Category Archives: Postmodern Spirituality

Knowledge Dissemination and the Gospel in the 21st Century


English: Framework for 21st Century Learning In USA Today (March 5, 2009), Greg Toppo’s article, “What to learn: ‘core knowledge‘ or ‘21st-century skills‘?”  presents a thought provoking description of the changing emphasis in how knowledge is ranked on a gradient of importance in contemporary American culture revealed that at least 10 states have committed to helping students develop 21st-century skills in schools the workplace and beyond. Analysis points to an effect that  rates technological skill as the premium among valued knowledge in the atmosphere of the present  emergent culture. Considering this information in contrast to past attitudes toward learning and what knowing indicates about education, there is growing disparity between traditional views of based upon theory and core knowledge as a frame work for analysis of information as opposed to skills as the model of preparation for a career path.  Present emphasis suggests that a shift in epistemology and how knowledge is valued (axiology) presents a revolutionary change in approach to educational theory and delivery because of marked developments in modern culture.

To emphasize this point, Toppo reports, that a Massachusetts task force concluded that straight academic content is no longer enough to help students compete an education that will place them in the work force in the 21st Century.   This presents a  perspective that shifts the central focus of past generations from  theoretical, content based knowledge, while at the same time emphasizes a shift toward technological skill-based proficiency.  This perspective drew a rebuke from The Boston Globe,  which states that it is not clear that the current approach education can be implemented without eliminating  the important role that academic academic content has played in educating students with analytical skills in prior generations  (Toppo, 2009).  As a result,  changing paradigms in educational approaches have resulted in a shift in  the design of educational delivery systems and  indicates developments within culture driven by economic, industrial, multicultural, and technological differences that are not only changing the content and application of knowledge, but how value and meaning is assigned to knowledge as a concept and operationalized.

Shifting Paradigm of Knowledge

The evident change of meaning related to knowledge is readily apparent in the influence that is constantly changing media platforms that are impacting the content of knowledge and how it is understood.  The effects of the shift in cannot be underestimated because new educational philosophy is placing significant influence upon  the way knowledge is formulated, as well as, the conclusions made by knowledge that is communicated.   Therefore, given that there is a shift in the influential way that skill development is outweighing theoretical knowledge acquisition, a significant challenge is to understand how the shift of epistemology from traditional sources of knowledge will impact the future.  A fundamental question that arises out of the shifting paradigm is how  the shift will influence the way people will approach what is  knowable,  relative, and of value in the days ahead.  It seems that the societal evolution of methodology reflects the thinking of George Kelley’s construct theory.  Kelley saw everything only relative to the present moment and disconnected from the past and disassociated with the future.  In fact, he held that nothing is really stable or fixed and that all constructs are constantly being rewritten as they fit the present.  This type of thinking is diametrically different to the philosophical assumptions of a educational culture that has been based upon a body of theory taught to build  a skeleton that a discipline is built upon from embracing the collective knowledge of theorists’, philosophers, and the skilled artisans of truth who have built disciplines that bring great value to truth.  More to the point of my thoughts about this paradigm can spiritual leadership and Christian ministry be reduced to a skill to be taught, a marketing technology, or a professional ability without being grounded in the truth that has developed in our understanding but nonetheless timeless?  On the other hand, can a culture of technocrats who have been retooled with a new epistemology be touched by a gospel that presents a wisdom that that is not based upon skill, but in power and demonstration of the gospel of collaboration and technology designed to put information at people’s fingertips, but allows them to stay as they are? Jesus came to change lives, not just to impart data to add to information technology.  Have you ever looked around and looked at the condition of the world and wondered why the church is having little impact upon beliefs, values, and practices in the 21st century world of spirituality?  Technology and skill cannot save people, only Jesus can.

Clashing World Views

One thing that is abundantly clear is that there is a clash of world-views that is not about skill or technology, but about spiritual, theological, and philosophical assumptions related to knowing as opposed to doing.  Have people lost sight about the fundamental truth that God alone imparts knowledge of himself through prayer, His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  There is no way to to place that in a data base or teach a skill to create a formula that imparts the power of the gospel. Unfortunately, the demand for crowds, the dollar, and the entertainment culture of the church has made us much more reliant conventional wisdom from the world in the moment than it has upon to power of the gospel from a sovereign God to ignite people with the knowledge of God that draws them to Him through obedience to timeless principles presented in the gospel.  On the other hand, over reliance upon informational technology and undereliance upon discipleship, obeedience, prayer, spiritual transformation, sacrifice, servanthood, and surrender questions the validity found in conventional theological, philosophical and historical authority by shifting the focus to pragmatic artificial intelligence based outcome, rather than processed thought and obedience to the gospel that is a spiritual discipline, away of life that is valued rather that a skill or trend that is popular for the moment.   The point is that the skills involved in technology are tools of the gospel preaching church, they are not the gospel.  Skill can greatly enhance the gospel, but cannot stand in for the gospel, can greatly enhance the presentation of the gospel, but is not the gospel, and can greatly multiply the reach of the gospel, but is not the gospel.  The gospel is about Jesus and His provision of eternal life through His sacrifice on the Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

