Sunday, 9 November 2008

Responding to Postmodernity!

This is a paraphrase of Peter Hodgson, Winds of the Spirit, p.60-61:

He says that our society is on the cusp of radical change from a modernist mindset to a postmodern one. This leaves the church with a number of options. One is the response of Evangelical Christianity which is "the deep desire to recover stable ethical and religious foundations in a topsy-turvy age." It has a "tendency to over-belief in the face of the threats and insecurities of our time - a false security based on illusory absolutes... and an explicit refusal to enter into dialogue with modernity. Religion provides a convenient escape for those who lack the strength to cope with the threats of modernity; it does not often enough provide resources for those who wish to respond to its challenges."

The second response of the church is to feel a sense of despair about renewing Christianity in the light of postmodernism. They "retreat into intellectual games and hedonistic play - a mask for despair, cynicism, nihilism."

The third response is "renewal... It warns against cultural accomodation and advances a prophetic critique of the negative features of modernity. It... does not attempt to turn the clock back to any sort precritical authority. But it is suspicious of... religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue... evolving sexual practices, liberation movements, nonhierarchical forms of power. It is more concerned with the inner renewal of communities of faith."

Finally, there is revisionism. This is "convinced that, in order to preserve the heritage and identity of the Christian tradition, it must be allowed to pass over into new and often quite different forms... This approach knows that there is no original, purely biblical expression of Christianity but only a series of contextualised expressions, each in its own way a more or less creative transformation of both the figure of Christ and the forms of culture." He argues that such a response seeks to build a bridge between the Enlightenment and Liberation. "Enlightenment without liberation loses its emancipatory dynamic; liberation without enlightenment loses its critical rationality... the saving resources present in the classical Christian tradition can be reappropriated and reenacted."

Personally, I found this quite an interesting summary of the situation. His description of what evangelicalism is, is the same as my own. I would also admit to flirting with the second option. I found it so much more straightforward as an evangelical. My actions (evangelism) could have an immediate impact on another person's eternal happiness. Now, I struggle to know how to be a vehicle (even in a small way) for making this world a better place. Even if I did work to make things better in some small way, the impact is hardly eternal. It is easy to take the easy option of hedonism or despair in the light of enormous suffering in the world and my own sense of being disempowered. Of all the options, I think the 4th one sums me up best, though I find it scary at times to reshape my faith - and no one like change. I am presently reading "Lost Christianities" - a book about Christianity in the 1st 400 years - its really interesting and very well written. But it has certainly convinced me that there has never been an original, universally accepted Christianity, just a series of contextual expressions.
I am open to critiques of any of this - but not a great fan of being burnt at the stake!

No comments: