It was in a post in May 2014 entitled, “God Postmodern” that Brad suggested:
The modern era is just now ending. We are so dreadfully close to it that we often can’t see the forest for the trees, but the end can be seen if you look for it.
This was his introduction to a series of posts where he tried to explain how he thinks that God is working in the postmodern era to do something new and exciting. He went on to say:
The modern era is the result of the industrial age, scientific advancement, global economics, and the elevation of the middle class through democracy and consumerism. In short, life as we know it in developed nations, with cities, neighbourhoods, schools, churches, gas stations, grocery stores, commutes, traffic jams, Starbucks on the corner, and Best Buy within a 10-mile drive are all modern-era accomplishments. When I say we, I also cringe, because I am also dreadfully aware that this era leaves many people out, who may look at my life with envy mixed with incredulity at the rich and shallow life I lead while they are worried about scraping by at the grocery store, and finding a job in a society that seems to have left them behind while unemployment stays around 10%. Those in the poorest areas and developing nations are certainly seeing slow improvements in poverty in a statistical sense, but intense poverty remains a reality as the modern era ends. While capitalism and consumerism raise the quality of life for the “haves” in the world, it also creates a bigger distance between the “haves” and the “have nots”.
So when I say the “modern era”, what do I mean specifically? I’m referring mainly to a system of thought that drives education, government, economics and society around the world, a system characterized by structure. In summary, modern thought consists of systems of laws which are built into constitutions to create modern governments, laws which are knit together to create modern technological science, laws which define households, institutions, businesses, cities, states, and countries as economic entities, and laws which define other aspects of society such as culture, art, music, sexuality, morality, etc. So the modern era is pervasive across all areas of life, and I have named some of the main areas (government, science, economics, and culture).
More and more people are becoming aware of the flaws in the system and I have long understood that the history of the rise and fall of empires would eventually catch up with the world as we know it (and I say that as a Brit who lived through WWII; watched the beginning of the end of the British Empire, and got into serious trouble at school when I was 15 for daring to suggest that the British Empire had been built on greed and selfishness).
I’d like to share some of my thoughts in the form of bullet points making use of some of what Brad has written in this and some subsequent posts.
- Institutions are limited – impersonal, uncaring, shallow, competitive, performance based and focused on the bottom line. They don’t care about those who do not benefit from the structure.
- Competition is fine until . . .
- The emphasis on our own children – a fear of failure and the pressure to help them.
- Some major deconstruction must surely lie ahead!
- Are people more important than progress?
- Were all people created equal?
- The need for critical thinking.
- Will deconstruction lead to destruction or reconstruction?
- Consider the education systems. What place teachers in the future? Where are the good teachers who learn from their students?
- The need to recognise reality.
- How does God relate to mankind? To what extent does our view of God relate to the times we are living in?
- The modern God is a God of structure built from systems of law (systematic theology) – right thinking that allegedly defines our view of God? A view that will be fiercely defended if challenged!
What place articles of faith – are they ever reconsidered?
- Are we too insecure in our own faith to openly question our foundational beliefs in God?
- Does God really want to be worshipped 24/7?
- Do we need a sense of purpose in everything we do?
- Is there any place for fear, guilt or shame?
- Could it be that God is more interested in walking alongside of us, participating in life, joining in creation and creativity?
- If we believe that God likes us and values life, we need to replace static worship structures with authentic relationships!
- If we allow God’s Spirit to guide our thinking we will see, feel, care and invest! We might gain an appreciation of the potential of creation! The chance to engage in community and relationships.
- What place repentance and forgiveness – isn’t that asking God to accept us – or at least put up with us for another day despite our displeasing decisions? This surely leads to laws of inclusion and exclusion – standards that define a group’s purpose and character?
- A community of faith seems to be concerned with reinforcing certain ideals across that community – a defence of the status quo? What place leadership?
- If you do something wrong you will quickly know about it, but if you are on the perimeter of the group you will not notice the scrutiny unless you do something glaring (like trying to question a sermon). But if you dig deeper to actually belonging you find that membership is rife with expectations.
