Schmemann on modern escapist spirituality

“Tired and disillusioned by the chaos and confusion he himself has brought about, crushed by his own ‘progress,’ scared by seemingly triumphant evil, disenchanted with all theories and explanations, depersonalized and enslaved by technology, man instinctively looks for an escape, for a ‘way out’ of this hopelessly wicked world, for a spiritual haven, for a ‘spirituality’ that will confirm and justify him in his disgust for the world and his fear of it, yet at the same time give him the security and the spiritual comfort he seeks. Hence the multiplication and the amazing success today of all kinds of escapist spiritualities—Christian and non-Christian alike—whose common and basic tonality is precisely negation, apocalypticism, fear and a truly Manichean ‘disgust’ for the world”
– Alexander Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, 84.

Searching for Truth

My journey is like Moses who went on the mountain in Exodus 24 in search for God. Or at least my convictions tell me that it should be. He was in search of true theology, while his people waiting for him decided they’d come up with their own theology. One that served creation rather than creator. It came by their impatience and desire to worship.

Moses went up the mountain, was there for a long time, and sought God. My prayer is that my theology would also be formed through prayer. There are many books and commentaries and denominations that interpret biblical theology differently, giving us various “religions” and theologies.

My belief is that there are strengths and weaknesses in every denomination. This places me on a search for truth. Others may be in a place where they too are searching for correct theology, and maybe some believe they have found it. Wherever you are, I pray that you wouldn’t be defined by your denomination, whether Reformed or Pentecostal, or something else, but you would be defined by prayer, not prayer itself, but the result of prayer. In order for this to happen we must be passionate about truth. Truth that doesn’t waiver. Truth that may sometimes offend. Truth that may be hard to swallow.

Moses went up the mountain, Jesus went to a desolate place, and we too ought to seek divine truth in momentous occasions of faith: prayer fueled by our desire for unrelenting truth.

Jesus; the Sum, the Center

“Jesus is both the sum and center of our Christian faith. In a conversation I was privileged to have with noted theologian Dr. David Wells, he made mention of a very insightful fact. Unlike most religions, Christianity has no place, language, race, or culture that serves as a center to hold it together. Christians share no worldwide headquarters, no common language, no common race or ethnic heritage, and no common framework. The only thing that holds all of Christianity together is the risen Lord Jesus Christ who is alive today.”

Mark Driscoll
Vintage Jesus pg 200 –

Postmodernism and the like

Book: Postmodern Youth Ministry
Author: Tony Jones

This book nothing more of a tool that helps many youth workers understand today’s culture, based on the ever present era known as “postmodernism.”

Among the many definitions, in my opinion postmodernism cannot have an absolute definition because times, lifestyles, subcultures and mindsets are constantly changing (which if you already know something about postmodernism you know that this statement is quite ironic).

There is so much we can say about postmodernism but let me stick to the basics and attempt to define it.

Firstly, we need to understand that postmodernism is a cultural shift that evolved from the era of modern thinking (hence the name POSTmodern).
Here is a list of important “postmodern credos” that will help us with communicating in the world of postmodern cultural patterns and thought processes:

1>Deconstruction: in basic terms, is a movement that questions everything, which includes traditional beliefs and assumptions on certainty, identity and truth. So nothing escapes questioning. As the author states: “skepticism and cynicism rule the day.”

2> objectivity is out, subjectivity is in: No one can have an objective viewpoint because everyone has one point of view.
The author gives a good tip here for youth workers: always preface your opinion with a description of you: “i’m a 21 y/o christian Euro white male living in North America at the turn of the 21st century”

3>There is no absolute truth! Everything is relative. What might be truth to me might not be truth to you, unless of course my truth is an exclusive one, that’s when it’s not true.

4> Tell stories. According to the author, stories are the best way to carry meaning when communication. One author calls this “abductive reasoning” because your abducting listeners from their world into your world.

This being the incomplete list of credos for postmodern thinkers, here are some practical values that will help shed light on the affects of postmodernism:

1. Experiential: Instead of just hearing of things, people want to experience them. Interactive video games is a huge industry today for highschoolers. And high adventure vacations are a huge hit with the post-college crowd.

2. Spiritual: Spirituality is in. Ever hear of yoga? Of course you have. Religious themes “permeate our culture.”

3. pluralism: you can be spiritual without believing in God.

4. Relativism: as mentioned earlier. Students find Christianity’s claim of exclusivity the most difficult to swallow.

5. Community: The postmodern interest in community is evident due to all the wonderful reality tv shows such as: the real world, road rules, survivor, big brother and many more.

6.Creativity: the arts: “beauty for beauty’s sake” is regarded as valuable.

7. Environmental: Global warming is a huge issue. The world is concerned about the planet and its future. College campuses are giving “earth day” an official holiday.

8. Global: Students are now considering themselves citizens of the world. The start of this was when we landed on the moon. The internet strengthens this standpoint.

9. Holistic: Every part of your life is interconnected. This is why integrity is so important. If your a christian in the church, be a christian in the home and the work place.

10. Authenticity: People want the real meaning. The entire meaning. The whole Bible must be preached. This is why expository preaching is so important in today’s world. People want to know what it’s really saying! No more surface sermons on topics we’ve all heard before!!!

I know there is much more that I can add to this definition. But let me conclude.

In my opinion, much can be found in the Bible. For example, among the many skeptics in the Bible, one most notably we should consider is the one and only doctor and gospel writer: Luke. His opening words in his account of the Gospel is:

“Though many had already written a narrative about what happened, and even eyewitnesses were involved, it seemed good to me to follow things closely for some time so that I can also write an account of what happened so that you(Theopholus) can have an accurate account of what needs to be taught.” Luke 1:1-4 (My version).

Is this postmodern movement bad news for Christianity? Maybe. But maybe not. In agreement with the author, we must be aware of these cultural shifts but not necessarily blindly adopt each characteristic. Lets be learners of this culture, just as Paul, Peter, John and Jesus were so that we can be affective communicators, writers, preachers, and leaders wherever we are.

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