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The Future of Spirituality and what is after Postmodernism

bright_logo.pngI'm always curious about social trends and the shape of things to come.  It is through this fascination, I've gathered some information and patterns to suggest where the future of spirituality is going and what is after postmodernism.  I believe postmodernism is already dead.  Unfortunately, it will take years (and even decades in some pockets of culture) to unfold the new era of where things are going.  I believe Christians need to be prepared for the challenges ahead as we desire to understand our culture and communicate the gospel to a dying world. 

Here are the shifts that I believe will radically alter the spiritual landscape of the west:

1. The Science of Faith – Science has, in the past steered away from non-empirical areas of faith.  But under increased pressure to explain the unexplainable, scientists are moving quickly to provide a framework of reducing faith to 'scientific' components.  Science must do this to restore the lost power from the rise of postmodernism and rejection of a naturalistic modern progression.  The day will come where issues of faith, belief and spirituality will be considered 0's & 1's that came from evolution.  Science will tell us why we have faith or beliefs and attempt to strip validity of all religion.  [Eg. One such area of study is memetics, an approach to evolutionary models of information transfer based on the concept of the meme.  'Meme ' is a term often used in blogging about the viral transfer of information through blogs but it actually was coined in the biological field prior by Richard Dawkins in his book "The Selfish Gene".]

2. Christianity as a Psychiatric Diagnosis and social ill – Under the 'new' science of the mind, people who are of faith will be considered in need of treatment.  As science enters into the faith equation all religions will be seen as 'Viruses of the Mind' or Faith Suffers as Richard Dawkins writes.  To deal with man's true problems will require treatment to remove the guilt, dogma and false belief structures imposed by religion.  True therapeutic healing can only begin after the Christian rejects the superstition of faith.  Dawkins argues  that religion may be "natural" but like a viral infection Christianity is still a disease that must be eradicated for the good of humanity.   

3. The death of Pluralism & Postmodernism – Religions will be blamed for the wars, prejudices and intolerance in our world.  There will no longer be a tolerance to religious differences.  As all religions are lumped into one malady, no religion will be considered right, except the faith in science & naturalism.  Pluralism and the relativity of postmodernism will be rejected as frameworks that are naive and unworkable.

4. The Rise of the New Atheist – All of these shifts will be aggressively pursued by thinkers who are no longer tolerant of any religious faith.  As described by Wired: "The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking."  (Source: Wired, The Crusade Against Religion Oct 23rd 2006)  Wired claims the three leading atheists are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.  Also see the Bright's Net , a collective of this new atheist.  (Logo from their website)  These atheists will not stop until all religion is labeled evil.

"We certainly have been placed in an interesting time.  In fact it is not much different than what Machen was experiencing in the early 1900's.  We have a rise of liberalism within the church labeled as Emergent.  And we have the rise of scientism outside the church labeled as Progess.  Both are trying to regain ground.  One attempts to gain ground they lost to the evangelicals, and the other ground they lost to the postmoderns.  The New Liberalism and the New Science which are not really new at all are they?,"  Tom Moller, an elder at Kaleo Church .

12 Comments

  1. Interesting observations. I’ll have to check out some of those books. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree that these are trends or shifts that are observable in the west today but I’m not so sure they will “radically” alter the spiritual landscape of the west. It’s a little bit early to make that assumption. However, I will agree that as Christians we need to be aware of these happenings and be prepared to answer for our faith.

    Another trend that is worth observing is the rise of “cultural” Christianity and just as quickly its waning influence. There are far too many people who when asked will say they are a Christian but really have no idea what that means. In fact, for many Christianity is just a “tack-on faith” they add to their other belief systems. This trend is what makes evangelism at times both really difficult and easy. Easier, because people will be open to having a “discussion” with you about Jesus but difficult because they aren’t quite ready to accept that they may not, in fact, be a Christian already. I don’t think this aspect of postmodernism is dead quite yet.