The Abundance of Popular False Teachers

Evidence of the contemporary misuse of technology can be observed by considering the plethora of sources of distorted knowledge; spiritual teachers, television preachers, and Internet religion—offering knowledge challenging the theology of gospel in the scriptures and espoused by popular icons on the technological wonder called television. The apostasy is not the technology or skilled people who provide services, but the pseudo propheton- false prophets.  Jesus and Paul warned about them and warned not to go out after them. Paul said they would go from house to house leading silly women astray.  What an apt description of much of the television religious networks that are no mere than religious entertainment for the undiscerning and underdeveloped.  The result is felt in frustration experienced by conservative Christianity in understanding that what was once knowledge found in a system of thought is now subjugated to the popular beliefs of entertainers, politicians, or musicians who have deceived people with shallow materialistic theology. Therefore postmodern technology developments have played a role in shifting  information processing constructs i.e, “Knowledge can be described in terms of an intellectual — and spiritual –marketplace” (Adams, 1997).

Historical Revisionists

This point is demonstrated by Thomas Guarino (1996) presents a point of view saying that, “Postmodern thinkers reject foundationalist ontologies [sources of knowledge], of all types because these philosophies seek to ‘close down’ effective history,  to end historical consciousness” (Guarino, 1996).  Therefore, the source of knowledge about spirituality in matters that are religious and non-religious has been deligitimated. The source of authority in knowledge is now located in the many voices of consumer driven media messages communicating a changing value system of knowledge.

A fundamental question hinges upon whether it is right or wrong? Obviously, that depends upon your view of knowledge in an accepted value system held.  It might be better to recognize it being what it is than spending time in criticism of the change.  A better question is related to effectiveness in the 21st century economy and culture.  If what is held as a personal belief system is important enough to feel it needs to be preserved, then maybe we should spend time thinking about how to communicate the message, definition, and meaning of spirituality in a technological– media driven culture that has embraced collaboration as a mediator for knowledge.

References

Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.org/adams.html

Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.

Toppo, G. (2009, March 5). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’. Retrieved 6 2011, April, from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

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The Postmodern Age and the Decline of Western Spiritual Meaning


Adam and Eve Driven out of Eden, by Gustave Do...Postmodernism:  A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of their being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism “cannot on its own principles ultimately prove itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.” (Postmodernism)

Postmodernism: — a state of mind or way of thinking in the post-modern world affecting every area of western culture

A general understanding reveals that postmodernism is a term that has gained popularity in scholarly writing as well as casual conversations. In fact, Thomas Guarino (1996) says, “It’s a “movement” that has inspired raging debates about ‘the cult theory’ [in the 1930’s] across the arts and sciences” (p. 654). One of the core issues of postmodern philosophy is the denial of absolutes across groups and lends itself to logical positivism and relativity as a maxim of truth.  As a result, the intention of this article about postmodernism is not to solve the debate, but to understand the influence that state of mind held has upon contemporary beliefs about spirituality.

What Does  Postmodernism Describe?

A description given by Daniel J. Adams (1997) says, “The postmodern era can best be understood in terms of four major characteristics: the decline of the West, the legitimation crisis, the intellectual marketplace, and the process of deconstruction” (Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism).

The perspective of Adams demonstrates is a fundamental shift in thinking in this period that began in a specific era of  time and is associated with significant phenomenon occurring simultaneously in Western Culture that is characterized with the period of decline of spirituality. His analysis of Western Decline draws attention to a point of view that is fundamental to an evolution of spiritual meaning that has correlates to historical-cultural development.  To illustrate, Adams (1997) says, “the legitimation crisis, identified with metanarrative shows [what] is now being seriously called into question” (2). Unlimited development and capitalistic movement in American ideology versus environmental pollution, limited resources, concerns about nuclear proliferation—use of energy, environmental threats, third world poverty, and the goals of the NAFTA have deligitimated descriptions that had characterized capitalism and the past success of the West. Postmodern thinking is characterized by a shift in state of mind about core beliefs that are delegitimized in an essential devaluation of past matters of importance.

