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Postmodernism and the Emerging Church:  Some Thoughts
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

A friend wrote with a question about a book he had read by Rob Bell.  Rob is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

A couple of month ago [this was in 2008] I was told to read a book by Rob Bell from Mars Hill Grand Rapids USA called Velvet Elvis and I took it along with me on holiday and read the book.

I thought that overall the book was great and I was challenged.  In hindsight there were a couple of issues in the book that were a little suspect but generally I enjoyed the book.

Then he asked for my comment on an article that had created some confusion for him.  The article focuses on a book by Bell.  The article by Rev. Casey Freswick was a critical review of Bell's book Velvet Elvis. He was critical in both senses of that word.

The article was entitled Postmodern Liberalism: Repainting a Non-Christian Faith, A Christian Critique of Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis.

The title of this article seems odd, since I don't know what association Postmodernism has with Liberalism.  I do know a lot of people use the term Liberalism loosely as emotionally charged word for anything they don't like.  (If you hear the term "liberal" you are supposed to assume it is bad.)

And for some people, the list of things they don't like is much longer than the things they do.  (I wonder when some of these people ever have time to preach the Gospel; they are so busy dealing with things they DON'T like.  I prefer Jesus' approach of engaging the people where they are.)

Amusing Misnomer
I am always suspicious when I see that word "Liberal" being used as a charge against anyone.  It does not fit well on Rob Bell.  Bell is very careful to make the Bible his reference point, especially Jesus and his teachings in the Gospels.  This is consistent with what is commonly termed "evangelical."

I am amused to hear and read some personages speaking of "Postmodern Liberalism."  This is a hilarious contradiction!  Post-modernism is the final blow to Liberalism, so those who still throw out the bugaboo of "Liberalism" to scare us off are way out of date and way out of sync.  They are way out of touch!  Liberalism basically lost its credibility after WWI, along with misguided Postmillennialism.

Though the United States experienced the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy in the 1920s and 1930s, after the Great War, the trend was toward more conservative views. This accelerated after WWII.

Liberalism as a movement or mindset was based on the Modern, or Modernist, worldview arising out of European Rationalism of the 1700s. Those who styled themselves as theological "conservatives" used the Modernist term for pastors and theologians with "modern" views of how to approach society with the gospel.

The arguments and propositional approach of the Fundamentalists in their defense of theology was actually a form of the same Rationalist analytical model they rejected in the classical Liberal or "Modernist" form. Their arguments actually assisted the persistence of the Modern (Modernist) rationalism, and constitutes one front of opposition to Postmodernism today.

From the post-WWII Baby Boom generation, the Modern perspective lost ground.  Usages and meanings of terms like "liberal" and "conservative" began to change.  Liberalism has succumbed, for the most part, to new attitudes and concepts of the contemporary culture, commonly referred to as Postmodernism.

Classical Liberalism has already been declared dead, but the epithet is still flung out as a scare tactic by threatened quarters.  The label "Liberal" is attached by certain speakers or writers to scare off their followers from considering certain alternatives.  This is basically a scare tactic, but seems likewise to represents the fear of those who use this tactic.  In contrast, "Faith casts out all Fear."

Fundamentalist Modernism!
Unfortunately, certain quarters insist on speaking in terms of past controversies.  The dismissive Reductionism of the Fundamentalist mindset reveals an unrealistic, simplistic worldview that attempts to divide everyone into Us and Them, and anyone who is not Us is "Liberal"!

This same puzzling irony arose in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy that arose in the 1920s.  Us does not seem to realize that their rationalist mindset and abstract approach to "doctrine" is also a Modernist perspective!  With strong Gnostic characteristics.

These are some of the factors and dynamics involved in the Modernist-Postmodernist discussion.  You have to be careful about the terms that are used, and how they are used, since, as I commented earlier, lots of people have "bugaboo" emotional terms they like to throw out to warn people off of things.

