I am no expert at this. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a politician. I’m not biologist. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not a historian or a cultural theorist. I’m just a dude who’s lived a long time and logged a lot of miles walking next to people and trying to listen for the voice of God in the midst of it all.
And I’ve got some opinions.
Modern is a word we’ve thrown around a lot in my lifetime. We were captured by modern architecture and modern fashion and modern cars and modern thinking. We love Modern Family.
Pardon my middle school mentality (and limited scope of definition), but for today’s thought, modernity refers to the movement of history out of the medieval and agrarian eras, into the more modern era, characterized by the development of capitalism, secularization, industrialization, enlightened thinking and rationalization. (Again, give me freedom to be overly simplistic…I’m trying to stick to 600 words!)
As a modern baby-boomer, I was born into solid American modern thought and action. I was raised with the belief that everything known, or worth knowing, was already known and established. It was woven into our politics and our educational systems and my church and theology.
This notion of having everything figured out was a dominant value in my upbringing. It was important that everything fit neatly into boxes. It was important that everything have concise, linear answers. It was important that everything make perfect “sense”.
For a church guy, lack of answers = shallow faith. Doubt was not allowed. Questions demanded quick, logical answers…given by the authority figures in the church (that meant whoever was my preacher at the time). Being “right” was not only expected, it was treasured.
And then it was leveraged against all those who questioned or disagreed.
Look, I’m grateful to have grown up with an education…and a work ethic…and a moral compass…and values that are reflected in the character of Jesus. I really am. I’m grateful to live in modern times, with all the industrial and technological advances that make my life easier and more enjoyable.
The toaster is an amazing device for making breakfast full of pleasure. I should know. I used mine today.
But we no longer live in a modern world. Most would say we live in post-modernity. Or beyond. And the fact that the church is stuck in the industrial era…the era of “knowable” and “absolute certainty”…is hurting the cause of Christ.
We can often look silly, or even petty, as we try to give simple and dogmatic answers to every theological challenge or scientific conflict coming from inquiring post-modern minds. Sorry. But I’m of a mind that everything cannot be explained by simple, linear reasoning. Shoot me.
Also, when we (the church) are intellectually or philosophically challenged, it’s pretty hard to give condescendingly simple, and right answers…and explain why there are thousands of different Christian denominations that each claim to have the right version of the truth…at the same time. Talk about egg on your ecumenical face.
Maybe it’s okay to just admit we don’t have all the answers and we are all just pilgrims on a common path that’s full of existential speed bumps and theological pot holes.
We all have the same book to guide us. We have the same Spirit to walk along side of us. We all have limited understanding. None of us are perfect. The table we sit at is pretty big.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pass the toast, brutha.