Friday, May 30, 2014

Postmodernity Vs the Hope of the Gospel

We live in a postmodern age.  Postmodern describes the prevailing secular worldview that dominates and guides man as he lives out his life on this earth.  The following is an excerpt from Michael Bird's systematic theology, aptly named Evangelical Theology.  This section contrasts postmodernity with Christianity and its gospel proclamation. As you read this keep in mind that Michael lives in Australia. The term eschatological refers to the end times or last things.  All italics are mine for emphasis.

"...Yet postmodernity is really the intensification of Modernity--a hyper-modernity in fact.  Postmodernity accentuates the claim that man is the measure of all things, and it allows for the use of religious language on the proviso that the language has no referent to any reality other than the language of the users who utter it. In postmodernity, pluralism is god and diversity is his prophet. 

In the postmodern era, the overarching story is that our world is heading for political, economic, and ecological oblivion.  The only way we can save it is through a rescue; we need a savior, a state, who will end discrimination by enforcing diversity, who will deliver our economy by neo-Marxism, and who will rescue our environment with eco-legislation.  Then we will have complete equality, true diversity and authentic community.  Just read philosophers like Peter Singer, Alain Badiou, or Slavoj Zizek, and you get themes like this coming through.  Here religion, as an ideology resistance to hyper-secularism, stands in the way of diversity and eco-responsibility,; therefore, it must be exiled out of the public sphere.  Sex can be publicized, but religions must be interiorized. Tolerance is not a respect for the beliefs of others; it is the abandonment of beliefs that offend. I suspect that, when all is said and done, the postmodern vision will collapse in on itself in nihilism.  Its hope for a global community-in-diversity can only be achieved by forcing faith communities to forfeit their truth claims, to deny the finality of their hopes, and to expunge themselves of anything offensive to others. The irony of postmodernism is that its quest for absolute diversity can only be achieved by crushing dissenters.

In contrast to all this, Christian theology claims that history is about the mission of God working out His purposes.  These purposes were promised to the patriarchs and to Israel, were summed up in Christ, flow into the church, and will climax at the appointed day.  We know how the story goes, we know who it is about, and we even know how it all ends--not with a whimper but a new creation.  We do not die; rather, we become alive at the great resurrection.  Christian eschatology represents a competing story, a story that dares to challenge the dehumanizing ideologies of secularism and nihilism, for it tells us of a world without end, a benevolent Lord, a never-ending peace, and time without tears.  What is more, it is a world that has already begun in the context of this world, for that is the eschatological horizon of the gospel.

The gospel constitutes a keyhole through which we glance into God's new world.  This gospel imparts to us a vision of the future by warning us of the final judgment, giving us hope of eternal life, previewing the new creation and resurrection of the dead, and heralding the triumph of God over sin and suffering.  The gospel functions much like the program one receives at the beginning of a musical drama.  We learn the characters and the plot, and we are told how the story will dramatically end.  We discover also, much to our surprise, that we are characters in the story. The gospel calls us to sing and act amidst the melodies and motifs of God's kingdom and its king.

The eschatological horizon to the gospel is summarily announced to the world in the "gospel/good news of the kingdom" (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12).  God acts with kingly power to effect His redeeming reign over Israel and finally over all creation.  the kingdom of God is not a single place; rather, it is divine dominion over the entire world.  It has two key moments;  a fulfillment of Old Testament promises in the historical mission of Jesus, and a future consummation at the end of the age that inaugurates the coming age.  that the kingdom is both "already" and "yet to come" is, in the word Herman Ridderbos, "one of the fundamental presuppostions for understanding the gospel."  The gospel thus announces that God's reign is already bursting into our world, and it invites persons to enter into the rule of God for a future consummation of its saving power.....

The gospel is the announcement that God's kingdom is advancing, not in the sphere of human progress, but in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the mission of the church."

Michael Bird
Evangelical Theology
Pages 238-239

My friends, in the end, only one worldview, only one guiding philosophy, can give and sustain hope, and that is the worldview that is centered in Jesus Christ and looks to Christ as its Savior.  Don't be without true hope, without the sure confidence for eternity that it brings.  Center your world on Christ today!

No comments: