Monday, 23 June 2014

A Worshiping Christian's Blacklist

For these, you have shoot on sight authorization*:

1. Emotionalism

There's no therapist quite like Jesus.

Emotionalism is probably one of the most subtle forms of idolatry that I find lacing worship services. It's our self-indulgence in non-stop repeating of tasteless, meaningless, and heartily heartless bridges. It's our careless waltzing on the sparkling side of the Grace coin. It's a sad rejection of maturity and responsibility. And it's probably a bigger block against real sanctification than it should be. Simply put, it becomes more about my feelings rather than about God's delight and the object of worship, itself, shifts.

2. Atmosphere-ism 

Zach Snyder's Man of Steel required the right atmospheric conditions to be powerful. God is better than that.

In my mind, the need to create an "environment" or "atmosphere" where God can "move freely" seems to be a sort of marriage between materialism and emotionalism, at least in the context of corporate worship. Most Big Name worship bands, I believe, are at fault in this area, which saddens me because for some bands, namely Hillsong United, it might be their only significant one. Unlike the craving for a raw emotional high (first point), atmosphere-ism comes to us under the guise of service to God, as a kind of bridge between Him and us. Let's remember that a joyful experience in God's arms is not the aftermath of the right combination of light, fog machines and melodies but solely in the humble struggle to carry our cross. 

"Tell me, Jesus Culture, why do I feel so alive at your concerts and so dead everywhere else?"

3. Relativism

"Narrow is the gate to life... but feel free to believe what you want because no one knows the truth and who am I to judge." Said no prophet or apostle ever. But apparently, for some churches, when it comes to hermeneutics, it's open season. The problem with trying to work out Christian worship in a relativistic framework or a postmodern worldview is that your words are killed before they have the chance to be vocalized. The god you want to worship ends up being an entity without identity. Your "worship" is reinforced (and jettisoned) by standards founded on water rather than steel.

4. Preach-prayers

"Dear God, as we come before you in worship, I pray that you would remove all distractions from our hearts and minds, because you don't like it when people text in church and sing obnoxiously loud during the chorus and I ask that you would quickly silence the aloof spirit that commits such blasphemous deeds."

Worship leaders: there's a time and a place. 

"You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear." ~ Deuteronomy 10:20
* This was intended to be a joke, but could be misinterpreted. What I mean to say is that we should be diligent to fight the existence of these beliefs and/or tactics, if you will, in our own worship lives. We can even extend this pious, spiritual militarism in our conversations, but remember that pride and hypocrisy are the bane and biggest hindrance to genuine worship as well.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

On Postmodernism

To say that truth cannot be known or that truth doesn't, at all, exist or that truth is not absolute or universal is to invariably give up on intellect and meaning. As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb put it, "Postmodernism entices us with the siren call of liberation and creativity, but it may be an invitation to intellectual and moral suicide." [1] As soon as someone even suggests that truth is out of man's reach, and human reasoning and conscience futile, then the door is made open and the freeway paved for relativism of every sort. Professor Patricia Waugh states, "If modernism had tried to anchor in consciousness a centre which could no longer hold--the conscience of the heroic, socially alienated artist--postmodernism had shown us an even darker side of modernity and the aporias of the aesthetic. It had shown that there is nothing for consciousness to be anchored to: no universal ground of truth, justice, or reason, so that consciousness itself is thus "decentred," no longer origin, author, location of intentional agency but a function through which impersonal forces pass and intersect--Dover Beach displaced by an international airport lounge." [2] Without the capability to know truth, what validates one belief of reality over the alternative? Let's look at what is being claimed. "Truth cannot be known. There is no truth." It is a paradoxical statement that literally eats itself. But now let's, for a minute, talk the implications, the dangers of this line of thought. The possible implications of this lazy philosophy, which we've begun to witness, I find astounding. I'm convinced that it's in a postmodern worldview that you will find your StalinsWithout a true reference-point for meaning, humans will have the chance, in the guise of liberty, to fashion their own concept of reality, however heinous (if evil's even still a thing), without sensible conviction or rebuke. No person could assert the rightness of an idea or belief, much less persuade. What we have then, are decapitated birds coasting through the breeze of free love, guiltless hate, and relentless contradiction. 

Dr. D.A. Carson put it as I would, in his message on the Emergent Church and Postmodernism in the Church when saying that epistemology "is a tricky thing" [3]. Indeed it is. Yet the ball returns to the postmodernist's court. "We can know truth objectively, but we cannot objectively know truth.", Carson later said. We can know what truth is, but, of course, we cannot know all that there is to know about it. It's to say that knowledge should not be equated with certainty. After all, not all modernists are "dogmatic". Jesus did not allow for a postmodern worldview in John 14. Because I believe Him, I can believe in truth. I can believe that it's been revealed to us. I can believe that intellect is sufficient to discover and language capable to convey it. I can believe that there is a reference-point for meaning and morality. But if Jesus, after all, is a deceiver and a liar, then good is vapid of meaning, and meaning escapes itself. We no longer need to worry about inherent evil, nor inherent good, and dictators will be the least of our pains (If pain's even still a thing). Rhetoric will be the sword with which our society destroys itself. Aesthetics will be the idol we kiss as the world accomplishes all it can: cold, quiet death. 

[1] Gertrude Himmelfarb (b. 1922), U.S. historian. On Looking Into the Abyss, ch. 7 (1994).
[2] Patricia Waugh, British educator. "Stalemates? Feminists, Postmodernists and Unfinished Issues in Modern Aesthetics," The Politics of Pleasure: Aesthetics and Cultural Theory, ed. Stephen Regan, Open University Press (1992).
[3] The Emerging Church . Perf. DA Carson. YouTube, 2012. Film.
Other sources:
Postmodernism and Philosophy. Perf. Ravi Zacharias. Ligonier Ministries, 2007. Film.