(424) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM IN YOUR CHURCH – Part 2
POSTMODERNISM WITHIN THE C&MA:
From Part 1 of this series, we can see the influence at Nyack & Alliance Theological Seminary of POSTMODERNISM. It is not even a matter of opinion. There is one professor, DR. JAMES DANAHER who proudly and publically declares himself to be an EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN.
In his brief profile on zoominfor.com, Danaher describes himself as an Evangelical Postmodern. http://www.zoominfo.com/s/#!search/profile/person?personId=139293042&targetid=profile
(1) WHAT IS POSTMODERNISM ?
Millard Erickson defines postmodernism from his book – Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (pp. 18–20). (1998)Grand Rapids, MI: Baker –
This modern period has, in turn, given way to the postmodern, and its ideology to postmodernism. This represents the convergence of several movements in different intellectual disciplines. In many ways, the beginning inspiration was from the French school of literary criticism known as deconstruction. In history, there is the new historicism, in which history is not merely the objective discovery of the past, but actually creates it. In philosophy, neo-pragmatism holds that words refer not to objective, extralinguistic entities, but to other words. Certain basic motifs have emerged, countering the modern view.
1. The objectivity of knowledge is denied. Whether the knower is conditioned by the particularities of his or her situation or theories are used oppressively, knowledge is not a neutral means of discovery.
2. Knowledge is uncertain. Foundationalism, the idea that knowledge can be erected on some sort of bedrock of indubitable first principles, has had to be abandoned.
3. All-inclusive systems of explanation, whether metaphysical or historical, are impossible, and the attempt to construct them should be abandoned.
4. The inherent goodness of knowledge is also questioned. The belief that by means of discovering the truths of nature it could be controlled and evil and ills overcome has been disproved by the destructive ends to which knowledge has been put (in warfare, for instance).
5. Thus, progress is rejected. The history of the twentieth century should make this clear.
6. The model of the isolated individual knower as the ideal has been replaced by community-based knowledge. Truth is defined by and for the community, and all knowledge occurs within some community.
7. The scientific method as the epitomization of the objective method of inquiry is called into question. Truth is not known simply through reason, but through other channels, such as intuition.
This has huge implications. If truth can’t be known or objective truth can’t be discovered, then how can Christians base their beliefs on what the Bible says? This is quite shocking to see inside a denomination that is known for discipleship, evangelism and missions that occur around the world. Why go to foreign lands to spread the Word if everything is relative and uncertain?
(2) POSTMODERNISM – Dr. JAME DANAHER
The postmodern views of James Danaher stand out when reading about his conversion (see below).
In line with the rise of mystical practices within the C&MA, POSTMODERNISM is becoming normalized within the denomination. Sounds wild and harsh? Yes, but it is true.
In particular, Dr. James Danaher is promoting Roman Catholic (& Eastern religions) mystical approaches to spirituality. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise with the C&MA’s history of having a more mystical approach as a part of their origins. But today, it is becoming more of an issue when seminary professors outright promote Roman Catholic mysticism and this will influence the next generation of C&MA pastors. Don’t think so? It already is having this effect.
(3) EVANGELICAL VIEWS FROM OUTSIDE OF THE C&MA
All of these issues come to the forefront when you can read about someone like Postmodern Evangelical Dr. James Danaher from sources not affiliated with the C&MA. In Danaher’s case, it is not that unusual because not only has he given lectures, talks, and YouTube presentations, but he has written several books on the subject. But, again, that makes this subject even more urgent to be aware of and understand.
There are several sources we could look at. For this posting, I will look at what Dr. Robert Wilkin wrote in an article for the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society summarized in this article https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/postmodern-doubts-and-theological-education-part-1/
I will summarize his article by taking some liberties to quote extensively from Wilkins in a bullet point format. Unless identified otherwise , these bullet points are directly from his article. He starts by providing some background into what an EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN believes –
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM by ROBERT N. WILKIN
- Evangelical Postmoderns embrace doubt.They aren’t sure God exists.Hence they aren’t sure the Bible is God’s Word, that Jesus is the Savior, that there is life after death, that they have everlasting life, etc.
- Evangelical Postmoderns put a high premium on EXPERIENCE.
II. POSTMODERNISM IS DOUBT
- The modern era, the one before the Postmodern era, was an age of reason and rationalism and experimentation. Generally the modern era is held to have started with the Industrial Revolution (or the Enlightenment) and to have ended around 1945 with the end of WW2. A person with a modern mindset believes that there are lots of absolute truths today. The modern would say that 2 plus 2 equals 4, the earth is not flat, the boiling point of water at standard pressure is 100 degrees Celsius, that George Bush is President of the United States, etc.
- Postmoderns do not think that way. Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain. Nihilism, the idea that life makes no sense and that there is no real meaning in life, is the philosophy of Postmoderns.
III. EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM IS EXPERIENTIAL, WITH ALL OUR DOUBTS SUPERSIZED
- Evangelicals with a modern mindset still believe that God exists, that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, that the Bible is without error, that there is life after death, that there is heaven and hell, etc.
- Evangelicals with a Postmodern mindset are not sure if God exists. They aren’t sure if Jesus rose bodily from the dead. They believe the Bible is a human book with errors in it. They are not sure if there is life after death.
- Evangelical Postmodernism places a high premium on skepticism and doubt. Evangelical Postmoderns view those who are sure of things as being arrogant and out of touch with reality.
- They really are opposed to the idea that we can be sure of something simply because the Bible says it is true. Indeed, according to Evangelical Postmoderns faith and doubt always coexist. The Evangelical Postmodern is not sure of anything.
- Thus Evangelical Postmoderns often speak of their convictions, by which they mean things which they affirm as true, though they realize they may not be true. Whenever they speak of what they believe, they do not mean things they are sure of. They instead mean things which they have convictions about, even though they doubt that these convictions are true.
=> If this sounds confusing to you, then you have the heart of Evangelical Postmodernism. It is all our doubts supersized.
IV. CHRISTIAN CONVERSION IS AN EXISTENTIAL ENCOUNTER, NOT BELIEVING IN JESUS FOR EVERLASTING LIFE
- As you might imagine, such a view has a dramatic impact on evangelism. An Evangelical Postmoderndoes not focus on certain truths that must be believed. He does not focus on the guarantee of life that can never be lost to all who simply believe in Jesus.
- [Dr. Carl Raschke, The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004)] –
- [Singer/songwriter] Rich Mullins in the most radical way challenged both Christian literalism and legalism. He constantly stressed what the philosopher Kierkegaard had described as the task of “becoming” a Christian, as opposed to “being” a Christian. Becoming a Christian requires intense faith and spiritual discipline. It has little to do with intellectual conviction and even less with outward evidence of moral purity and perfection. Becoming a Christian, as Kierkegaard explained with irony, is not climbing a ladder of spiritual, let alone material, “success.” It all comes down to submitting oneself constantly to God through confession of our failures and presumptions and in taking what Kierkegaard himself referred to as the “leap of faith,” a leap into the fearful and unknown.
- In a Postmodern contextone becomes a Christian over time by encountering God through others who are themselves becoming Christians.
- The issue is not doctrine to be believed. Indeed, one must make a leap of faith into the fearful and unknown. While it supposedly has little to do with intellectual conviction and even less with outward evidence of moral purity and perfection, yet the way one becomes a Christian is EXPERIENCING the truth and being compelled to obey it.
V. THE GOSPEL IS NOT OTHER-WORLDLY OR ETERNAL: IT’S ABOUT PEACE OF MIND NOW
- The ramifications of Postmodernism for Evangelism are truly frightening. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not proclaimed by Evangelical Postmoderns. It is considered “literalism and legalism.”
- Of course, since Postmoderns supersize their doubts and consider certitude to be a terrible thing, there is no possibility of believing state- ments like, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47) or “He who lives and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:26). The best one could say is, “That’s a nice story.”
VI. “SALVATION” FOR THE EVANGELICAL POSTMODERN IS A NEW AND TRANSFORMED LIFEHERE AND NOW
A. SALVATION ISN’T ABOUT ETERNAL BENEFITS SINCE MANY EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNS ARE NEAR UNIVERSALISTS
- Another important aspect of the gospel according to Evangelical Postmodernism is what they believe a person gets. What is salvation?
- Conservative Evangelicals think of “salvation” as gaining eternal life or being saved from hell. That is not necessarily what the Evangelical Postmodern thinks.
- For one thing, some, if not many, Evangelical Postmoderns are either universalists or what some have called near-universalists. They believe, if we can use that term since they really aren’t sure of anything, that few, if any, will spend eternity in hell. All, or nearly all, will be in the king- dom of God, whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic, or atheist.
B. SALVATION IS PRIMARILY (OR EXCLUSIVELY) ABOUT PRESENT BLESSINGS
- For at least some Evangelical Postmoderns “salvation” is a here-and- now deliverance from our fears, guilt, and hang ups. It is a sense of spiritual well being in the present life. It is not related to life after death.
- It is probably safe to say that for most Evangelical Postmoderns the gospel is the good news that those who humble themselves before God will have a mighty experience that gives them inner peace. That peace can be maintained by regularly continuing to humble oneself before God.
- Evangelical Postmoderns are very concerned about ECOLOGY. So in one sense individual “salvation” has as its aim the purification and cleansing of the entire earth. What Evangelical Postmoderns want is peace on earth through massive numbers of people encountering God.