- What is the relationship between the gospel (good news) and faith as a mental activity of evaluating our behaviour based on our beliefs?
How often do people question their own salvation, and fear the wrath of God?
- How often is the grace of God seen as forgiveness that we are guaranteed as long as we keep repenting – a constant reinforcement that God doesn’t like us; that God loves us in spite of ourselves; or that God’s love is conditional?
- What kind of parent is God?
- How many people suffer from a feeling of inadequacy that spreads to all areas of life? Never confident that just being human is enough?
- A system that validates itself using circular logic by building into its structure a law that states that the structure is right. Questioning the structure is wrong. Rules reinforce the cycle and perpetuate the system. If we question too far – in government we call it treason; in church it is blasphemy or heresy or disrespect for the Bible. Questions threaten the structure’s reason for existence.
- It is only from the outside that we can really see what is going on inside!
- How many people genuinely believe that they need to do something when someone else’s eternal future (in heaven) is at stake?
- What is the purpose of baptism and communion?
- Righteousness through action? Declaring group membership and loyalty and encouraging regular repentance? Do we derive meaning and membership from structure?
- The Purpose Driven Life – a modern synopsis of the structure of Christianity – a notion of life that is extremely performance based. The need for a perspective driven life of peace – caring for others and living in the present – a partnership with God!
- Can we see the truth and ourselves through the eyes of God – a true perspective?
- Does fulfilment come from achievement or awareness?
- Freedom – freedom from the cycle of sin – freedom from the need to engage in the righteousness cycle at all! Freedom from ever being inadequate in the first place!
- What place modern Christianity (as opposed to Postmodern)? A knowledge of the Bible stories were carried around the world, but it created many second class citizens (women and others).
- What about the notion that we should abandon religious shallowness, performance based elitism and embrace authentic knowledge of God and ourselves as God’s children?
- John 3.17 – not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Born again is perhaps all about awareness – eyes that are open to a need for complete transformation through awareness and not through the cycle of artificial repentance to achieve righteousness!
- God as the perfect parent?
- Can we approach our faith with an open mind, seeing ourselves, others, and the world as God sees us?
- What place holiness? The notions of right and wrong – do they correspond to our concept of God? What is the character of God? That depends unfortunately on our theology! Jesus Without Baggage?
- Why the violence, discrimination and elitism? Why the absence sometimes of peace, acceptance and kindness? To what extent are we inclined to selfishness and self-centredness?
- What does it mean to be set apart?
- To what extent do we as communities encourage, teach, support and equip each other?
- Traditional churches may want to defend the status quo – others strive to be relevant – defining the important truths so that we can be the church that God wants us to be. The list of sins is changing. The expectations may still be high! An ongoing set of boundaries around the group? The temptation to exclude others? What place a dividing line (them and us)?
- Why aren’t people open to discussion?
- Why can’t we take a position where we agree to disagree and actually discuss the issues?
- The parable of the Golden Bricks:
The land of URT and a kingdom called Kog – golden bricks from God:
A tower – a symbol of power – the rulers become strong and wealthy!
A wall – fine for a time – corruption from within
A bridge – a symbol of peace and strength.The tower of control – the isolating wall – the hope of peace – when we can no longer create clear definitions between them and us, the wall begins to crumble and there is no longer a need for self-identification – there may still be club membership out of choice?
If we follow Christ we need to abandon the wall that divides us!
Brad goes on to suggest a REVOLUTION making the Church a more positive influence with a more powerful message of love for the world – an example and an inspiration to others! Jesus as the liberator from slavery (salvation)!
Liberation theology? The ability to choose our own path for following God as we feel led by the Spirit? Liberation theology brings that kind of independence to believers? Away from orthodox practices?
MLK redefined it as a pacifist movement – following in the footsteps of Gandhi! Beware of the idea of an army of God – domination and conquest!
Could it be that God has in mind unleashing our creative minds, hearts and spirit to grow and make a positive change in the world?