Live to learn and you will learn to live. Portuguese proverb

Tags: postmodernism

Pushing a non-violent metanarrative

by Christoph Email

Yesterday evening, I led a prayer meeting linked to the "30 days of prayer for Islam" campaign sponsored by the Evangelical Alliance in Germany. The growth of Islam in Europe is a hot topic in Germany right now, especially after the recent arrest of three would-be terrorists, two of which turned out to be German converts to the Muslim faith.

How do we react to the fact that another truth system is gaining ground? Looking at it in a purely postmodern/relativistic way, it shouldn't matter too much. Someone has another idea of truth -- so what? As long as I am allowed to keep my own version, I shouldn't be concerned too much. But of course, I am not buying into that ...


First of all, I think there might be some real danger in a large-scale Islamization of Europe, at least in the long run: If one day, Islamic political interest became dominant in our country, I fear that the choice of your own truth and your own religion would be done away with rather fast. Fortunately, this frightening perspective does not seem to be realistic any time in the near future. Still, Islam is growing in Germany.

The second, and much more important reason why I think we cannot sit back and do nothing is because we do have a metanarrative to defend. I've argued before that I don't think we can live without one, and that we have the best metanarrative there is -- and a non-violent one, at that. The question then is, how do we face the growth of a new belief system in a non-violent way?

I tried to illustrate the proper approach at church yesterday evening by imagining what we would do if the local Islamist union (yes, we do have that in Freudenstadt) set out to build a large mosque in our city. I proposed two possible responses:

  1. We could gather all believers from our city and go for a large protest march, leading from the building city right to the mayor's office. We could carry signs saying "We don't need no mosque here!" and "Let them build their mosques in Turkey!" (and while we're at it, the logical next step would be something like "All Muslims are terrorists, anyway" and "Send all foreigners home". The result? Well, the non-believers all around would be confirmed in their view that all religious folks are completely insane, anyway. And we would have resorted to the very violence that caused the total rejection of metanarratives in postmodern thinking. Not good, then.
  2. We could let them build their mosque. Why not, actually? They have the right to do it under our constitution (with it's guaranteed freedom of religion, which is a great treasure we don't want to lose), anyway. At the same time, we will go back to our church and pray for the Holy Spirit to act through us in a new, mighty way. We would then devote all of our energies to proclaiming and living our own (better, even best) metanarrative in a positive way -- and see to it, that God's work is so clearly expressed in our private and church lives, that nobody even cares to go to the new mosque, because they're all coming to us to see what God is doing. How about that for a non-violent defense of a metanarrative?Of course, having said that, it becomes apparent that the ideal approach would be to implement solution (2) even right now, without waiting for a specific "threat" to arise. Why not push the metanarrative just today -- but in a positive, non-violent way. We've got the best message there is, so why hide it?
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pre/anti/para/post -- Whither Pentecostalism, when modernity is on its way out

by Christoph Email

Mainstream Evangelicalism is basically a modernistic movement -- there's no doubt about it. In many places, Evangelicals have become synonymous with Evangelical Fundamentalism. Along with liberalism, its eternal foe, fundamentalism is deeply entrenched in the modern way of reasoning coming directly out of the European Enlightenment. But where does Evangelicalism go when its underlying modernistic epistemology is disappearing? Most interestingly, large parts of the wider Evangelical movement seem to cling to modernism with all their might -- steering themselves ever wider into a neo-fundamentalist trap of irrelevance to the new, postmodern culture.

While I firmly believe that Pentecostalism is and always has been part of the Evangelical movement, this is a good moment to note a decisive distinction: Pentecostalism never really was modern. Label it however you want, I for one prefer the term "para-modern" that Ken Archer argued for in his 2001 book A Pentecostal Hermeneutics for the Twenty First Century. Now, this would seem like good news and an open road ahead for Pentecostalism, where it not for many Pentecostals' strive to become "more Evangelical", which often brings us dangerously close to the neo-fundamentalist Evangelical. Do we really want to go there? Or might the "way out" for Evangelicalism's current cul-de-sac be in the very Pentecostal part of its fold? Certainly, the early twenty-first century does seem like a bad time to finally jump on the modernist bandwaggon and adopt what we've been spared so far.

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Earl Creps on Pentecostals and Postmodernism

by Christoph Email

This already dates from June, but I just discovered it and figured it was still worth mentioning: Google Video has Earl Creps on Pentecostal ministry in the post-secular university. more »

Exploring the postmodern community

by Christoph Email

For my exploration of the functioning of the postmodern community, the internet is a natural place to look. I've begun to dive into different social networks on the internet, such as social bookmarking and tagging. Right now, I'm just beginning to try it out, but this blog post should already create some entries on del.icio.us and technorati.com more »

The "right" community

by Christoph Email

So, in the postmodern world, truth is somehow defined by the community -- "local" truth, that is. This is a necessary step, because postmodern thinkers do not believe in the autonomous, thinking self anymore (does that sound like a contradiction, or what?). But then, who or what defines the community? It cannot be the sum of all its individual members, because they are undefinable, in a flux, ever-changing, nothing, really. The only thing that I can up with is that the community is somehow defined by a shared, local truth. But see, here we have a problem. The community defines the truth which defines the community. At the end, both community and truth become totally arbitrary, meaningless values. And we all succumb to the usual postmodern depression, fall into Derrida's abyss, or whatever ... But, wait! Maybe there's hope. There's one community -- yes, you guessed right: I am talking, as usual, about the Spirit-filled community -- which is not defined by a circular (non-)definition, but rather by an external standard. The Spirit which indwelles all of the believers is the defining factor of the community and the source of its truth (which, we claim, is more than just local). So this community is different. It is unique. Maybe it is the "right" one. Now, that sounds awfully exclusivist (and, therefore, oppressive). But, is it exclusive, when there are no other candidates to be excluded? more »

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