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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.