If the modern age could be summed up as “knowing,” the post modern age could be summed up with “you can’t know.” The modernist has determined and knows his source of truth (whether that be from within himself, or from a source outside himself). But the post modern refuses to define truth by any standard, so the question regarding source of truth is basically irrelevant.
A Lesson Learned
The reason I’m writing this post is to get a few things off my chest and hopefully allow you to learn from my mistakes. Here’s the brief back story. I’ve done quite a bit of study in the area of post modernism in the past 4 or 5 years, so I thought I had a fairly good grasp of the main talking points from a general philosophy standpoint. However, I recently interacted with a post modern acquaintance and I quickly became aware of some major shortcomings on my part. Ok, I’ll just be very frank…looking back, I would judge the conversation I had with this individual as a complete and utter failure. I remember, after the conversation, being extremely distraught. Even my wife, Kelly, noticed I was struggling when I got home. I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. I just knew…it had gone wrong. Fast forward to the next day. At this point I’m still at a loss. I’m checking my pride. I’m checking my motives. All I know is that a conversation that started as a simple invitation to come to church on Sunday had gone terribly awry. Fast forward again to today. I’m studying for an upcoming class on Christian Education and in the midst of my reading I find this passage. 1 Corinthians 8:1-2.
“…we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
Puffed up with Knowledge? Or Building up with Love?
Wow. It came like the punch in the gut that I was in desperate need of. If we examine the context, we find that Paul is exhorting us to not becoming a stumbling block to believers with a more fragile conscience. But as he sets up his case, he makes this huge opening statement in verse 1 and 2 regarding knowledge and love. As I read this passage it all became very clear what had gone wrong in the conversation with my post modern acquaintance. In my zeal to engage this individual on a spiritual and intellectual level, what I really ended up doing was proposing a line of questioning that I felt I already had the answers to. I’m sure, in the end, I must have come across as very arrogant with all my rejections of his ambiguity and quick answers (not the most stellar example of communicating truth in love). If I would have listened to how he was answering my questions, I would have quickly understood that what this person needed in that moment wasn’t a critique of his belief system, but rather, some genuine human interaction with no strings attached (that’s right…no strings attached). I wish I would have chosen to love. Below are a few things I’ve been saying to myself. These are good to consider when interacting with a post modern:
- Relationship before trust. Trust before truth. You can make the most intellectually phenomenal statements and it won’t mean a thing to a post modern unless there is a relationship. This will take time, energy, patience and lots of love.
- You won’t be able to convince a post modern of anything through lecture, so don’t frustrate yourself by attempting to do so. Live out your values and trust the Holy Spirit to work in their life.
- The only way you’ll be able to convince them of the value of your belief system is to actually demonstrate it…in real time…even during the conversation.
- Although post moderns are usually fine with ambiguous concepts, they have difficulty accepting concrete concepts. So no matter how badly you want them to experience the power of corporate worship, inviting them to church probably won’t be very effective. Church is most assuredly viewed as just another system of control and will be a major turn-off. Try inviting them over for dinner or some other neutral activity.
Post moderns need desperately to experience the power and love of God. We can be that vehicle. We can be the hands, feet, and heart of God in their life. We can build up in love, and reject the tendency to become arrogant in our knowledge. As people who simultaneously accept and reject all narratives, post moderns need to witness first-hand the value and power of Christ. We have the opportunity to be that witness.