12/26/2012 04:14 pm ET Updated Feb 25, 2013

Postmodernism and the Future of Evangelical Theology and the Christian Church

Star Trek and The Next Generation on the ship Enterprise wanted to explore and seek out new life and "to boldly go where no man has gone before." The first Star Trek showed a world where humans had gone on a journey to obtain knowledge. Since this was a quest, it would go to outermost parts of the universal in seek out objective knowledge. The shipmates would join forces to overcome problems that came up on the ship. They would collectively come to agreement as how best to proceed. On the Enterprise, all the crew worked together and thought things through in a rationale way unlike The Next Generation, where rationality is not always trusted. The shift between the two shows was that the world was moving toward post modernity, leaving modernity in the dust. Even though this was only a TV series, this was the reality of the new makeup of the world, the way of thinking. As these and other changes became evident, so the challenge for the church became.

The church had to rethink and retool the Gospel to meet the need of the world. In the modern thinking mind, they assume that "knowledge is certain, objective and good, and that such knowledge is obtainable." Men try to seek out and discover knowledge during the Enlightenment Age and beyond. This crusade toward reason and truth was an individual concern. Common folks within the church now read the Bible for themselves to decipher what is truth. The church was pushed out of the business of having the trademark of truth. The biggest challenge for the church now was postmodernism.

There was a time when most people in America believed in God and the Bible as authoritative. But since the birth of modernism and postmodernism, that would change by leaps and bounds. The world moving forward would experience three major earthquakes.
  1. The Scientific: Darwin's theory of evolution questioned the authority of the Biblical view of creation.
  2. The Philosophical: questioned the Bible's authority to define the meaning of man's life and the reason for his existence.
  3. The Moral: questioned the Bible's authority to dictate man's morality.
This worldview has no moral absolutes, everything is abstract and all belief systems are equally true. Just as in "The Next Generation" Data replaced Spock; just as postmodernity replaced modernity. Now not even the very fact of rationality can be accepted. The question now became how could the Gospel be shared within this context? Christianity is based on universal truths, which crosses all landmass and ocean shores. The reality is that the "center of reality" is Jesus Christ. Stanley Grenz proposed two contours that ought to shape future evangelical theology.

I. An authentic postmodern evangelical theology must be post-individual.

The church must capture an understanding of how this "culture" thinks. A need to gain an understanding on how we can reach this 21st century mindset with the Gospel message is needed. The challenge of the church is to find ways to preach within this context. The idea of God must be portrayed that He is a personal God. He is a God that looks at each person's individuality. Salvation is offered to each person. The plan of salvation must be communicated to be personal. A careful line must be drawn that while holding true to individualism, that the knowledge of God goes beyond whether or not an individual affirms that is true. The postmodern mindset individualizes the concepts of the world. They sense a private knowledge that creates some problems toward Christianity (which depends on universal truth). The knowledge of God and biblical doctrines (even though it is concerned with each individual) and that this person is part of a larger community of believers must regard individualism in its proper context. The individual does not stand solo, but is within a community.

With a group of people believing the same truths, this will place them into an overall community. According to Grenz, the greater discovery is that Christianity is a community, in the highest sense. Each individual must feel that they are part of the community. The discovery of truth must be personal but not point where the individual falls outside the community of believers.

II. In addition to being post-individual, a postmodern evangelical theology must be post-rational.

A person is not in isolation but in a personal relationship with God. Meaningful relationship is needed. A postmodern evangelical theology must make sense and use reason to be effective. In Acts 17, Paul used reason as he presented the Gospel to the philosophers and their followers of his day. The hearer must be able to grab the basic concepts of the theology we present. Even though our theology does have "mystery" to it, the overall message must be clear and relevant. The Gospel must be able to meet the needs both spiritually and physically and be able to impact the individual with "realness."

There is a need for realness today to help balance emotion and spiritual aspects of life. Gaining and sharing objective knowledge is not for informational purposes only. "Knowledge is only good when it facilitates a good result, specifically, when it fosters spirituality in the knower." It is more than knowing that counts. Our theology must be focused on the inner being, to bring out a glorious character and lifestyle. The ultimate purpose for our theology is to change the individual. The knowledge without true change or repentance is only head knowledge and not heart knowledge. The heart knowledge is what counts. Following the framework of these two basic contours, Christianity can reach where it has never gone before. The generation who were raised on Star Trek, would be able to identify with a evangelical theology structure to reach them. The beauty of the Christian faith is that it can be preached effectively within the context of postmodernism without preaching at postmodernism.