Adams, draws attention to another significant development correlated to Western Decline the, “metanarrative of Judeo-Christian sexual ethic” (p. 2)  characterizing American culture.  His perspective identifies the shift of views about sexuality chastity, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and traditional view of marriage as another deconstructed normative value in culture. With Judeo-Christian ethics disempowered from authoritative acceptance, norms from the past are replaced with a plurality of views with no central source of knowledge or universally held value to describe a way of life experience in America. Deligitimation in postmodern life of the Judeo Christian ethic demonstrates changing beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and accepted norms indicate a shifting emphasis from the views of the past.

A perspective about the impact of postmodernism upon Christian thought is offered by David Couchman (2002) who describes how mind-set has been altered, he states: “if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put it in cold water and heat it slowly, you can boil it alive because it does not realize what is happening. … We think we know what is going on, while the culture in which we are immersed is slowly killing us without our realizing it” (Couchman, 2002, p. p. 74). Thus the effect of postmodernism is not readily recognize because culture has been inoculated in a gradual process of change that has brought dramatic change in the decline of western thought about many important cultural issues that have placed a profound effect upon spiritual values and beliefs in the 21st century.

References Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.orh/adams.html

Couchman, D. (2002). Facing the challenge of our times equipping christians to respond biblically and effectively to postmodernism. Evangel , 20 (3), pp. 74-78 retrieved from EBSCOhost March 09, 2011.

Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.

Postmodernism. http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html

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Spoiled Spirituality, Vain Philosphy, and Religious Tradition


John-3-16-Photo-Bible-VerseWhen the apostle Paul says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8), what does it mean to 21st century Christians?  Paul presents a poignant reminder that there is a present and real impact that  popular beliefs can present that overshadow how vain deceit  can easily integrate in the life of the church and spoil the message of Christ with tradition, worldly beliefs, and philosophy, which is not consistent with Christian doctrine.

Recently, evidence of a shifting paradigm reflecting views about interest in organized religion and current spiritual beliefs, presented in an opinion article written by Chris Mooney, reports, “Across the Western world — including the United States — traditional religion is in decline, even as there has been a surge of interest in “spirituality.”  What’s more, the latter concept is increasingly being redefined in our culture so that it refers to something very much separable from, and potentially broader than, religious faith.”  The disparaging remarks about traditional religion and interest in spirituality show a perspective moving toward synthesizing postmodern religious beliefs into a new form of spirituality.

A Modern Definition of Spirituality

 Mooney indicates that the shift in modern culture has redefined how earlier beliefs about spirituality synthesized into a contemporary application form a new perspective, “Nowadays, unlike in prior centuries, spirituality, and religion are no longer thought to exist in a one-to-one relationship.  Spirituality is something everyone can have — even atheists. In its most expansive sense, it could simply be taken to refer to any individual’s particular quest to discover, that which is held sacred.  What is clear is that post-modern views have embraced an eclectic point of view that demonstrates a shift in authority and knowledge from beliefs held in the Christian Bible to what is relative to the present culture.

 Application: A Non-specific Spiritual Relativity Shifts Truth about Spirituality from Biblical Truth to Personal  Relativity

 This report by Mooney  illustrates how the locus of truth forming current beliefs about spiritual ideologies has shifted from the institution to culture, from culture to the collective opinion, and the collective group to personal relativity.  Therefore, we can all find our own sacred things — and we can all have our own life-altering spiritual experiences.  These [beliefs and experiences] are not necessarily tied to any creed, doctrine, or belief; they grip us on an emotional level, rather than a cognitive or rational one.  That feeling of awe and wonder that sense of a deep unity with the universe or cosmos— such intuitions might lead to a traditional religious outlook on the world, or they might not.  An analysis Mooney’s observation reveals a contemporary presentation of spirituality emphasizing cultural relativism as the absolute, the hermeneutic, for understanding what spirituality means in the 21st century.  Conclusions can be inferred that spirituality may mean something quite different from what is contained in the historic view of God that defines spirituality in terms of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  One fundamental question that needs to be answered is what this non-specific spiritual relativity has done to bolster belief in the essential nature of God.  Is the new form of spirituality a belief in God or the antithesis of what has been believed for centuries?

 Is Modern Spirituality Atheism in a Rebranded?

What may not be clear to many casual onlookers is that in the re-branding of spirituality into the synthetic form that spirituality has taken on the form of agnosticism and for some atheism. The Nuevo spirituality has gained the attention of entertainers and Richard Dawkins, the most prominent atheist of them all who reports that he has certainly felt spiritual uplift.  In response, he has written an entire book, Unweaving the Rainbow, about the wonder that comes with learning how things really work.  Dawkins, in a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, said that “spirituality can mean something that I’m very sympathetic to, which is, a sort of sense of wonder at the beauty of the universe, the complexity of life, the magnitude of space, the magnitude of geological time.  All those things create a sort of frisson in the breast, which you could call spirituality.”

“But,” Dawkins quickly added, “I would be very concerned that it shouldn’t be confused with super naturalism.”… It does not require science and faith to be logically compatible, for instance.  Nor does it require that we believe in anything we cannot prove.  Spirituality simply doesn’t operate on that level.  It’s about emotions and experiences, not premises or postulates. What can be taken away from what Dawkins says is that in his view of spirituality there is nothing definite that is founded on premises of truth, it is the subjective experience of a human experience that is in no way connected to any belief in God.

Cultural Christianity and Atheism

In Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan interview with biologist Richard Dawkins , the article continues and states  how Richard Dawkins sometimes describes himself as a cultural ChristianHe says that he is fond of the sort of mild Church-of-England Christianity where nobody really believes it or takes it very seriously, a bit like many of his Jewish friends who call themselves cultural Jews but who are actually atheists. Unfortunately, the position of Dawkins is not his alone, but a popular place that is embraced by many advocates of current opinions about spirituality.  The conclusion leads to a formidable fact that what is contained in much of the spiritual rhetoric being bandied about today is nothing more than the resurrection of atheism.

The view inside the church and the source of conflict: secularization of the sacred

What is clear is that there is a shift in thinking about spirituality that is not only outside the church, but also is influencing how things are done in the church.  In a 2005 article in Christianity TodaySpirituality for All the Wong Reasons(March 2005) managing editor, Mark Galli presents a series of questions to Eugene Peterson about how spirituality is viewed inside the church. An interesting observation at the beginning of the article is the point that Peterson makes about how spirituality is compartmentalized and disconnected from the material life, “It avoids the ordinary, the everyday, the physical, the material.  It’s a form of Gnosticism, and it has a terrific appeal because it’s a spirituality that doesn’t have anything to do with doing the dishes or changing diapers or going to work.  There’s not much integration with work, people, sin, trouble, inconvenience” (p. 44).  This point of view is well supported and demonstrated within the sacred-secular distinction that characterizes the lived experience of many people inside the life of the church.

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary  says, “The real question posed by Mooney’s USA Today column is whether Christians possess the discernment to recognize this postmodern mode of spirituality for what it is — unbelief wearing the language of a bland faith.’

Mohler’s observation that, “Chris Mooney might be on to something here. The American public just might be confused enough to fall for this spirituality ploy.  Will Christians do the same?”  (Albert Mohler) demonstrates that there is a significant influence being place upon historic perspectives of spirituality that is having an impact upon beliefs and practice inside and outside the church.

What is plain is that there is cultural change that is influencing not only what is thought, but also how thoughts and ideas are influencing what is believed.  Only time will tell what comes of these current developments in American culture and how it will influence not only culture, but also the spiritual lives of the people of this generation and the generations to come.

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Spirituality: The Shifting Sands of Change in the 21st Century


spirituality shelf
Who’s  Books are You Reading?

Albert Mohler (2010) said, “As the period of emerging adulthood grows longer, young people are becoming more alienated spiritually.”  Mohler’s statement raises questions about religious occurrences in 21st century related to the current formation of beliefs about spirituality. It is apparent that there is a significant departure from the views held by evangelical Christians in the past by a great number of individuals.  Evangelicals who have had a predominate voice in shaping opinions in earlier generations are now faced with the question about how to respond to the present climate.  An interesting question to ponder is about the influences that are shaping the views of this emergent generation and how will evangelical Christian‘s maintain the ability to influence this generation under present conditions?

For social theorists, this might jus be viewed as a developmental stage of an evolving culture.  If this is correct; then, what can be learned from the present phenomenon to develop approaches of reaching this generation to create an authentic Christian identity that is functional, consistent, and purposeful? Are there things that need to be understood about to create a process to create intuition about how people in the 21st century are going to be reached with the gospel?