I always look to see to what degree these self-proclaimed champions of "orthodoxy" are actually presenting Good News to their communities and culture.  Often there is no instance of the latter!  Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom is my reference point.

My own introduction to Rob Bell was a video lesson I viewed in a prayer group in Richmond, Virginia, in 2004 or 2005.  Rob has a series of lessons, available on DVD or for free download on his website.  The series is called Nooma, a phonetic construction for the Greek word for Spirit, Pneuma.

I was very interested in this video lesson, knowing nothing about Rob Bell previously.  The selection chosen for the prayer group was called "Dust."  IT was a study of how a rabbi related to his students (disciples).  Bell was investigating the pattern of discipleship we see in Jesus' role as Rabbi to his disciples, and be extension to us as disciples, and those who became disciples among the nations (Matt 28:19-20).

My friend reported that right after reading Bell's book Velvet Elvis, he had been introduced to the Nooma series.  I was amazed to learn that his video introduction to Rob Bell was the same one  I had seen in our home cell group.

While we were on holiday we stayed at a Christian resort and they had daily devotions in the morning and evening. One evening we were shown a DVD by Rob Bell called 'Dust' from the Nooma series.

He gave an account of how the Jewish education system worked in Jesus' day and what it meant to be a disciple of a Rabbi and I found it very informative and helped me understand why Peter and the other disciples were quick to drop everything and follow Jesus.  I showed the 'Dust' DVD to my home group the other night.

Roots of Faith
This focus on the patterns and meaning of a Rabbi's relationship to his disciples provides insight into the meaning of that term and relationship in the Gospels and the early Christian community.  This effort indicates the desire of Bell and similar fervent evangelists to understand the Bible's context.

Bell and similar teachers are probing the roots of our faith.  Jesus' teachings, the context of the Gospels and Letters of the New Testament.  They want to probe the earliest traditions, not just those denominational traditions that arose over the last 300 to 500 years in the west, out of the Reformation and its thousands of offshoots.

New leaders are helping us recover our ancient foundations in these often ignored early centuries of our faith – the early Traditions, close to the Apostles and the New Testament writings.  They want to understand the Gospels in their original context.  They are not satisfied with the "received" focus on the "Orthodox" (western medieval) era formulations of the late Middle Ages or the Rationalist formulations of the early Modern period that became dominant in Protestant thinking.

Information and Communication

My friend asked about another book also, by a famous pastor-writer.

My son gave me a book The Truth War by John MacArthur.  When I opened it, on the first page John MacArthur mentions Rob Bell.

My friend loaned me the book and I was concerned about the misleading analysis I found there of Rob Bell's perspective.  MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, is known for his expositional Bible teaching, with which I am familiar.  I was not as impressed with his grasp of cultural trends and Rob Bell's ministry.

MacArthur's target is Postmodern approaches to evangelism and church development.  Or rather, what he seems uncomfortable with is the creative approaches to the postmodern communities in which contemporary Christians and evangelists find themselves living, and to whom they try to communicate meaningfully.

Rationalism or Engagement
He specifically singles out Rob Bell as an object of his concern.  But it seems to me that Bell is talking about communication and relational aspects that will facilitate awareness of the Good News among those with no connection to the church community.  But MacArthur insists on focusing on information, a typical characteristic of the Modern Rationalist (or Modernist) worldview.

In the Rationalist analytical view, Truth is understood as fact and proposition, and tends to be intellectual and abstract. Knowing the Truth as fact is a critical concern. It is knowledge focused, and actually can become very gnostic and cultic in character. In contrast, most world cultures, and the new Postmodern worldview, focus on moral character and faithful covenant relationship. This matches the ancient biblical worldview. This is why the concept of social justice is so prominent in the Torah and in Jesus' teachings.

In the modern rationalist worldview, fueled by the European Enlightenment, facts and details are ordered into a rational sequence to match the cultural worldview of philosophical setting -- this is the approach to the Modern Rationalist idea of "Truth." Practitioners seem often unaware that there are even alternative ways of thinking.  They assume their way of thinking is the (only) human way to think.

