The Gospel for Postmoderns Part 2

When the earliest Jewish church was faced with the challenge of giving the gospel into the hands of Gentiles, they wrestled with what this meant. And yet there was no denying that God's Spirit had been given to Cornelius and his household on no precondition of circumcision or kosher diet.  So, after prayerful consideration they wrote these words to the Gentile believers... 

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. Acts 15: 28-29

When you think about all the layers of custom and law that constituted the Jewish practice of following Jesus, the brevity of this list is remarkable. Don't mess with idols, don't eat blood and don't stray from sexual purity. And then, "Farewell." In other words, we trust you to God--Ciao.
What would it look like for Modern-Enlightenment believers to give this sort of list to Postmodern-Emergentiles?
Perhaps it is helpful to queue up the messages young converts sometimes hear:

It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you, so we just have a few requirements: You must agree to our modern notions of epistemology. It is essential that you believe in a literal 7-day creation and embrace the doctrine of the literalistic inerrancy of Scripture. You must share our disdain for modern developments in music and agree that hymns led by choirs and organs are inherently the best forms of worship. Dressing up for church is non-negotiable. Smoking, tattoos and alcohol are strictly prohibited. You must adhere to hierarchical forms of polity. You must use the language that has been used for centuries to describe God, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient -- any innovation is heretical. You must order your marriages as we do. You should visualize God as a male, and use masculine language whenever you speak of Him. You shall abstain from historical-critical study of Scripture. Do not mix your faith with your politics. If you do these, we will call you Christians...otherwise we will lament the fate God's church.

What else? What other burdens do some modern Christians place on postmoderns before admitting them as full members of Christ's Church... [comment]

Part One of The Gospel for Postmoderns is here


  1. Such a great post for so many reasons. So many churches say they are attempting to recreate the early church without really grasping what made the early church so dynamic. Everybody had their eyes on God back then, not each other.

  2. WOW! You're lumping modern music with the inerrancy of scripture?

    chris, don't you think there's a huge difference between the silly ideas you mentioned of using only hymns, not having tattoos/smoking/alchohol, etc. And the inerrancy of scripture?

    It seems to me that the emergent types are more in love with their tattoos, smoking, liberality with scripture, backlash against the poor foolish legalistic oldschool, than they really care about getting things right and following God.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm allllllll about innovation and smoking and tattoos. But I think there's a difference between trying to faithfully live like Jesus, loving others, ignoring bad christian customs - AND - trying hard to be different, straight disagreeing with clear scriptures, and trying to make Christianity more appeasing to our culture, and making the tail wag the dog - which I'm afraid the Emergent movement is doing.

  3. Jesse,
    Thanks for the comment. You're right--it is completely possible to concede on some of the issues I mentioned and not on others, and that's what most churches do. Of course, I'm setting up a caricature that includes many of the sticking points which share an origin in a modern outlook. I also agree that some of those who are calling for a postmodern gospel are basically interested in ducking the cost of discipleship and getting moral license. But if you didn't like me lumping inerrancy in with these others, than you'll just LOVE this post from a while back: Inerrancy is a modern invention, thus it is neither the historical Christian view of Scripture nor the normative one.