The End of Christendom and Allegiance to Postmodernity: A New Worldview Has Emerged

The End of Christendom and Allegiance to Postmodernity: A New Worldview Has Emerged

Sociological norms are being altered, and in this post-Christendom era infused by a postmodern worldview, a new space has emerged. In this space, a new language is spoken and the loss of heteronomous language challenges communication. Dr. David Fitch, the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary confirms that “the cultures of the West have shifted in North America. It is no longer a monolithic Christian culture. North America has become a post-Christendom culture, a society of multiple cultures…with various antagonisms, histories and languages driving its meanings and organizing its way of life.”[1] The rules, languages, and postures have changed. Old assumptions no longer work.

The Changing Complexities of Language and Space

Christendom used a specific language focused on sin, salvation, faith, heaven, and hell. Traditional churches in my community have continued unchanged for a century and minister as if the meanings of terms remain unchanged. This assumption guarantees there will be an ever-present disconnect between the local church and its culture. Young people do not grasp the religious and cultural language created during Christendom. Religious nones[2] are on the rise and many of those in this postmodern society refuse to submit to the demands of a society structured for them by the powerful. Deconstruction on many levels has resulted.

How may the church open space so that God can be recognized? God is missional and believers need to join God in his mission to the world. Alan Roxburgh, a pastor, seminary professor, and mentor in leadership and missional transformation for over 30 years, explains it this way, “at the core…is the deep conviction that God is the primary actor who is out ahead of us in the neighborhood.”[3] We depend upon each other in the Spirit-led quest to be formed by an incarnational life, whereas, under Christendom, individualized salvation centers on a quest for truth identified by values of peace and love and so on. Here, the precise language of Christian belief identifies the saved and repudiates the lost—those who are in and those who are out. Discipleship becomes centered on adherence to propositional truth claims. In this space, the language of antagonism trumps that of intentionally being present with others.

My interviews with teens have proven that the language of peace, gospel, good news, and God have no sacred or shared meaning. Roxburgh describes what happens when human agency replaced God’s agency[5] in communicating the gospel. He writes, “In the place of language that describes God as the primary agent among us, we use abstract signifiers such as love, peace, justice, righteousness, reconciliation…the point is these abstractions replace any real sense of God’s agency.”[6] Therefore, a “language of virtue must replace the language of value.”[4]

[1] David E. Fitch, “The Mission Shaped Church in Post Christendom Renewing the Practices of the Church,” Seminar at Northern Seminary, Lisle, IL, June 13-17, 2022.

[2] Gregory A. Smith, “About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated Self-identified Christians make up 63% of U.S. population in 2021, down from 75% a decade ago,” Pew Research Group, (December 14, 2021), (Accessed on December 17, 2022). Smith defines “religious none as people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity.“

[3] Alan J. Roxburgh, Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World, The New Shape of the Church in Our Time (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2015)40.

[4] Alan J. Roxburgh and Martin Robinson, Practices for the Refounding of Gods People, The Missional Challenge of the West (New York: Church Publishing, 2018)100.

[5] For a treatment on the terms and my use of “God’s Agency” see Alan J. Roxburgh and Martin Robinson, Practices for the Refounding of Gods People, The Missional Challenge of the West (New York: Church Publishing, 2018) 1. Roxburgh states that God’s Agency was rejected by Enlightenment thinkers who believed humans could live well without the need for God. A dependence on God is to be dependent on his agency.

[6] Ibid., 100; Roxburgh accurately describes that Modernity replaced the language and agency of God. “Human agency rather than God’s agency became the primary driver of social, cultural, political, and economic life,” 1.

[7] See Figure 2.3, 45.

[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.

[13] Cornel West, Democracy Matters, Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004)26.

[14] Cornel West, 26.

[15] Cornet West, 26-27.

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