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The Demise of Metanarrative and the Implications for Culture


The Changed Situation

Attempting to transform society into a Christian nation by governmental edict is a disaster.

Churches and Christian ministries now find themselves in the place of having to determine how to do ministry without the support of a metanarrative. For some, the answer is to enter a battle whose goal is to restore America to its Christian roots. This is a dead end. Transforming society by governmental edict has been tried once (under Constantine) and many scholars point to it now as a disaster for vibrant Christian faith. The New Testament uses metaphors of salt and light and leaven. Transformation by these means occur from within, not from without. Some Christians are rightfully looking at the demise of the modern western metanarrative as holding bright prospects for ministry in the days ahead. To be sure, it will be more challenging, but it will also likely be richer.

Consider the following implications for ministry in this new era in which a metanarrative is not in place.

First, the environment in which ministry takes place will be increasingly fragmented and pluralistic. Operating under the modern western metanarrative, Christianity had the luxury of a certain amount of “given” credibility. Christians and non-Christians may well have looked at many issues differently, but shared a common understanding in many ways. No one questioned the place of Christian ministry in the larger society. No one questioned the right of Christians to share their faith and engage in ministry.

Secondly, “toleration” will continue to be a watchword of the new environment. For many Christians, toleration has become a negative word. It is often taken to mean that everyone and everything is tolerated with the exception of Christians. This is not an altogether unwarranted perspective. Two comments are in order here. First, some of this just comes with the territory. As Christians, once the metanarrative is stripped away, we still find ourselves with an ultimate story. We do need to strip away the remnants of a dying metanarrative. In its place we need to cling only to the biblical story. That story is an ultimate story and our culture is not really interested in other people trying to tell them an ultimate story. The second thing that needs to be said here is that Christians will continue to bear the burden of the totalizing approach to metanarrative over the past centuries. The notion of “totalizing” was mentioned earlier and it was noted that it is a negative one. We would do well to keep in mind that throughout the modern era a lot of negative things happened as a result of western culture’s totalizing approach to its metanarrative. Christianity was integrally a part of this. White, western Christians likely have little conception of how much of what was taken to the mission field was the western metanarrative versus how much was the core of the gospel message.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2017

About the Author: John K. Crupper, M.Div. (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) and D.Min. (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), serves as a Project Manager with Our Daily Bread Ministries in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Following seminary, he pastored local churches in North Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois. Much of his career has been spent working on the strategic priority of ministry with children. He served key roles with Awana Clubs International where he provided significant leadership for the 4-14 Forum. He served as the first National Director for Shepherding the Next Generation, an evangelical nonprofit advocating for at-risk children. Later he provided leadership for key projects for Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree ministry. John's current area of interest and ministry focus is spiritual formation in the "third third" of life and end of life.

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