The biblical and traditional culture focuses, on the other hand, on faithful covenant relationship.  The relational concept of Truth seems to the basis on which Jesus speaks of himself as Truth.  Jesus is a person, and God is presented in the Bible as person, and relationship is the basis of the biblical revelation.  Bell's search for the best communication formats and media to faciliatate a personal relationship of the non-believer with God seems consistent with the biblical world view.  It does however, clash with the analytical and abstract Rationalist view so common in popular classic streams of both liberal and fundamentalist Christianity in America.

Cultural Contexts
It appears that John MacArthur's strength is in the primary role in which he presents himself, primarily as a devotional encourager of those already in the Church, growing within the church context.  He is a Bible teacher, devotional speaker-writer, pastor.  This means there is some commonality of worldview between himself and his intended audience, and an understood commitment to the Kingdom of God.

In contrast, those who engage others across cultures have a whole separate set of factors to consider.  Their community may be the pagan culture of their LA neighbours or a pagan across the world somewhere who has never yet heard anything about Jesus.  MacArthur, in this regard, seems to be a prisoner of his worldview.  Perhaps he is unable to speak across the cultural divide to those of another worldview.

What I got from his book The Truth War is that MacArthur insists that the only valid context in which, or perhaps FROM which, one should speak Good News is the traditional church context within which he works with his Christian constituency.  This is the impression I get.

MacArthur seems uncomfortable when the language becomes too different.  He is concerned that Bell's reflections in his book indicate Bell is departing from the accepted tradition.  Bell, on the other hand, seems to be starting with the questions he hears people asking.  Then he probes the Gospel and Christian tradition to formulate appropriate answers from the Good News (Gospel).

MacArthur prefers language that fits his established answers.  Traditional theological language represents comfortable categories that are known to be safe  Bell is seeking answers to the problems he discovers in the society around him.  That sounds to me like what Jesus did.  The religious authorities did not like the language and implications of Jesus' life and teachings either!

Making Sense
How do you present the Gospel to someone who has no established background in Christian knowledge?  You meet them where they are.  You do not try to convince them their culture and worldview are wrong, THEN in terms of your own cultural worldview try to give them some good news at that point.  That is only intellectual.  That is theological, philosophical.

By contrast, Jesus was very personal and practical.  For the Kingdom of God centered on daily life, in relation to God and other people.  It was the Rule of God in our lives.

A Good Newser
Jesus was not a philosophy professor, he was a Good Newser!  (This is the meaning of the Greek word transliterated as "evangelist.")  He was the human essence of God's purpose and plan for humans!  God did not send us a compendium of information, whether theology, philosophy or history.

God sent us Good News in His Son.  He WAS the GOOD NEWS. He was the embodiment of the Kingdom of God among us.  As he said, I am the truth (not my philosophy or my preferred list of intellectual summaries, but MYSELF – I AM truth.)  And as the writer of Colossians comments, he is the fullness of the Godhead in a human body.

Relational Perspective
The truth of the kingdom is primarily Relational.  This is the gospel of reconciliation and redemption, recovery and renewal.  The error, it seems to me, of both the "Liberals" and the "Fundamentalists" is that they have reduced God to our intellectual understanding.  The Gospel as Paul details it, on the other hand, deals with God's reuniting all kinds of people in Christ (The New Humanity, Eph 2).

The Modern Rationalist mindset prefers different formulations and systems for God.  I don't see where God has any primary intention to give us information.  He wants to redeem us to life in Himself!  That is how I understand Jesus to express his message, and what the central focus of the New Testament is.  The Gospel is not primarily information, at least in the New Testament formulations.

Knowledge and Experience
One thing that really troubles some people, like John MacArthur, is the acknowledgement in the postmodern era that we don't know everything, and we as humans are limited by our perspective and experiences.  

