Summary: The gospel of Christ remains powerful even in a postmodern society. (Three sermons)
TO AN AMERICAN POSTMODERN SOCIETY
A three part sermon series
based on the Mars Hill discourse
© 12-2000 by Mark Beaird
PREACHING CHRIST TO A NEW WORLD
© Mark Beaird
Text: Acts 17:16-21
Are you familiar with the term Postmodernism? If you are not familiar with the term then you probably are not aware that the church world is being greatly affected by its impact. First of all, let me assure you that I have no desire to get into a technical discussion about postmodernism. But it is important for us to have an understanding of all that is affecting our work for the Lord. To begin with let us try to simplify the meaning of it all.
Stanley Grenz, a professor of theology (at Carey and Regent College in Vancouver, BC) and author of the book, A Primer on Postmodernism, has used the TV shows Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation to point out these differences adeptly.
Modernism, Grenz says, is like Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series. He was part Vulcan and part human. Yet he always wanted to be more like his emotionless Vulcan side. Didn’t he? He was a man who wanted to be more like a machine.
Mr. Spock, an example of the modern man longing for more productivity and for empirical, scientific proof of reality. A fair description perhaps of the generation which produced the industrial and technological revolutions and the individualism which has characterized our country for nearly 200 years.
Postmodernism is like Data, the machine in Star Trek: The Next Generation who wants to be a man…who wants to feel and love and experience reality—not just know and analyze it.
Identifying perhaps more with Data, young people today feel more like machines who don’t know how to have relationships but desperately long for them and for a sense of community which most of their families did not provide.
Modernism is like Captain Kirk going out to conquer and subdue the “final frontier, where no man has gone before.” Postmodernism is like Captain Picard guiding his politically correct crew through space and helping to solve conflicts without stepping on anyone’s toes. Not conquering, but reconciling and making the galaxy a safe place.
Most young people today have been trying to avoid conflict all their lives, trying to keep peace while growing up in often divorce ravaged homes and emotionally scarring families.
In a sense, this is Postmodernism: a different, subjective, experiential way of looking at the world, and a deep skepticism which does not believe in moral, absolute or universal truths.
Can you begin to see the difficulty of doing a traditional approach to church for a very untraditional generation?” (Zafren 4)
If we hope to relate Christ to our world we must understand the changes that have come to America in the “Postmodern” era.
I. WE MUST BE AWARE THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A POSTMODERN SOCIETY (vv. 16-17).
A. American is detached from any common devotion (v. 16).
In Paul’s experience in Athens’s he saw a city filled with idols and given over to idol worship. This would indicate that polytheism was rampant. One does not have to look for long to find that America has fallen to the idols as well.
In addition, the people had no common religious foundation. Someone said that the cause of true Christianity’s decline in America is the disintegration of our culture. And as our culture becomes more diluted and diverse new religions are able to gain acceptance. No one challenges their validity.
George Barna, in his book, If Things Are So Good Why Do I Feel So Bad, writes, “The information barrage has led to a nation of people who feel culturally naked, personally disconnected, professionally perplexed, spiritually undernourished, and emotionally uninspired. Although we have the machines and the means to grind out reams of information, we have little grasp of how to humanely interpret that data or to wisely apply the accumulated knowledge represented in the ocean of facts readily accessible. (Barna 26)
B. Americans, by and large, have given up on traditional religious affiliation (v. 17).
This does not mean that no one wants to be a Christian anymore. Today as in Paul’s day, even in Athens, there were “God fearing” people (v. 17). There are still God fearing people around today, but the way people think has greatly changed.
As Barna writes, “At the same time that we have broader exposure to a variety of religious faiths, we appear to know less and less about what we believe and why we believe it. America has more religious institutions than any other nation on the planet—more than 300,000 churches, synagogues, and other houses of religious activity. But what difference does it make? We have forfeited our historic ethics and morals to the gods of achievement and comfort. Our moral compasses have been reprogrammed to point to a new north. Our sense of the divine has been compromised so that as a nation we have almost no awe of God or intention of respecting His rules.