISTORICAL MOMENT

We are witnessing the biggest overthrow in the history of Christianity. It ends 6,000 years of "civilization" as we have known it. In the twenty-first century, we’ll see—at today’s rate—on the order of 20,000 years of change. (Toffler and Kurzweil)

In massive historical shifts, the very structure of knowing changes—not "what" we know, but "how" we know. Today, we are rethinking "thinking." More to the point, we are no longer "thinking"—in the usual sense of the word—but projecting a new world.

Postmodernism has come and gone. It’s about the death of the past, and the past has already past. This buzzword reflects the afterimage of social change. The underground shift to something completely different has already occurred and now emerges on the mainstream scene. We will someday call "postmodernism" more modern than postmodern. We could label it "hypermodern."

In our economy, we have moved from a system of commodities to goods, then to services, and now to experiences. Next, we will shift from experiences to transformations.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE FUTURE

With the collapse of the modern world, a new language outruns our reality, outpaces our theology. It will combine faith, meditation, and prophetic metaphor with creativity, virtual reality, and quantum theory. It will immerse us in sensual, emotional, multimedia lives more real than reality itself.

The language of the future is the language of the church. It will prove a far more powerful instrument of salvation than the Greek rhetoric we have used for years. For the first time in centuries, the church will operate in its own realm. No longer will it have to compete with the world on the world’s own terms.

This new language will include metaphor, unspokenness, and aesthetic presence. It will shift from logic to revelation, from mind to spirit, from proposition to intuition, and from the literate to the prophetic.

THE ROLES OF VIRTUAL REALITY, ART, METAPHOR, AND EMOTION

We will describe "virtual reality" as the language of the future, "art" as the power in virtual reality, "metaphor" as the power in art, and "emotion" as the power in metaphor.

Virtual reality is more than virtual. It has captured the popular imagination before reaching anything close to maturity, and it will soon take over the economy as television did. It will pervade our culture . . . both online and off line.

Virtual reality, like every art form, ritual, symbol, or metaphor, represents something "not there"—something beyond itself, something unseen. Yet, like faith, it will give "substance" to its vision. And through God’s grace, it will transform us, recreate us, even heal us.

The digital "interface design" will increasingly become part of our culture, our language. The "trash can" on your "desktop" was only the beginning.

. . . ART

We will speak the language of "art"—not the art of today, but a new art that transcends art . . . an art that lives outside cultural "schools" . . . an art that supersedes old apologetics and brings a new proof of Truth.

. . . METAPHOR

Metaphor finds its power on the ruins of rationality . . . on the death of the literal sense.

Metaphor has become central to all studies of meaning. It hurries the collapse of modern thinking and destroys the rules of ordinary language. It denies the pride of mere ideas and dismisses the comfort of narrow ideology.

Prophetic metaphor is incarnational language in the purest form. Though not reality itself, it becomes the most profound medium of reality. The future belongs to those who create and communicate prophetic metaphor.

. . . EMOTION

Emotion "thinks" more that we think it does. Our feelings will soon be endowed with intentions and powers of decision. Empowered passions will become the basis for belief . . . not the basis for unbelief.

The church will finally reconcile its war with emotion as it discerns the difference between knee-jerk, garden-variety emotions of the natural world and the "knowing emotions," "felt-meanings" of the spiritual world. The spiritual wisdom of the heart yields light with its heat . . . revelation with its warmth . . . insight with its inspiration. It "sees" as well as feels.

Sanity and safety in this new world of emotion will depend on our ability to "test the spirits."

A RETURN TO AN ORAL TRADITION

We are returning to an oral culture—or more precisely, an electronic oral culture—where "words" or sensory images have power. They will speak "of nonexistent things . . . as if they [already] existed." They will declare "the end and the result from the beginning." (Romans 4:17, Isaiah 46:10; AMP)

Unlike today’s words which merely "supervene" in life—that is, they only "add to" life—oral words "intervene" in life—they actually "change" life.

INSPIRED VISION

Inspired vision will prove more real than the world in which we now live, "which is already passing away"! (I Cor. 7:31) The "actual" universe, in other words, is the universe as it one day will be.

The language of the future will "call those things that be not as though they were." In the hands of the church, it will prove an incarnation. It will point out of the power to which it points. It will derive its meaning from the evidence we proclaim, even as we proclaim it. It will create a new reality from the new world we announce, even as we announce it.

Beyond postmodernism, we will realize that truth is not something we create. It is an inspired revelation we encounter. Creative artists, for example, frequently report that their work "chooses them" . . . that it permits "some, but not just any, variation" . . . that, finally, we are only the "discoverers."

DIALOGUE AND RISK

The future is a dialogue, not a monologue.

In worship, we used to sing "about" God. More recently, we have learned to sing "to" God. Now, it’s time to let God sing too.

Future spiritual leaders will discover their power lies in risking impossible possibilities, in gambling their vulnerability. World-making requires this paradox.

THE BLURRING OF SACRED/SECULAR

The spirituality of the future will prove very different from traditional religion.

The future church will move beyond the split experience of faith and life, beyond "officially" mediated experiences, to honor whenever and wherever the "Word becomes flesh."

Future church leaders will avoid labels that the culture can use as an excuse to silence those who wear them.

THE INFLUENCE OF SCIENCE ON THE CHURCH

We are becoming "cyborgs"—blending cyb(ernetics) with our org(anism).

Quantum theory will prove the first scientific discovery of creativity, faith, meditation, and prophecy—all essential synonyms.

The church will learn to appropriate theologically and apply prophetically the alignment of forces described in quantum theory. We will become "co-authors" in a world not so much a "creation" as a "creating." As we become more aware that whole systems and their parts mutually condition one another, the role of divine action will take on a totally new meaning.

Uncertainty, unpredictability, and ambiguity will endlessly invade both natural and spiritual worlds. Chaos theory, though, will show amazing tolerance for these tensions and will prove the first scientific discovery of the crucifixion/resurrection principle.

In what may be the greatest spiritual battle in the history of Christianity, the Church will be called to answer the ethical, moral and spiritual dilemmas posed by the self-accelerating and self-replicating powers of genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology.

THE FUTURE THEOLOGY

A new proof of Truth will ignore the logical, linear rules of yesterday and embrace the mosaics, multiples, and metaphors of tomorrow. It will emerge from "a web of significance" . . . "a mosaic of beliefs" . . . "a system, not of truths, but of truth."

Though conservatives and liberals dismiss each other, they share the same agenda. Both reduce God to manageable proportions. Both claim credibility through reason and science.

Today, no theological tradition—neither conservative nor liberal—leads society. The great historical gap is no longer between liberals and conservatives. The gap is between both of them and the rest of the world.

The new church urgently needs new tests for authenticity, credibility, and reality. It needs new veracities for experience. The art or science of interpretation can still be done. It will just have to be done a different way.

THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CHURCH

Church leaders will find they can not move with the Lord of History by merely "improving" themselves . . . or being "far out."

Contrary to opinion, "cutting edge" churches do not automatically manifest God’s presence. Regardless of the age or traditions of their congregations, transcendence emerges from prophetic metaphor—old or new.

History will prove again that when the Lord of history moves, harm comes to those who don’t move with Him.




Future Church Administrator