This is part 3 of our Series “Postmodernism: The Air We Breathe.” Parts 1 and 2 can be found here:
II. A Detailed Description of Postmodernism from Stephen Wellum
Postmodernism teaches that what we see and experience does not actually correspond with how the world really exists: i.e. “The ‘truth’ is in me and in you.” Modernism, on the other hand, teaches that our observations correspond with how the world really exists: i.e. “The truth is out there.” As a result of this mentality, Postmodernists are not asking of Christianity, “Is this true,” but are instead asking, “Do Christians believe this is true, and should I believe as well?” The answer for them is found in the authenticity of other professed Christians (their “stories”) and their own subjective authentic experience (their own “stories”). Truth is primarily reduced to feeling and experience.
Unfortunately, when feeling, emotion, and experience are the primary emphases concerning whether or not an idea is worthy of belief, those who lack these postmodern qualifiers at the level defined as “authentic” by the postmodern, will be deemed inauthentic or fake. In other words, to the postmodern, your Christianity is only as real as your “authentic” expression of it. If you don’t express your Christianity according to their definition of “authentic,” you’re inauthentic, and thus, your beliefs are unworthy of belief.
So, if we want to reach postmoderns with the gospel of Christ, we must not merely believe, but we must also express our Christianity. We must not be cowards in worship or in daily life, for we must be “authentic” to the point of our Christianity being tangible and able to be experienced by others. Our Christianity must impact the sense experience of others. In other words, others should be able to “feel” our Christianity.
This does not mean that you and I should be fake, or that we should cease to preach or teach truth. It simply means that you and I should seek to be real Christians on a daily basis in all that we do. We are not merely Christians during worship or Bible study, but we are Christians every second of every day. We must put hands and feet on what we profess to believe. The true postmodern will indeed read you before they read the Bible.
Furthermore, I don’t know about you, but when an unbeliever tells me that the reason he or she is an unbeliever is because of an inauthentic Christian, I tell him or her, “What does that have to do with Christ?” What you and I must understand is that to the postmodern, our authenticity has everything to do with Christ. Prior to belief in His claims, these postmoderns have never experienced Christ, but they have experienced those who claim to have experienced Him. Thus, they judge Him based on their perception of our authenticity.
Finally, since postmoderns start with the wrong question, “Do Christ-followers believe the claims of Christ?” it means a simple gospel presentation will often prove fruitless. *Please understand, I’m not questioning the power of the gospel. I’m simply communicating the reality that postmoderns do not have the framework to accept the gospel apart from witnessing the authenticity of those who profess to believe it and share it (God, of course, can save anyone at any moment). This is larely why door-knocking is so ineffective today. Postmoderns may open the door, let you into their home, and allow you to share the gospel with them, but they cannot determine if you are authentic or not in a mere 30 minute conversation. It will take much longer and many more conversations for them to “discern” your authenticity, and thus, “discern” whether or not they too should believe what you believe.
Like it or not, postmodernism is the air we breathe. Regardless where you live in the United States, you are surrounded by postmoderns (you probably even see a postmodern in the mirror from time to time). At the very least, we need to rethink how we carry out evangelism in a postmodern world. Remember Jesus’s words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our love for one another reveals the authenticity of Christianity in a premodern world, a modern world, a postmodern world, and in the coming post-postmodern world. Authentic Christianity, tangible Christianity, transcends all epistemological (answers how we know) assumptions. Therefore, if you and I are to reach postmoderns with the gospel of Christ, our Christianity must be expressed not suppressed, able to be affect the sense experience of others, and we must love with a tangible Christ-like love that permeates all we think and do. In other words, our Christianity must go beyond mere affiliation with a political party or submission to an arbitrary list of “do’s and don’ts” while we ignore other unrepentant sin.
Unfortunately, postmoderns are looking for Christ in the tangible witness of His church, and they are often not finding Him.
How will we respond?