Jun 11, 2009
The "Modern" Church
Some have described "modernity" as possessing the attributes of value pluralism, privatization, individualization, and over-intellectualization, which have characterized Western civilization since around 1500. From a political perspective "modernity" is know as (or shaped by) liberalism.
Liberalism, according to Peter Leithart, is "the political system dedicated to the one proposition that political systems must not be dedicated to one proposition". It is an ideology which is founded upon a self-refuting principle .............. It's insanity! Please don't think I'm only talking about a particular political party, I assure you I'm not. This is the ideology which characterizes, for the most part, our entire political system. It characterizes America and 'the West' in the modern era.
Peter Leithart paraphrases Alasdair MacIntyre's description of this ideology when he says, "liberal democracy claims to liberate individuals from all tradition, leaving every member of society free to live according to whatever concept of the good he finds pleasing, to live out whatever narratives he can conceive.". To drive home the self-refuting nature of this ideology, Leithart, paraphrasing MacIntyre, continues, "liberal democracy does have its own overriding story and its own overarching purpose. Despite its claim to liberate from tradition, liberalism is itself a tradition and has a particular vision of the good society." (emphasis mine). In other words, you are free to choose any 'story' to define yourself ..... except a story which conflicts with the ideals of liberalism. How's that for freedom?
So what does all of this have to do with the Church? Look around you. We have allowed secular, pluralistic, individualistic, privatized ideologies into the Church. This is another way of saying, "we are worldly". The problem is ............. we don't recognize these attributes as a problem. We are drowning in the sea of 'secular, liberal modernity' and we don't even know it.
How often have you heard Christians characterize , and even emphasize, their 'relationship with God' as being "a private and personal thing"? How often have we heard preachers/evangelists call people to Christ by stressing the need for a "personal relationship with Jesus"? This type of thinking has led Christians to conceive of salvation in strictly individualistic terms. The "It's just me and Jesus" attitude is a result of the influences of 'modernity' and has crippled the Church.
How many times have you heard (thought), "Well, that might be o.k. for that Christian / Church / Denomination, but it's not for me."? Or, "I'm not going to join a local congregation because I can't find one that believes exactly like I do or offers a worship style that I like or plays the type of music I prefer."? Or,"I know my pastor preached on this or that, but that's just his interpretation. He is entitled to his opinion on the matter and so am I". Or, .............. I could go on and on. These are nothing less that the symptoms of our common illness. The Church is infected with the disease of modernity and all the individualistic symptoms that come with it.
The cure is to reject the modern ideologies which have infiltrated the Church. It is to reject worldliness. And we will do this only as we accept as our own, the full story which our God has given to us in the pages of the Bible. Only as we retrain ourselves to see the world through a Biblical 'lens' will we be able to understand who we are and what our true place in this world is.