Some people of the Modernist mindset (like MacArthur and others, and especially the Fundamentalists) are concerned to maintain that we have Absolute Truth.  This is often the theoretical reason for any basis of morality.  The common argument normally ignores the problem of human fallibility or the limitation of our knowledge as humans.

This view also suffers from a simplistic identification of knowledge with information, and assumes (at least in practice, if not in stated theory) knowledge as a necessary component in salvation.  In contrast, what I find in the Bible is a focus on restored relationships.

Intellectual Pride
It seems ironic to me how the Reformed apologists tend to accent the total depravity of man only in other contexts.  When it comes to perceiving and understanding the rational, objective doctrinal propositions that are supposedly so clear in scripture, they declare that these are directly accessible by the human mind (though of course with the guidance of the Holy Spirit).

But where is the human limitation, the total otherness of Yahweh, so obviously in focus in the Genesis stories?  How do they suppose that even the redeemed human intellect can grasp the absolute final word in truth in, of all forms, a list of propositions, the likes of which we cannot find in scripture?  These are always abstracted from the writings of scripture.

One positive characteristic of the postmodern era is a reorientation to living realities, relationships over ideas and theories, practical morality rather than abstract ideas (like metaphysical theories of the structure of the universe and "attributes" of God, which we are in no position to know or verify).  They react against the claims of unverifiable absolutes that you'd have to be God to know.

Recommiting the Original Sin
This caution and humility seem healthy to me.  This attitude takes seriously the basic Genesis perspective that humans are humans, and not God, and cannot know as God knows.  After all, what was the "original sin?"  It was wanting to know as God knows!  An acceptance of our place as limited creatures, who have to learn through our experience, seems biblical and healthy to me.

My reference point is Jesus, how he presented the message of the Kingdom of God and how he dealt with practical relational matters in real life.  He was not a philosopher, nor a textual critic, nor a historian.  He preached Good News and his presence was good news.

Communicating Good News
Postmodern culture exhibits a healthy awareness that human knowledge is incomplete.  This is consistent with the postmodern focus on community and relationship.  The focus of life is not information and intellectual knowledge, but proper, meaningful relationships in a shared existence.

When we look at "traditional" cultures, we find this same strong focus on community and relationship.  This is also the focus we see in the Bible.  The Hebrew culture was a relational, communal culture.  This, of all things, should be most clear from the Old Testament.

Christians who engage the current culture often find these biblical characteristics in the current culture healthy, but whatever their judgement about them, their missionary goal is to ENGAGE that culture and use its aspects and tendencies to communicate Good News in a way that makes sense to that culture.

End of an Age
This is the same pattern necessarily followed by modern Christians of a scientific mind.  Modern Christians spoke to their modern scientific, materialistic culture in terms of their rationalist, scientific cultural concepts and felt needs.  Good News communicators find ways to communicate Good News.  They attempt to understand the gospel in terms of the times they live in.

The Modernist Era is over, though several defensive rearguard operations are underway.  A key factor in this shift over the last 70 years is the loss of faith in the claim that Reason can enable us to grasp Divine knowledge, mediated through the church or otherwise.

For most Moderns the Bible is only one abstraction as a symbol.  For contemporary society, this symbol is empty of meaning.  They are looking for substance, not symbols.  A primary reason for this is the negative, mean, disrespectful attitude they see among "Christians," while they see the lives of these "religious" people as hypocritical and very little different from their own.

What the Bible symbolizes for much of the current generation is cold, cliquish and judgemental legalism and irrelevant rituals, not a place for hope, healing, reconciliation and forgiveness.  They can't see good news or acceptance, only rejection and alien requirements.  The message of Good News is hidden by the attitude and activities of the religion that uses the Bible as one of its symbols!

Good News
The intellectual approach of modern values (especially in the Fundamentalist form of mental assent to certain abstract statements) is seen by today's generation as meaningless and out of touch with real life.  They seem to long for some real Good News.

