Home > Articles > Special Features > "
 

/_.jpg" width=77 height=120 alt="" border=0 align=left hspace=5>
by Milton Jones


    “Jesus is the Answer!” You could see the sign from nearly anyplace traveling through Tacoma on Interstate 5. The message was a great alternative to the myriads of advertising monoliths looming over the freeway fastlanes. But I can imagine someone catching a fleeting glimpse of the message and asking, “If Jesus is the answer, then what is the question?”

    As we came to the last decade of the twentieth century, it was obvious that the world was changing drastically. The pat answers that had been given for hundreds of years to the big questions of our existence were no longer being heard. Did Christians still really have an answer? And if they did, how did it relate to what was really on everyone’s mind?

How Can You Be a Christian in a Postmodern World?

    How do we fit Christianity into a postmodern world? It seems like a difficult question. And the sad answer to this perplexing question is that Christianity does not fit into the major “posts” of postmodernism.1 And yet churches everywhere are trying to adapt Christianity to the postmodern world. Many churches are taking more of an Eastern approach to religion by emphasizing an inner subjectivism and allowing for the validity of all religions. Others are changing or softening their core beliefs. Congregations are giving in to the intellectual marketplace where whatever is popular becomes the rule of thumb for the church. Many are proclaiming a message with no universal truths. The new trend is to create a church that is more pleasing to people of the postmodern mind, while avoiding those who do not fit into the postmodern philosophy.

    In the postmodern world, Christianity must be seen as distinctive and not something that can be changed to fit an ever-changing mold. Indeed, Christianity and postmodernism, in many of their foundational tenets, are mutually exclusive. We cannot put God into a postmodern box. Already some philosophers are saying that postmodernism is bankrupt. Already they are in search of the next worldview. If this is the case, why would Christians even try to be postmodern?

    The pressing question is how to present Christianity as a viable alternative in today’s postmodern society. At this juncture, some might advocate a return to modernism. However, that period of history did not suit Christians well either. Modernism itself created many of the problems in churches today. Unable to differentiate properly between what was rooted in Scripture and what was rooted in modernism, churches became frozen by hermeneutical disagreements. Further, modernism created a religion without the mystery of God. In modern churches intellect reigned supreme. But ultimately, though it took a couple of centuries, we found out that a modern church didn’t work any better than a modern world.

Perhaps no biblical book addresses cultural chaos better than the book of Colossians...
    Others might propose that we turn again to the premodern world. Gabriel Moran asked an intriguing question: “Is the postmodern world a return to the premodern world?” In other words, is the postmodern world more like the biblical world than was the modern world?

    If this is true, we may find particular help in the Scriptures for the philosophical confusion we are facing today. Perhaps no biblical book addresses cultural chaos better than the book of Colossians, for the Colossian church had been taken over by a group of intellectuals who had decided to rewrite the Gospel to suit their own philosophical ideas.

Colossians — Help for a Church in Cultural Chaos

    Colossians is difficult to understand because of the particular problems that existed at the time. Some scholars say the problem was a type of gnosticism. However, no known style of gnosticism exactlv fits all the characteristics that were apparent in first-century Colossae at that time. Their problem is usually called the ‘Colossian heresy.’ Perhaps there was a particular brand of heresy, but let’s define the problem exactly the way Paul defined it. He called it “a philosophy.” It was a pseudo-religious philosophy which had permeated the culture and had also entered the church causing an emphasis on some very questionable doctrine. Paul says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8).

    Isn’t this still our problem today? In our analysis of postmodernism thus far, wouldn’t a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” work pretty well as a description of it? Is there any hope for us in a post-modern world? Do hollow and deceptive philosophies always win the day? In his day Paul was very optimistic that, with God’s help, things could change at Colossae. As we continue our critique of postmodernism, we are going to look closely at Paul’s advice to the church at Colossae, a church that was also struggling with a philosophy that contradicted much of their faith.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. It is written to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.

    We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God’s people. You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven — as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners.

    Epaphras, our much loved co-worker, was the one who brought you the Good News. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us in your place. He is the one who told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.

    So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.

