(419)EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: POSTMODERNISM AT SEMINARY (C&MA) – Part 2

POSTMODERNISM & SEMINARY (Christian & Missionary Alliance Church) – Part 2

In Part 1, we defined what postmodernism is.  Postmodernism has crept into the Evangelical Church.  The rise of the Emerging Church movement has been one avenue that has embraced postmodern trends both explicitly and implicitly.  

As discussed, some major fundamental issues of doctrine are affected by those moving towards a postmodern view in their church and in their personal walk.  You can see why these issues are important to understand.  For example, we talked about how some in the church today embrace the idea that there is no absolute truth. That can affect how one interprets God’s word to how one engages society on social issues.

One can see how these issues develop further in the church.  Some today believe the role of the pastors has changed.  For example, some within the Emerging Church see no need for a pastor to preach a sermon.  Rather, they say that pastors should hold a conversation with the congregation instead of preaching a sermon.  They claime  that the role of teachers and pastors are not to impart truth on their congregation since we can’t know with certainty what is truth. 

It is also more popular today to see Christians embracing the idea that “all roads lead to heaven”.  They promote a concept of a more mystical faith that says that people on the earth are united internally with God.  

Yes, as said in Part 1, seminaries are becoming a hot bed of theology that is being shaped by postmodernism and the next generatio of pastors, leaders, authors,….etc. will continue to show and pass on more and more of these beliefs.

For me, a troubling example of this is being played out in the seminary and Bible colleges of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.  The church has been a stalworth of cross culturally missions and discipleship.  But they are falling head over heals down a path of mysticism and postmodernism that it is alarming to see how quickly this is happening and how little resistance by those within the denomination who know better.

I will pick on my denomination first.  Here is one example of this at Nyack College (C&MA) – Dr. James Danaher.  This probably falls under the role of the Teacher is not to impart information.

(1.) JAMES P. DANAHER

James P. Danaher is the head of the Department of Philosophy at Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) school. In 2006 a faculty interview of him was posted at the Nyack website.

Under the heading, “My conversion to a life in Christ,” Danaher says:

I had an experience with the Lord when I was eighteen, but it was an experience and not a conversion into a radically new and different life. Twelve years later, I had another God experience but again without the kind of surrender that marks the beginning of a transformed life. God was faithful still and, two years later, with a third experience, there was a surrender and the beginning of a transformation that has continued for the past twenty-five years.

As a committed Evangelical postmodern, it is not surprising that Danaher emphasizes experience in telling of his conversion. He tells of three difference experiences with the Lord. Evidently Danaher hadn’t surrendered sufficiently the first two times for transformation to begin.

It is important to note that we read nothing about FAITH in this testimony. Nor is anything said about Jesus Christ in this testimony. And nothing is said about everlasting life, justification, or the kingdom of God. “As with many postmoderns, Danaher sees surrender to God as a condition of temporal transformation, which is a common understanding of salvation among Evangelical postmoderns.” (B.Wilkin)

That Nyack College, posted such a testimony on their website reveals the degree to which postmodernity is at home there.  I find that very troubling – especially how it will play out in the future.eyes-that-see-ears-that-hear-cover

In the same faculty interview, note what Danaher says “the role of a teacher” is:

The role of a teacher is not to impart information but to stimulate imagination and create interest. Intelligence is largely a matter of interest. We are all geniuses with regard to those things toward which we have a deep interest. The job of the teacher is to instill such an interest in the student. To do so, two things are essential. You have to love your subject matter and you have to love your students. Everything else in regard to teaching is superficial.

While there is certainly some truth in what Danaher is saying, there’s also some error.

It is no surprise that this view is being played out in many Evangelical churches today.  The purpose of Sunday School is stated as building relationships, NOT, learning concepts, doctrine, teaching,…etc.  The traditional teacher is no longer called a “teacher” but rather they are now “facilitators“.  Of course, the role of the facilitator is to lead the group in discussion, not to teach. Words like “knowledge” are looked down upon and assumed to be a purely “intellectual” pursuit that is vain.

It is important to state that all of these aspects can be important in building up a church – especially in building relationships among fellow-believers. But also, the role of the teacher includes at least some impartation of information.  Scripture talks about building up the mind, and on several occasions phrases similar to “know this” grabs our attention in the Bible so that we…….know what is being said, we learn what is being said, we remember what is being said….etc.  With the core of any discipleship program if sound teaching is not the foundation, how else can believers grow in their faith? But, with postmodernism, this is no longer emphasized and in many cases, it is looked down upon.  Is there any wonder why the church seems more confused today on issues like never before?

Wilkin states that “We are not all geniuses, even in regard to things to which we have a deep interest. While loving your subject and your students is certainly important in teaching, it is going too far to say that “everything else in regard to teaching is superficial.” Communication skills, knowledge of your subject, preparation for each class session, and attention to detail are also vitally important.”

Let’s look at another example.  This time from the well-known Talbot School of Theology. This has to do with the rational vs emotional concept of our salvation.  

The Bible Is Insufficient for Sanctification

(2.) JOHN COE:

At the 2006 ETS annual conference in Washington, D.C., John Coe, Professor of Philosophy and Spiritual Theology and Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology, presented a provocative paper entitled, “Spiritual Theology: A Methodology for Bridging the Sanctification Gap.” He said, “Though the Scriptures are a central and defining datum, a Bible-alone approach is inadequate and truncated in understanding the doctrine of sanctification and the process of transformation” (p. 2). He continued, “If we are going to understand all we can about the work of the Spirit in the soul, we are going to have to study and understand that work in real life as well as the Biblical text” (p. 3, italics his).

In the Q & A time I asked him if we can learn from unregenerate people like Catholics, Buddhists, and Hindus, how to do spiritual formation. He answered that while the unregenerate often have a “truncated view” of spiritual formation (note the quote above using the same expression regarding Bible-only folks!), yes, we can learn from the unregenerate how to do spiritual formation as long as we filter out the mistakes they make.

The room this took place in seated around 75 people. Every seat was taken and there were another 20 or so seated in the back and in the aisles. This was a very popular session. As far as I could tell from the questions and from the faces of the people in the audience, people were very favorable toward this presentation. (Grace in Focus magazine)

Conclusion

Wilkin rightly states that “It is time that believers wake up about what is being taught in our theological schools. It is not only liberal schools which are out of step with the Bible and with its fundamental truths. Even historically conservative schools for the most part teach the postmodern principle that we cannot be sure of much, if anything.

I have a friend with two children under age 3. He does not plan to send them to public schools, which he calls atheist schools. Maybe he is a bit too harsh. However, it isn’t just public K-12 schools that are a problem. Christian colleges and seminaries often do not promote the values that parents want their children to maintain.

It is time for Christian parents to spend as much if not more time deciding on a college or seminary for their children as they did deciding on whether to homeschool or send them to a Christian middle school and high school.

Sadly, the more impressive the academic credentials of the faculty at a school, the more likely the school promotes postmodernity and uncertainty. Degrees from prestigious schools like Harvard, Yale, Duke, Oxford, Cambridge, and Aberdeen should be red flags. Watch out. Liberal theology flows from liberal schools.”

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