Abstractions hold less attraction.  The Postmodern era is characterized by a sensitivity to relational values, spiritual concepts and meaning in life.  Ironically, they find this totally missing in the traditional, mental focus of legalistic, doctrinaire Christianity.  The Good News of Jesus' Kingdom of God speaks to this void.

Abstract or Meaningful?
Abstract statements of faith or creeds are the primary reference point for virtually all churches until recent decades.  The recovery of the Bible as a dynamic source for us now is consistent with the Postmodern idea of "mediated" knowledge that arises as perspective out of our experience.

A strong component of our experience is direct access to the Bible as well as other aspects of the Christian tradition that will free us from the domination of established authorities who declaim abstract propositions, which are usually unverifiable on either scientific or biblical grounds.

Opponents of Postmodernism sometimes claim there is no absolute for Postmoderns.  A more accurate analysis would be that while there might be Absolute knowledge, I need to be very careful I don't claim absolute and complete accuracy for my own partial, gradual, human knowledge accumulated to this point.

There is a realistic acknowledgement of the problems of perception.  The questions we are dealing with here involve Epistemology (how we learn, know and verify), not Metaphysics (knowledge about the objective structure of the reality).

This postmodern modesty and humility, or realism, about the limits of human perception and knowledge support the positive value of group Bible study.

The group investigates and considers sources and possibilities as a group, rather than each individual going off on their own uninformed tangent.  We jointly acknowledge our human limitations and need for each other.  This is what the "Body" is all about isn't it?  Christianity is a community concept, not an individual devotional mysticism where I can work out what I like any old way.  We have a group commitment to common sources, but we acknowledge no one of us has absolute and infallible knowledge of that.  We are all still learning.

Both Liberals and Conservatives may forget this and claim they CAN objectively and correctly know the ultimate reality.  This claim is based in the Enlightenment concept of Reason.  This Rationalist approach supplanted the Reformation concept of rational study of the sources and superseded the Reformers commitment to divine reality mediated through Scripture and the believing community.

Telling the Story

A reader dealing with some of these questions wrote to say:

In my previous church, the minister was teaching some strange things.  Among these things he said that the Bible was just a whole lot of stories.

The Story of redemption is what is important, not the theories about it.  I am troubled by your church leadership's dismissive claim that the Bible is "just stories."  Well, yes, of course, it does consist primarily of stories, and that is in fact the strength of these texts.  They address and reflect real-life situations, and entail real-life testimonies of events.

Yes, the biblical texts are primarily stories, especially the Old Testament.  They come to us as they are.  They have a veneration of history and tradition that indicates they have spoken in some meaningful way to many generations.  Do we really want to give up now, to admit that the modern generation is the only era that is incompetent to discern any valid message and meaning from these texts?!

Does Rationalism now find itself incapable of probing the historical context to see what these texts were saying and what they might thus mean to us in our different time and culture?

Or it this point of view actually assuming an authority to tell the Bible that if it doesn't speak in terms we prefer and in categories we require, it has no value?  Does this sound a bit arrogant to you, too?  

On what grounds has this contingent determined it is now the standard by which to judge other cultures. their literature and their faith?

Meeting the Test
The point is not whether these ancient story forms meet modern standards of scientific history, but whether modern scientific approaches are sophisticated enough to discern what these styles and forms were actually communicating!

The point is not whether these ancient story forms meet modern literary expectations, but whether modern literary appreciation is sophisticated enough to discover the art, content and meaning of the ancient sophisticated oral-relational styles so carefully preserved in writing and handed down as a treasure to us!

These ancient stories focus on life as seen and experienced in a very different and distant culture from any modern scientific rationalist expectations.  Let's accept the challenge to probe them, master them, understand them!  This is the very goal of what has been called "textual criticism."  Let's discover the text on its own grounds as it comes to us!

Ancient Wisdom in Ancient Guise
These ancient holy writings are a precious testimony of encounter with God and insights into God's work among us. Let the texts speak out of their own integrity!

