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Becoming All Things, Spoiling the Egyptians, and Occupying Culture till Christ Comes

Reflections on the Recent Postmodernism Conversation:

Editor Introduction: Postmodernism, The Church, and The Future

Pastor Tony Richie wraps up our discussion on how the church should respond to postmodernism.

 

Postmodernism, The Church, and The Future
A Pneuma Review discussion about how the church should respond to postmodernism

 

Introduction and Overview

The editorial staff of Pneuma Review (PR) is to be commended for its facilitation of this conversation about “Postmodernism, the Church and the Future” through a series of interactive articles (Winter 2007 through Winter 2009). It shows their continuing commitment to PR’s original visionary mission “To lead Pentecostal/charismatic believers to a greater understanding of God’s Word” and assist “church leaders in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” It also generates “greater dialogue between Evangelicals” and fosters “an open forum”.1 As they opened up the discussion, PR editors explained their rationale. Some Christian leaders and thinkers see the shift toward postmodernism as a threat, others as an opportunity. PR feels its readership “needs to hear from today’s theologians and practitioners to get a well-rounded perspective.”2 They intentionally assembled a diversely representative panel for that very reason. As I share their initial supposition, and as a member of that original panel, I am excited at their gracious invitation to do a kind of “wrap up” of the conversation that has now been going on for about two years. I am further motivated by general agreement with Stanley Grenz that, “the emerging task of evangelical theology is that of coming to grips with the postmodern condition.”3 Arguably, PR has put its finger one of the most urgent needs for discussion today.

So far, the PR postmodernism conversation has included some notable contributions. In “Emerge or Submerge” Dave Livermore asks “Is ‘cultural relevance’ an effective and theologically sound wineskin for the emergent church or is it moving Christianity toward oblivion?4 Next Winfield Bevins wrote “Retro Faith: A Christian Response to Postmodernism,”5 and B. Keith Putt “From Babel to Pentecost: Proclamation, Translation, and the Risk of the Spirit”.6 My own prior contribution to the postmodernism conversation was “Effectively Engaging Pluralism and Postmodernism in a So-Called Post Christian Culture: A Review Essay of Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.”7 Craig A. Carter contributed “The Myth of Relativism: Christianity in a Postmodern World,”8 and Philip Graham Ryken, “Answers to Questions.”9 Finally, Frank Viola wrote “A New Kind of Church for a New Kind of World.”10

I will return later to these thinkers and their ideas. For now, I begin taking a closer look at the topic at hand: postmodern culture and a Christian engagement of and/or response to it. Throughout, I exhort us to bear in mind Hal Knight’s comment that “what is central is a concern to proclaim the truth of the gospel in a postmodern world” because “whatever hope we have rests firmly and ultimately in the risen and living Jesus Christ and in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”11 Now I will discuss to what extent or in what way we ought to engage postmodern culture as Christians.
 

Wondering about a Worldview on the Rise: Orientation

By way of explanation, this “wrap up” will revolve around certain presuppositions that I will present here. An important Early Church Father, Origen, taught that Christians, like the ancient Israelites, are right and wise to “spoil the Egyptians,” that is, to take from their treasures of knowledge whatever is valuable for divine service in the journey of faith and life. Herein Origen also warned those who “sojourn” in Egypt that, “not many take away … only the useful”. He strongly recommends prayerful study as a safeguard.12 Therefore, non-Christian culture, according to this perspective, may have something positive to contribute to Christian belief and practice but we must approach it circumspectly. Perhaps, as Thielicke suggested, we can enlist the wisdom of this world as an ally of faith but we must listen carefully to the instinct of the children of God.13

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2009

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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