Within the discipline of psychology, there is a principle taught in life–stage theory that every period of life has an identity crisis and skill development must occur that enables a successful transition to  face the responsibilities of the next period of existence.   The theory purports that there is a natural development process that contributes to being able to continually engage life and have effective outcome in the ongoing challenges that are a part of the experience of life.  This an interesting analogy to make about how culture is developing, but how does lifespan development relate to the church-culture process of evangelism and discipleship?

The results are portrayed today by a fundamental gap between generations and that the distinctive beliefs of the past have not been passed on in ways that communicate in this period of societal development.  Applying this principle requires asking important questions about development and delivery of the gospel to the participants of this generation. First, what skills need to be developed in church strategy to build a connection between the importance of core beliefs.  An important question to consider is how will Christians communicate what has been believed about matters of faith, morality, and God and what is believed now.  Something to consider in the process is have have we advanced as a culture in the view about spirituality or has the lines of spirituality in the church been blurred by a secular voice –influence upon the church? The answer may lie within the development of views from the past generation about spirituality and what it means.  Think about this: is the earlier better informed than the present?  If so, has the view of the past informed, equipped, the present generation with the essential skills to enter a new time, face different responsibilities and challenges?

Could it be that Spirituality in America is in need of family systems therapy?

I am personally convinced that many of the present challenges of the church have to do with defective and reactive thinking about the identity of the church in culture.  One of the issues of importance is who is the church and what is the role and mission of the church in the world.  One of the deficit thinking patterns has been that efforts to whitewash the church as contemporary, while not maintaining a firm sense of discipleship, devotion, and doctrinal fidelity has created an atmosphere of relativity that has outweighed balanced thinking. Apparently there are perceptions about spirituality today suggests a noticeable departure from traditionally held views of spirituality to a changing perspective. However at the same time, Ed Stetzer (2011) says, “This generation is open to God and spirituality. When asked if they considered themselves to be spiritual, 73 percent of respondents age 20-29 answered affirmatively” (Stetzer).  In response, a question that may not be addressed adequately in the thinking of church literature today how to connect with a generation looking for spirituality and authenticity without owning the same a s a way of life.  An important question that needs a substantive answer is what contribution does the thinking of the last period–generation about spirituality have upon the present understanding of spiritual life in the church?  Indeed, what is readily apparent is that there is a clear disconnect between traditional organized religion and authentic transformational Christianity in the 21st century.  Do the results paint a picture of the rebellious child of the 60’s 70’s or 80’s that has grown up and is misbehaving.  What will the descendants of the flower power generation do with the gospel in a culture influenced by technology, shaped by low accountability, and a polluted spirituality do to shape the future?

The statistics cited by Stetzer (2001) indicates that the respondents are open to God and believe that they are spiritual, which essentially, is no different than previous generations; but in retrospect, what does it say about a relationship with God?

One response is that there is openness and the basic belief about personal spirituality that suggests that there is a motivation by people to understand life in spiritual terms.  To apply this in real terms it  means that something or someone is defining what spirituality means if people believe they are spiritual.  If the church is going to have a voice in shaping spirituality in today’s world, the church has to step up to the plate and engage culture to be a shaping force in defining what it means to be a Christian.  Oftentimes,  I hear people referring to culture as an evil force to be avoided because culture is perceived as a collective consciousness leading people away from truth or a force at odds with a religious point of view.  In response, culture is better understood as “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought” (Free Dictionary).  Using this definition culture describes a defining force in a point of view. Therefore, to create culture change and effect  culturally implicit beliefs, behaviors, and values the church has a challenge to engage culture in a process.  Is culture change possible in the present climate, with the views of a deteriorating church culture, an inefficient delivery system, and an unwillingness to engage people as they are in 2013?  As Stetzer (2011) describes this generation, he indicates that they have an interest in spiritual life, but the important question is who will define what that means and how will the present actions of the church affect future generations?

A caution that we need to own today is that we are living in a day where there is a great need for the church to rise with character and the implicit truth that God offers a spiritual relationship through surrender to authentic faith in Jesus Christ.  I think that we may have become so general and so bland that we have lost the passion about God that motivates holy living.  An important and fundamental question that needs an answer is who is going to shape the views of the 21st century about spiritual life.  Something that is desperately needed is people who are willing to move beyond popular beliefs and who are willing to create a new score card about what it means to have spiritual success, and what it means to be the body of Christ.  Think about this emergent generation as the people that Jesus died on the Cross for and for whom He gave His life.  The important application for the church who has a vested interest in reaching today’s culture how are we going to connect with those who report that they are interested in spiritual life?

