Monday, June 18, 2012

The Opportunity Presented by Post-Modernism

By Matthew Everhard

Permit me a moment to do a bit of cultural analysis. Let’s cover a thousand years of history in two minutes. Here goes…

The Ancient World gave way to an era called the Medieval Age, marked by superstition, supernaturalism, tradition, and the centralized authority in the Roman Catholic Church. This broke wide open in the Reformation period (1500’s) one of history’s great revivals of Biblical truth, as men like Luther and Calvin returned to the sources of the Old and New Testaments.  

Co-extensively, the Reformation ushered in the Enlightenment period (1700’s) marked by scientific inquiry and advance (Newton et al.) This matured into full-blown modernism (1900’s) which rejected almost all forms of supernaturalism, and essentially made empirical science “king.” Freud and Darwin took the top of the heap.

But today, we live in an age called “post-modernism.” Here, because we live in an inter-connected “global village” now, our culture rejects modern notions of absolute truth. Post-modernism rejects overarching meta-narratives. The playing field is wide-open. Anything and everything gets a fair shake in our day. Your truth is as good as mine. Wicca, Scientology, Mayan Calendar, Zombie Apocalypse--are all handled with the same gloves of tolerance!

We can define post-modernism as: an era of history in which the idea of “absolute truth” has been abandoned, in favor of: pluralism, tolerance, and personal experience. 

Good News/Bad News
There is both good news and bad news in all of this for evangelicals. First the bad news. Post-modernism makes evangelism a very difficult endeavor, because the preaching of the Gospel is first of all a truth claim. It is an assertion of certain facts: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose again. If these facts are not absolutely true, Christianity is unfounded. That post-modernism rejects “absolute truth” makes evangelism hard sledding indeed.

The good news in all of this is that our post-modern era is far more open to the sharing of personal-experiences than we fear! Much more so than other eras in the past! This is to our advantage in sharing personal experiences of Christ! Notice that in the book of Acts, Paul’s personal conversion story is told three times (chapters 9, 22, and 26). We should take note.

Discernible Life Change
There is, however, one rule to play by in post-modernism: you had better be authentic. The one thing that you must have to share your testimony with a post-modern thinker is a discernible life-change. Post-modern people can smell out a hypocrite from a mile away.

As Paul re-told his testimony and conversion to the angry crowd in Acts 22:1-22 twenty years later, not one man there could dispute that Paul had determined to live exactly like he professed that he would. Paul could pull up his shirt and show them the scars to prove it.

Biggest Fear
For most Christians, our biggest fear and ultimate obstacle in sharing our faith is that someone will reject us because we spoke about something so deeply personal as our faith in Christ. We are terrified of those two letters “no.” Have you ever heard the child’s motto “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well that goes for personal evangelism too!

Ironically, most people will not reject you for telling them what Jesus did for you. We should, however, be far MORE AFRAID that our lives reveal our hypocrisy, superficiality, and shallowness. That to me is far more terrifying prospect than rejection. 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @matt_everhard or friend him on Facebook at

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