How can modern readers, "scholarly" or otherwise, ignore these real-life situations and the real-life events these stories deals with?  Can we so easily dismiss the powerful and challenging real life of a people, even if for some reason the stories appear to be stylized for the era in which they were first written?

Modernist minds may reject these stories because they do not fit their requirements as they prefer to understand "history" (a very modern idea!) and scientific understanding (an even more modern idea).  There are great differences covering the centuries over which the various texts of the Old Testament were written.

Plumb the Depths
Likewise I am troubled by the Fundamentalists who ignore the stories for their own reasons and reduce the standardized core of the biblical message down to some abstract list of minimal statements of philosophical claims.  When did Jesus ever tell us to boil things down to the minimum?  It seems rather he, and his followers like Paul, tell us to continue probing deeper, broader, higher, and wider in the mystery and wonder of God's grace.

Unfortunately, Fundamentalists, while claiming to defend the Bible, actually usually ignore it.  This mindset interprets their preferred passages in terms of their own Modern ideas of history, literature, science and abstract philosophical preferences!

Worldview-determined Agenda
They don't let the Bible challenge their cultural worldview, either!  Their systems and abstract focuses determine the agenda.  (This is, in fact, a broader general problem in all Western theology, which the eastern churches do not suffer, at least to the same degree.

The primary problem with "Systematic" Theology is that it IS "systematic."  A certain abstract, linear schema or agenda is the organizing principle.  The scriptures and traditions are then "mined" to source the structures.  The Scriptures are relegated to data sources for the schema.  The schema itself which has already largely determined what the agenda will be and thus largely what we will find.

The Questions culture and philosophy ask frame and limit to some extent the Answers you will get!  This is simply a part of being human.  If we never question the framework of our own starting perspective, we will never fully allow the scriptures and traditions to speak to us independently.  The Scriptures will always be subject to the determining perspectives of the cultural or philosophical perspective that set the agenda.

Good News not Good Information
We all start here to some extent, but the Good News is the eternal power to free us from even our culture, to some degree.  We remain humans, cultural entities, bound by history, geography, language and culture.  We can't know as God knows.  To claim otherwise is the Original Sin all over again – trying to know (or claim to know) as God knows, absolutely and with certainty.

I don't know what we gain by claiming to know as God knows when the first thing the Bible tells us about ourselves is that this is the height of arrogance and the reason why we suffer broken relationships with the Creator!  Surely God will continue to know more than I do at any one point!

Honest Enquiry
In recent years, there seems to be a more honest spirit of actual enquiry in the way people approach the Bible!  Mission approaches to "storying" are one example of that.  Letting the Bible speak in its own format of stories.  In this regard, explore the Orality focus of the website, discussing the oral aspect of culture and the gospel, and story formats in worldview and communication, too.

"Orthodoxy" in the western sense is normally primarily a mental exercise.  (Note that the meaning and usage of the word are quite different in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.)  "Orthodoxy," especially as the term has come to be used in the last century or more, focuses on established tradition (including Modernist tradition of the Liberal or Fundamentalist sort!), whichever tradition the particular "authority" prefers.

This seems to me to be a modern form of Gnosticism, a focus on mental knowledge.  Especially in the Scholastic tradition of modern Europe, largely associated with the Reformed/Calvinist stream of Protestant Christianity, what we find is an intellectual focus.

Saved By Knowledge
Correct Knowledge is virtually a part of the Plan of Salvation.  I don't see this approach in the New Testament writings, even in the concerns expressed about false teachers coming in to undermine the Good News.  In this modern neo-Gnostic line of thinking, if you do not profess the "right" knowledge in the correct format, your very salvation is questioned.

I, of course, acknowledge that advocates of the view would not normally claim that salvation is based on knowledge, but would declare that salvation is solely based on faith.  In practice, however, I see this violated.  From my own experience with this tradition and in numerous writings I have read, the tendency is to doubt the salvation of anyone who fails to overtly accept the specific stated doctrines of the particular traditions.