A fundamental truth pointed to  is that this generation can be engaged in a discussion about spirituality and motivated to respond if an effort is made.

Understanding what the behavior means and what is shaping the values of 20-29 year olds is not interesting or appealing to many people. However, a challenge for traditional– modern Americans is to accept that multi-culturalism is shaping the view of people of many people.  Further, if  there is going to be meaningful engagement of emerging peoples, groups, and cultures, it means that accepting the challenge of thinking outside the box is a necessary activity that will precede a genuine, real movement of God.  Breaking it down, it means understanding what is driving the point of view, what are the assumptions, and how strategy can be developed to reach people in that are different than us and people who God can draw to our congregations to find spiritual life.

It is an easy thing to generalize about things we do not understand.  The tendency is to ignore or dispose of things we do not understand.  However, if we are committed to the mission of the church, the message of the gospel; then there is a sense of urgency that must be embraced that will motivate the Christian Church to decisive action and impact the definition of spiritual life in the 21st century.

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Timeless Truth: Where there is no Truth anything is Right Part 2


In today’s spiritual climate, it is more important than ever to settle in your mind the principles that you are going believe and to live on.

An important question for Christians answer is about what statements or values  are going to hold your life up and define meaning in a world with few absolutes?

In the words of A.W. Tozer a life without essential truths disables the ability to know anything for sure. He says, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark.  Dark would be without meaning”

The reason that this is important to Christians and non-Christians is that the lines of meaning blur so selectively.  In the 21st century, the milieu of popular ideals about tolerance advocates open-mindedness about everything except definable truth about God.  Fanky Schaeffer, points out the unbalanced way that tolerance applies to Christians in contrast to other groups, sects, and ways of life and makes this point about inequity very clearly.  He says, “The secular humanist, although he would never dream of committing the social faux pas of calling a black man a negro, feels perfectly free to castigate Christians and their leaders in any way he likes”.  The disparity in this point of view is indicative of a one-sided tolerance that is demanded like the men of Sodom beating on the doors of Lot’s house who demanded the right to corrupt God’s messengers who came to rescue Lot and his family.  Consequently, the point that Schaeffer makes draws attention to cultural blindness that has become so darkened that the moral darkness has lost its meaning without something to define a tangible reality.

One of the important questions to ask is what is the difference between the modern age that we live in now and the postmodern age? 

In the modern age, the first half of the 19th century; truth was discussed, debated, and even fought over, because it brought meaning to existence.  In contrast, in the postmodern age, many people do not even believe there is such a thing as timeless truth. A significant difference is the great presence of darkness and the absence of a paradigm to give a spiritual voice to the great issues of the times that is balanced against truth apart from humanism, sociology, and cultural anthropology.  As a result,  the way we are already seeing that in 21st century  culture today is how the personal nature of truth is applied without balance.  For instance, What is right for you may be wrong for me.  What is right for me may be wrong for you.  What is true for you may not be true for these people.  There is no such thing as truth.  It is just a figment of your imagination.  It is all an illusion.

You may hear people say things like “there are no absolutes.  Therefore, there is no absolute right and there is no absolute wrong in anything.  It’s just what you want it to be.”  The message that resonates is that there is never anything that is sure and there is never anything absolutely wrong –perception and cultural relativity and the great diviners or truth. As a result, whenever I hear someone say that there are no timeless principles of truth, I want to say, “Are you absolutely sure?  That statement in itself is an absolute –it is a circular argument.

We are living in a generation where many people feel like tolerance is more important that truth

The rationale goes something like this; you do not have to tell the truth you just have to be tolerant of every behavior as an acceptable choice no matter what absolutes may be in question.  As a result, the supreme value today is not truth, but tolerance based upon group-think or collaboration without a standard, authority, or voice that stands apart from cultural relativityTolerance has become the new absolute truth for a culture that has no absolutes.

In today’s culture when you decide to say, “Here are some principles to live by, ” this is always right and this is always wrong”, you are going to wear the labeled of a bigot, hater, or as intolerant.  The moment that anyone has the courage to stand up and express the personal conviction that says something is right or wrong as a Christian value,  then you’re labeled a fundamentalist, a bigot, a nutcase of some kind.

