Post-Christendom and Postmodern Ideologies Affect the Youth Culture.

As noted in previous blog posts, all 20 teens interviewed believe that there is a spiritual dimension to the world and an almost equal number accept that God is personal while only three students believe that a personal God cares about them and only one student believes God is actively involved in his life. When I use the phrase gospel of peace, students do not grasp its scriptural meaning or ramifications. They tell me that science, rather than God, is needed to explain the world.

Alan Roxburgh notes that the language of supernatural and spiritual in the modern West took on new meanings and applications in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is a modern idea that these terms represent a separate realm outside the world.[8] God's place in the world has been usurped by that of mankind. God seems no longer required to explain or make sense of the world and he has been separated from its operations. In a world governed only by natural laws, divine agency is deemed unnecessary. The language of spiritual has come to mean non-material whereas Roxburgh rightly contends that in the premodern world, it meant “engaging with God in God’s world—in the ordinary sensual order of everyday life.”[9] Modernity extracted God from the categories of agency and postmodernity has changed the language categories, thus, forcing what Roxburgh labels a “fermenting and bubbling…where the intimations of another agent can be experienced. It can be a space where the disruptive Spirit is gestating something new.”[10]

After ministering to multi-generations of religious nones since 1993, I observed that post-Christendom has marked my community for over half a century. Teens who frequented the center in 1993 told me that their grandparents and parents rarely if ever attended church. My community may be an anomaly, but it has been my cultural context for three decades.

Dr. James K. A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin University, rightly observes that for many, the white American church does not understand its purpose. He writes, “church has only a role to provide a place of fellowship with other individuals who have a private relationship with God…Christianity becomes intellectualized rather than incarnate.”[11] He suggests that postmodernism can help return the church to a more premodern perspective, which may open a new imagination for what God can do.[12] Churches have not appealed to the human imagination of transcendence. A missional leader must live in the local and create space for conversation about what God is doing ahead of us. With the ever-increasing text acronyms, slang terms, body gestures, and emojis, learning the language of adolescents is a new frontier. Communicating the gospel of the kingdom in this foreign land requires keen listening to culture. Language shapes reality and is transformational but only after learning the cultural symbols and artifacts will I grasp the meaning of culturally bound words and phrases. To love someone is to walk with them.

[8] See Louis Dupre, Religion and the Rise of Modern Culture (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), for a helpful understanding of God’s relationship to the created order.

[9] Alan Roxburgh, and Martin Robinson 103.

[10] Alan Roxburgh, and Martin Robinson 105.

[11] James K A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of PostModernism? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006)21.

[12] Ibid., 21.

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