I'm getting much closer to having my research topic refined, I'm confident enough that I ordered a slew of books on topic. The refining is important because it will determine how I read those books. Should be fun though as most of the books are out of the Emerging Church. As I've been reflecting on the engagement of the Emergent church with postmodernity, and also on the response of the evangelical stalwarts like Carson and MacArthur, I'm wondering if we haven't mistaken our epistemology as sacred?
It is interesting that in the modernist revisions of Christianity there is an emphasis on faith being something reasonable. The modern church presents a primarily propositional gospel message, assent to these truth claims and you are in. But that sort of understanding does not get very far in postmodernity. In the postmodern mind those truth claims are also a created reality so they need to be brought into the matrix of community forming. The postmodern mind also doesn't expect faith to be reasonable, but rather uses a different criteria of authenticity.
Authenticity is different than truth. The way truth is used assumes that there is an unmediated communication of said truth and that there is a faithful encapsulation of that truth in the form of doctrine or dogma. But here is where most of the mainline evangelicals mess it up, they assume that to think anything else less about truth is less of a committment to truth, by that I mean what is truly true. It is not truth that is rejected, it is how we arrive at and appropriate truth that is at stake in the postmodern turn.
Here is where the disconnect of lived experience and creedal affirmation comes in. The great proponents of propositional truth have claimed to live according to truth, but really there are two types of truth operative: the truth we say we believe and the lives we truly live. What we live is what we really believe, no matter what we say we believe. So if you say it is wrong to steal, but you enjoy pirating videos, well the truth that is operative in you is not a simple proposition against theft, but rather a complex belief about degrees of theft and possibly a belief about what constitutes an apparently victemless crime. Now when you try and navigate to the true truth this gets messy. Which is why the need for a new category: authenticity.
Authenticity is a way of affirming a lived truth. To be real or authentic is to be in touch with the greyness of our lives. It is to recognize that each of us is embedded in systems and ideologies that are not helping the world, our community or even our selves. So you now have a generation that want to keep it real. This scares the crap out of those who are staunch defenders of the truth, not the least because this authenticity is messy and doesn't care about the old categories of truth that were so important to the modern revision of Christianity.
But here is the opportunity, and if you have been here a while you know that I see postmodernity as an incredible opportunity. In the past, when the lived life comes into focus we've fallen to systems of personal holiness to help us navigate the greyness of society. I think in the past these have been very beneficial to the church, although not always. But such efforts are based on propositional thinking and readings of the scriptures. This has to shift slightly for the postmodern setting.
Postmodernity is not only a call to authenticity, it is a recognition that the myth of progress has failed us. The world is screwed up and we are implicated strongly in the actions that have led us to this place. So those same passions for holiness can be used to call for deeper committment to an authenticity that leans into common good. Here is the opportunity we have to craft a hope filled generation. See the postmodern mind is concerned with truth, but it is just less picky how it arrives there. That is an incredible opportunity.