There is something more important than tolerance –Truth

In fact, it is not tolerance that sets you free –It is truth that sets you free.  The only way to refute ignorance is with information that is balanced and just at the same time.  A truth to consider is that you can be very easy, tolerant and at the same time build your life on a total lie at the same time.   Something to think about is that if there is no such thing as truth, then …
One, there is no basis for any law because there is nothing universally moral to base it upon 

Truth that is relative to the person and is a matter of personal opinion and based on mores’, current societal values, or personal feelings of entitlement.  To illustrate the absurdity of this position imagine think about this: If you are driving down the freeway and somebody wants to blow you away in a drive-by shooting, is that ok, because it was “right for them, felt good, or was acceptable in a special class of people?”  Obviously, a sound conclusion that is well  supported by rational thinking is if there is no universal basis for laws that govern or prohibit identifiable behaviors deemed as wrong there is no moral truth in the culture that is timeless or universal.  Therefore, without a moral standard of timeless, universal principles if somebody wants to take your life they have a right to based on this premise.

Why?  …  When there is no such thing as timeless universal truth, the only thing to balance life is what feels normative in human experience.

Two, if there is no such thing as truth, then else nothing matters 

 There is no meaning in existence, there is no significance, and you do not matter.  The absence of universal value actually reduces the personal importance of individual life.  A conclusion could be that humans are are no more than  primordial ooze that evolved through millions of years by accident into a social setting that is called life existence.

Three, if there is no such thing as truth then there is no solid ground in life.

If it is just a matter of “that’s your opinion; let’s just get along”, then you have absolutely no principled way of forming a solid foundation from which to base your life values to reflect a Christian worldview. Using tolerance as the diviner of truth reduces Christianity to being a vassal of pseudo-intellectualism imposed by the popular views of secular social beliefs within groups as norms.  A fundamental question for Christians relates to the foundation that is chosen to build life existence upon.

Jesus told a story at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that speaks about a firm foundation.

Jesus told a story about two builders that illustrates the choices. He said, two people went out and built homes.  One person built his home on shifting sand.  Moreover, when the storms came along, that are a inevitable part of life, and the rains hit it and the winds battered it; the house fell apart because it had no solid foundation to stand upon.

However, there was a person that Jesus labeled as wise, who built his house on solid rock, a solid foundation.  As the story goes, the winds came and the storms blew, the rains came down; it remained solid because it had a stable foundation. 

The moral of the story is that people need principles to live by to make life secure.  One of the challenges in the 21st Century climate of culture is that stability is quickly washing because a firm footing has blurred the lines of truth so dramatically and has been replaced with popular opinions of a pagan world that is spinning reality to match social phenomenon.  In the world where we live, Almost every institution in our culture is crumbling.  Our government is grid locked and paralyzed with ineffectiveness. The net effect is that church has been put in a reactionary position while the men of Sodom are pounding on the door demanding the right to corrupt the messenger of God.

A symptom of the absence of absolute beliefs about morality is the symptomatic pattern of evil that abounds in the world. In the land of the free –America, there are more metal detectors in schools than there are in airports and jails combined.  What does that indicate about the absence of values and principles in a society that has reduced the importance of absolute values to the doctrine of tolerance without balance.

In a society where things are crumbling all around us, how do you have hope?  How do you be optimistic without truth to balance life?

The answer is in what Jesus said, “Everyone who hears My words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  To be on the rock and have a solid foundation  The point to take from the teaching of Jesus is that the Christian church needs principles of truth to live by to provide a solid foundation to live effectively

Timeless Truth: Where there is no Truth, anything is Absolutely Right Part 1


Truth

When people exchange ideas in a discussion about “what is actually believed to be true”, responses underscore the significance of personally held beliefs.  A central theme inferred from general responses to matter of truth reveal that everyone has a clearly constructed philosophy of life whether it is clear to them or not.  A philosophy of life is simply a way or organizing thoughts, beliefs, and behavior that expresses values that are a part of personal and social identity.  Simply put, a philosophy of life expresses core beliefs, values, and behaviors that may be in conflict with individual statements describing personal beliefs. 

A further implication of a philosophy of life emphasizes the unique way a (POL) organizes belief or unbelief that needs to be true to validate internal constructs that forms the moral foundation for existence.  Therefore, what a philosophy of life suggests reveals that people need a philosophy, a code of conduct, or a way of conceptualizing existence to provide a framework of thinking that provides stability, security, and a firm sense of confidence to explain life in ways that bring rational balance to existence. 

To magnify the absence of balance regarding a stable attachment to truth in modern culture, Francis Schaeffer (1969) says, “Our generation has nobody home in the universe, nobody at all.  An observation from Schaffer’s statement reveals a deeply engrained spiritual uncertainty exists in our world about certainties.  In  particular, uncertainties regarding a firm understanding about the existence of God and firmly held beliefs provide a secure identification and a rational way to express life securely grounded in internalized truth. 