- Will McRaney at pastors.com has an article entitled, “Sharing Christ with Postmoderns.” He gives a list of Postmodern evangelistic methods and one of them is “More earthly benefits—less eternal benefits.”
- In the case of many Evangelical Postmoderns, some, if not many, are solely concerned with earthly, here-and-now benefits. There is little or no concern about eternal benefits because that is not a concern for many in Evangelical Postmodernity.
- Pastor and author Kary Oberbrunner wrote an article entitled, “Un- packing Postmodernism: Is a Postmodern Ministry Really What You Are After?” In a chart comparing modernism and Postmodernism one of his points of comparison is “view of salvation.” Oberbrunner says the modernist views salvation as something which occurs at “a point in time,” where the Postmodernist views salvation as “a way of life.”
- In the concluding paragraph of an article called “The Postmodern Gospel,” written in January of 2006, DR. JAMES P. DANAHER, who is the head of the Department of Philosophy at Nyack College, a Christian school sponsored by the Christian and Missionary Alliance Denomination, writes as follows:
- The good news of the Postmodern Gospel is that, with the end of modernity, we now have an ever greater opportunity to order our lives, not based upon understanding of some universal and objective truth, but rather upon an intimate understanding of a truth that is personal and subjective—indeed a truth that is a person (John 14:6).
- => Note that there is no mention here at all of any benefits of the Post-modern gospel beyond the grave. What Danaher talks about is “an ever greater opportunity to order our lives.”
- => Note too that Danaher DENIES any universal or objective truth. If our truth is not universal, this implies there is another truth out there that allows other religions to find a way to order their lives around a different person, maybe Mohammed or Buddha.
[As stated above] At Nyack.edu there is an interview with Dr. Danaher that includes a section entitled, “My conversion to life in Christ.” Here is what 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 year 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 telling 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.
Note what is present here: a repeated emphasis on “experiences with God,” repeated discussion of “a transformed life,” “a radically new and different life” is the aim, and surrender is the condition of this new life.
VII. BOTH FAITH AND THE OBJECT OF FAITH ARE NON-ESSENTIALS IN EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNISM
- One way to summarize the gospel according to Evangelical Postmodernism is to recognize that it isn’t about faith or the object of one’s faith.
- My point is that Evangelical Postmoderns do not have any sine qua nons. There is nothing that must be believed in order to be born again.
- The issue for Evangelical Postmoderns is not some essential doctrine. There is no essential doctrine for them. The issue for them is a personal encounter with God which is gained by personal surrender to God.
- If you don’t realize this, you will find yourself misunderstanding what an Evangelical Postmodern is saying.
- When an Evangelical Postmodern speaks of his conversion, he isn’t saying anything about what he believes or even about his eternal destiny. He is talking about an encounter he had with God that has given him peace of mind.
- When an Evangelical Postmodern speaks of when he became a Christian, you may wrongly interpret that to mean that he is referring to when he came to faith in Christ for eternal life.
- If an Evangelical Postmodern were to speak of his salvation, you would most likely be wrong to think that he was talking about his secure eternal destiny, or even his insecure eternal destiny. He would most likely be talking about the peace of mind he has experienced as a result of his encounter with God.
- I recommend you evangelize Evangelical Postmoderns. Don’t assume they are merely confused believers. Ask them if they are sure that they will spend eternity in Jesus’ kingdom. When they indicate that they aren’t sure of that (or anything at all), show them that this is what Jesus promises to all who simply believe in Him.
- When you evangelize an Evangelical Postmodern, you are essentially challenging their entire way of looking at the gospel, and indeed, of reality in general. You are calling for a radical paradigm shift.
IX. CONCLUSION: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EVANGELICAL POSTMODERNITY IS NOT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
The good news that Jesus Christ preached is found in verses like John 3:16, John 5:24, and John 6:47. Jesus promises everlasting life, life that can never be lost, to all who believe in Him. While there is a present benefit to the believer, that benefit is not an ordered life, a cleaner planet, or more joy and peace. The present benefit is that the believer has God’s irrevocable life and that life is one which is full of great potential.
The emphasis in what Jesus gives, however, is on the eternality of the life. It never ends. It goes beyond the grave Jesus promises a new glorified body to the believer (John 11:25). And He promises a new earth in which righteousness dwells (Revelation 21–22).
=> The gospel of Postmodernism isn’t even vaguely close to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelical Postmoderns have abandoned propositional truth found in the Bible and with it they have abandoned the promise of everlasting life that Jesus makes for those who simply believe in Him.
=> In place of believing in Jesus for everlasting life is surrendering to God for an ordered, transformed life here and now. When man creates his own gospel, the resulting message is not good news at all. The gospel of Evangelical Postmodernism is bad news.