    We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins. (Colossians 1:1-14 NLT)

    Did you notice Paul’s attitude in these verses? He honestly thinks that the negative issues in the Colossian church can be overcome. Wouldn’t he also think that the power of the gospel is superior to the Philosophical pull of postmodernism today? How important it is for Christians in our age not to give in to defeat on the front-line of philosophical challenges! The church will find an answer today when we too are given complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. (Col. 1:9) In a nutshell Paul is praying that the church will know God’s philosophy rather than the philosophy of the times.

    C. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, describes two kinds of truth.2 First, there is the Naturalist who says, “This universe is all there is. Only what I can see, touch, taste, hear or smell is real!” then there is the Supernaturalist who believes, “There is a lot more to it than that... God is really there. He created this universe from the outside and entered it in the person of Jesus Christ!” Lewis didn’t talk about “postmodernism” because the term didn’t exist then. But the postmodernist would say, “You are both correct. Truth can be based on empirical evidence and it can be based on faith. You can all have your own truths. And I can have mine too.”

    Colossians stands boldly in opposition to such postmodernist statements. Paul’s message to Colossae is not Christ and — it is Christ only. We cannot have Christ and anything (whether another philosophy or an additional religion). You must have Christ only. He is the one and the only one. As Eugene Peterson renders the last verse of chapter one, "Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.”

    If Christ is the answer, then what are the questions? Have they really changed that much? Even with a new philosophical environment like postmodernism, the critical and haunting questions of identity are still there. So we continue to ask the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? And the Bible says, For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

    What is life all about? Paul reminds us when he says, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3)

    Ultimately, the goal of any philosophy is to discover “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Is that possible? Yes — but only through Christ. Jesus is still the answer!

Questions For Discussion

  1. What are the big questions facing our society today?
  2. What have been the big changes you have seen in your world as we have entered the twenty-first century?
  3. What are some activities that were considered illegitimate by our society that now are considered legitimate? What is your opinion of the changes?
  4. Do you think Christianity can fit into a postmodern world? Explain.
  5. Read Colossians 2:8-9. How is the book of Colossians relevant to our postmodern world?
  6. Read Colossians 1:1-14. What attitude does Paul have for a church engulfed in a culture with a bad philosophical base?
  7. What answers does Christ provide for our postmodern world?
 

1 The “Four Posts” of Postmodernism are:
  1. The Fall of the West: this refers to the wide questioning of the “Western world’s” pursuit of capitalism, urbanization, and technology. Because Christianity is often tied to “Western” thinking, and because of the secularization of religion in the West, Christianity’s pace of authority and favor in world thinking is minimized.
  2. The Fall of the Accepted: this is sometimes referred to as the “legitimization crisis.” There are no longer any universally held mores or values in regard to behavior. Belief itself, and the belief in a universal moral code are highly questioned and criticized.
  3. The Fall of Intellectual Control: this refers to a loss of control or guidance based on knowledge and experience since information is so widely available from a variety of conflicting sources.
  4. The Fall of Texts: this is often labeled “Deconstruction.” The written word has lost its universal meaning and is interpreted in light the present context and exigencies. No word, no text, has a universal and timeless meaning.


2 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947).
      Excerpted from Christ - No More, No Less, ©2000, New Leaf Books. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
      Title: ""
      Author: Milton Jones
      Publication Date: December 22, 2001


 Share with Others  Related Heartlight Resources
_.html" onmouseover="window.status='View a simpler page format that works well with printers.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" title="Printer-friendly Version">Print This ArticlePrint this Article

_.html" target="note" onmouseover="window.status='Send this article to a friend.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" onclick="OpenNoteWindow('');" title="Send this article to a friend.">Send it to a FriendSend it to a Friend

DiscussDiscuss

 


 
 
Many more articles
like this are in the

ARTICLE ARCHIVE

 

_.html" onmouseover="window.status='View a simpler page format that works well with printers.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" title="Printer-friendly Version">Print This ArticlePrint this Article

_.html" target="note" onmouseover="window.status='Send this article to a friend.'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true" onclick="OpenNoteWindow('');" title="Send this article to a friend.">Send it to a FriendSend it to a Friend

DiscussDiscuss

 Archive Search



 

 
 
----
Today's Pick
Christ - No More, No Less Christ - No More, No Less
Milton Jones
----