Consequently, narrowing a philosophy of life to a fundamental understanding of truth believed about the existence of God presents the essential arguments for a secure bond to form a spiritual identity.  An identity predicts the expression of a life that constructs a personal philosophy of life resulting from a personal relationship with God whom we believe to be true or not true.  To emphasize the importance of what beliefs value in terms of truth the personal axiom delineates  that only belief in a “personal comforter can comfort man who is personal, and only one Comforter is great enough to comfort; the infinite-personal God who exists, that is the God of Judeo-Christian Scripture. Only He is the sufficient Comforter” (p.27).

The Bible says that you were created to have a relationship with God

The assumption that Christians historically believe creates a moral balance through a primary belief that God exists and desires to have a relationship to people as the sufficient comforter.  The assumption that He exists follows with reason that explains why individual people are constructed in the unique way that reflects reason in creation.  One of the timeless truths that contradict non-Christian philosophy reveals that God desires for people to have an eternal relationship with Him in eternity by initiating a relationship in the present.  Typically, most people only last 60, 70, 80, maybe 90 years on earth.  Non-Christian, pagan philosophy holds that when your body dies, that  is the end of you in existence.  However, a truth the Bible presents states, that you are going to keep on living eternally.  The reasoning from Christianity indicates that where you spend eternity and what your experience in eternity will reveal results from and individual response (belief or unbelief) to truth. Truth and faith are about focused on redemption and how to have a relationship with God in a earthly existence that prepares for a life in eternity.  Therefore, a salient point of Christian belief reveals that what you believe is true relates to present life experience and future existence in eternity. Schaffer states that there is a truth to be understood about God’s goal in a relationship with Him: “Our calling is to enjoy God as well as glorify Him. Real fulfillment relates to the purpose for which we were made, to be in reference to God, to be in personal relationship with Him, to be fulfilled by Him, and thus to have an affirmation of life”.  Therefore, Christianity should never give any observer the right to conclude that Christianity believes in the negation of life.  Christianity is able to make a real affirmation because it affirms possibility for a personal relationship to a personal God.  The possibility forms the substance for a philosophy of life that affirms God as creator, a belief in our unique purpose and creation, and a secure bond to form an identity, which reflects belief, behavior, morals, and ethical response that is consistent with a primary belief in God.  Therefore, everything except God is dependent other causal factors, but man being in the image of God, can be in personal relationship to an immutable God that exists without the finite limitations of humanity. As a result, we can be fulfilled in the highest level of our personality and in all the parts and portions of life…  There is nothing Platonic in Christianity…  The whole purpose for man will be fulfilled; there is to be an affirmation of life that is filled with joy (p.26).

The truth about the events of life: —life is a test

The present is not the final act in the play of life existence.  We are given the opportunity to respond to God’s measure of truth.  This is not the final act of existence.  In fact, life in the present is the warm up act for life in eternity.  Therefore, believers are tested in their ability to receive and appropriate eternal truth.  Christians are tested by how well they follow what God says in His word.  Moreover, truth tells us that we need principles to live by to overcome the finite limitations of humanity to reason the way through truth.

Every principle of truth you need for your spiritual life is in this book

In Psalm 119:19 “I am a pilgrim here on earth [that means you’re just passing through; you’re not going to stay here] I need a map and Your commands are my chart and my guide.”

Everything you need is right here – the principles to build your life on and to live by.

Here is the problem: God’s principles for living are the exact opposite of conventional wisdom

When you figure out the popular thing to do and it’s almost always the wrong thing to do.

Because God’s principles for living about time management, God’s principles for living, God’s principles about sex, and God’s principles for living about how you use your money are the exact opposite of what popular culture tells you.

Popular culture almost, always gets it wrong

Some say, “You earn your way to heaven by being good enough.  And if your good works are better than your bad works, you’re going to make it.”  Therefore, you work very hard and hope to get into heaven.

God’s word says, “Not a chance.  There is no way you can earn your way into a perfect place.  It is a gift.  You must accept it by faith in My Son.  It is a gift of grace.  Accept it.” 

Popular culture says, get all you can, get it as fast as you can and do not let anybody else have any of it. 

God’s word says, “The way to be happy is to give your life awayA man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he possesses.”  Learn to give; learn to share, because happiness comes from generosity through giving to others.

Today, more than ever before you are going to need to settle in your mind the principles that you are going to live on.  What are the statements, the values that are going to hold your life up?

 

 References

Death in the City (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press: 1969) 27