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THE "HOLY GRAIL" OF POSTMODERNISM

Most would-be futurists cling to the "Holy Grail" of postmodernism. They blindly adhere to every novelty of this philosophical fad. In fact, the very definition of the "emerging church" includes this philosophy—or, what many now consider, this failed philosophy.

No doubt, something needs to challenge the harmful excess of modern thinking. Something needs to question the manipulating self-interests of our small worlds. Something needs to expose the distortion of our rhetoric, the slant on our slang, the leanings of our lingo. And, something needs to refuse the arrogance of our "God in a box."

But, with too many gullible postmodernists, "One enormously precious baby was tossed with tons of unpleasant bathwater."1

Postmodernism, after all, angrily rejects the modern past. It arrogantly "deconstructs" a "truthful" present—especially everybody else’s truth!—and it cynically proposes a hopeless future. In short, Truth—with a capital "T"—no longer exists: "Absolute truth is an illusion and one interpretation is purportedly as good as any other."2

Yet, the claims of postmodernists get a little embarrassing. Their "authoritative announcements" that "there is no authority" get a little befuddled. After all, "To say there are no absolutes is in itself absolute."3

But postmodernists ignore these inconsistencies. "Truth is whatever you want it to be, it’s whatever suits your purpose." In other words, "You do your thing, and I’ll do mine." Their "new world," then, becomes an anarchy of endless private opinions—a sea of disconnected dots. So a "move of the Spirit" easily becomes lawless license. An "anointing" often becomes knee-jerk reflex. And a "manifestation of God" usually becomes one more psychological condition.

Still more embarrassing, "postmodernism" has already come and gone. This fad is about the death of the past, and the past has already past! "Postmodernism is so yesterday . . . To deconstruct everybody else’s ideas . . . just (isn’t) any fun anymore."4

Obviously, we live in a "post-modern" period, but we must not confuse it with "postmodernism." Something else has already replaced this fleeting philosophy.

There are profound implications, for example, beyond mere subjectivity. There are vast worlds of prophetic visions, inspired revelations, and vicarious beauties far more significant than mere opinions, self-made notions, or selfish beliefs. There is even a language beyond language that transcends us, language itself, and the culture in which it "speaks."

Truth, after all, is autonomous. It’s not something we create—it’s something we encounter. It’s a "not us." It has an "is-ness" or existence prior to our interpretation. And, it has self-evident signs and self-authenticating tests that differ, for the most part, from the "proofs" we’ve misused for so many years.

In short, wiping the slate clean removes neither God nor His Truth.

Which World Do You Live In?

So it’s important to know where we live! Do you live in the world of "modernism," "postmodernism," or somewhere else? How do you know?

Take the following test to reveal where you stand. Select which statement in each group best describes your opinion. Then, at the end of the following five groups, you may rediscover the world in which you live and whether you are working with or against the Lord of History:



A. The Church will be ready for the future if it retains its vision of progress—if it continually improves what it is already doing.

B. The modern idea of progress is an illusion. The Church can no longer move into the future by simply improving itself.

C. Instead of focusing on the death of old thinking, we need to focus on the birth of a newly empowered and profoundly faithful way of thinking.



A. Scripture is a storehouse of facts that accurately describes reality, so our challenge is to faithfully figure out the facts.

B. Scripture does not contain facts. It is a relative truth, because its writers and readers never escaped their subjectivity or the inadequacy of their language.

C. Scripture speaks only through the voice of the Spirit and transcends both interpreters and interpretations. We must learn, therefore, to let Scripture speak for itself.



A. The most persuasive sermons build logical lines of thought which arrive at sound theological doctrines.

B. "Logical lines of thought" have never proven what the modern world promised. It’s time to wipe the slate clean.

C. "Wiping the slate clean" removes neither God nor His Truth. "Truth" is not something we subjectively invent. It is a reality we encounter.



A. Skilled rhetoric and great oratory prove the best hope for spreading the "Word."

B. All languages reflect our manipulating self-interest and our blind subjectivity. So we will never bring objective honesty to the Word or anything else.

C. The Church has known a spiritual language that transcends our opinions, our language, our doctrines, and the cultures that have invented them. This language is the only language of the Word.



A. An authentic interpretation of the Gospel requires setting aside our emotions and feelings.

B. All interpretations of the Gospel are subjective, so the only "realities" are one’s own opinions and feelings. That’s the reason we should avoid telling others what to believe.

C. The Church has long known a "knowing of the heart" that transcends our subjectivity—our intellect—and our differences. This "knowing" is essential to the future of the Gospel.


If you selected mostly "A" statements, you are firmly stuck in the modern period. If you selected mostly "B" statements, consider yourself a postmodernist. However, if you selected mostly "C" statements, you are probably a POST-postmodernist—you are probably following the Lord of History.

These conclusions may be simplistic, but their combined force pry open many unexplored doors within the emerging church movement.

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

Endnotes

1. Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality (Boston: Shambhala, 2000) p. 81, 82.

2. Lewis Edwin Hahn, Editor, The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995) pp. 278-280.

3. Leonard Sweet, quoted in Peter Walker and Tyler Clark, "Missing the Point?" Relevant Magazine, Issue 21, July-August, 2006, pp 70-74.

4. Wilber, p. ix, x.



Future Church Administrator