We could lay out a continuum of tolerance, finding that the amount of tolerance, and the types of differences tolerated to various limits, will vary in different church traditions.

This viewpoint is the minority but increasingly dominant (and growing) stream of what has come to be called "Evangelicalism" as a theological movement.  (In the United States, this term now also usually entails "Fundamentalism."  Some "Fundamentalists" hold themselves aloof and refuse to associate with the "compromising" position of the "Evangelical" Movement.)

The Biblical Perspective
In contrast to this traditional way of thinking (which goes back to the modern Rationalist foundations that development in the 100-200 years after the Protestant Reformers) I find the New Testament a real-life and whole-life engagement of moral realities in relationships of individuals and their cultures to God and to each other in light of God's sovereign Rule over us in this life.

Surely the Gospel has the power to speak universally to anyone, anywhere in any culture in their own terms, rather than having to be interpreted through western intellectual Rationalism and its abstract systems and propositional explanations!

Disproving Worldview?
One perspective that I will always maintain is that whatever the cultural worldview or philosophy, nothing is to be gained by trying to "disprove" a philosophy.  This is a waste of time and energy.  This is a component of the inadequate concept that philosophy and ideas constitute the essence of reality.  (Plato lives!  But the Good News should live!)

Postmodernism IS the prevailing worldview of Western cultures (though not all the other cultures yet), and it is neither in the power nor competence of the Christian communion or any particular church to determine whether the culture should have this perspective.  It is more productive to learn to communicate inthose terms.  Missionaries have to do this with different worldviews all the time.

Engaging the World's Cultures
It is the responsibility of the church and each Christian community and individual to engage the culture, community and individuals in terms of their worldview and make sense, speaking Good News from a biblical perspective to make sense in the culture where we work.  Wherever we are and whoever we need to relate to.

This is no more than a basic missionary requirement in any cross-cultural situation.  This means there will be numerous different approaches, vocabularies, focuses on felt needs and answers to questions arising out of the culture.  The common feature is the Good News that offers the Rule of God in life to those whose lives are lost, adrift, without hope or direction.

Underlying this view is a basic principle that has become foundational to the world missions community in recent decades:
Every person and every people deserve a chance to hear the Good News in their own language (or dialect of an established language) and in their cultural context (or sub-culture of a dominant culture).

The Good News is valid universally.  But it must be heard and understood.  I prefer to honour those who are trying to make this happen in the cultures to which they are called.

Velvet Elvis on Amazon, includes reader reviews and a staff review.

The Truth War by John MacArthur on Amazon, with my review

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Barbarian Faith versus Safe Religion
[PDF] Christianity and Society
[Review] Dialogue Church to Non-Church - Let's Listen
[Review] Dialogue Church to Non-Church - Let's Listen
[review] Dialogue on Emergence
[Review] Experiencing the Future of Faith
[review] Faith as The Gift of Hilarious Adventure
[Review] Graduation to Reality – The Church Emerging
[Review] Jesus' Openly Secret Teachings
[TXT] Epistemology: Knowledge and Politics – Blog
[Review] Myth and Morality in Modern Science
[Review] Postmodernism – The Church's Challenge and Opportunity
[review] Progressive Foundations for Postmodern Christianity
[Review] The Rich, Persistent Centre
[review] Self and the World, Knowing Reality
[Review] Uncovering the Hidden Kingdom

See also my review on Amazon of The Truth War by John MacArthur:
Good Content Restricted by Ideology

See related articles on the Internet:
Heaven, Hell and Rob Bell
John MacArthur and Grace Church
Rob Bell on Wikipedia
Mars Hill Church
Nooma DVD lessons series by Rob Bell
Postmodern Liberalism: Repainting a Non-Christian Faith, A Christian Critique of Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis


Original comments made in an email exchange 14 August 2008
Developed in December 2008 and March 2009
Finalized as an article and posted on OJTR 13 March 2009
Revised 24 January 2012
Last edited 23 November 2012

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009, 2012 Orville Boyd Jenkins
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