    Yet another trend that confirms my feelings that the points you made above won’t “radically” alter the spiritual landscape of the west is the resurgence of “social conscience” among Bible believing Christians. The return of the church to caring for the poor and the sick goes a long way to dispelling much of the arguments of the “new atheists”. Of course, such social care apart from the gospel is powerless for cultural transformation but on the other hand the church is rediscovering that the gospel cannot be shared without “love your neighbor as yourself”. It is my opinion that the churches that survive into the later years of the 21st century will be those who not only preach Jesus but also live Him (kind of ‘back to the basics’). The proverbial “mountain” the church has to cross in the west is of course the incredible pull of materialism/consumerism.

    Another important consideration when thinking about the future of Spirituality and what is after postmodernism is the waning influence of the West itself. This is a difficult perspective to consider in that the rest of the world is often viewed through the lenses of living in the West yet I think it is quite possible that there will be an incredible decline in the influence and power enjoyed and experienced in the West in the future that will give rise to a new “breed” of religion – that of world co-operation/accountability. Of course this in itself isn’t a new thought either (ergo end-times prophecy) 馃槈

  3. Most Relevant Blog I have read in some time. Divisiveness and Intolerance toward Christianity are the greatest obstacles in evangelism today (and have been for some time), at least in southern California 聜脛矛 a region that tends to be a cultural incubator for the rest of the nation. Post-modernism assumes a non-existent tolerance of a Christian Worldview on the basis of pluralism. This pluralistic tolerance is virtually non-existent. However the presupposition of tolerance in today聜脛么s culture (post-modern or not) is relevant, eminent, and extensive 聜脛矛 and in a proscribed comportment聜脛露.is even Christian. If tolerance was gaining ground, post-modernism would be following suit. Unfortunately, post-modernism seems to be more of a gateway worldview. Try it, you聜脛么ll like it and come back for more. Pretty soon you will need it, despise it, condemn it聜脛露and end up worse off than before.

    聜脛煤If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.聜脛霉
    Hebrews 10:26-31

  4. Great insights into the future of the church. I’m not sure how it will all play out but clearly we as leaders need to lead with our eyes open. My greatest fear is that the church’s eyes are closed to the realities of the times. In my mind that’s why the Western church is struggling.

  5. One can never state with certainty how the future will play out, and all one can do is assume, and assuming is a hindrance where religion is concerned. It is theory, thought, and often how we would like it to be., based both on logic and emotion.

    Spirituality resides in the heart, the soul, and no amount of going to church, synagogue, temple, or religious attendance will put out the illuminations within.

    Science may reign, in the future, on the exterior, but what lies inside is what matters.

    People of faith, come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions. Who is to say with certainty that one faith is better than the other. Those who do, go against the very grain of religious belief, and put themselves in a position of superiority. No one individual or group of individuals is superior to another. We all bleed the same color blood, and we all need to learn to survive, and live as equals, under the planetary umbrella.

  6. Lorri,

    I聜脛么m glad you say religious belief is comprised of both logic and emotion. Since you affirm the former, with all due respect, it seems, hidden within your comment, is a contradiction. With your conviction that 聜脛煤no one individual or group of individuals is superior to another聜脛霉; I would agree (with one important qualification), but it seems that your comment is directed not at individuals but at ideas. And if indeed your comment comprises both individuals and ideas, how do you maintain the integrity (logicality) of the aforementioned statement without invoking the apparent superiority you disdain? In other words, if you put forth the statement, 聜脛煤no one individual聜脛露is superior to another,聜脛霉 aren聜脛么t you just claiming superiority, or at the very least that statement itself is superior?

    If Jesus existed and the history of His actions are somewhat known, then Jesus agrees with you in principle, He was an egalitarian towards individuals but He was an elitist when it comes to ideas. So I guess the question is, can an individual who is not superior (in substance) to another hold ideas that are superior (in content) to that individual?

    Peace.

  7. I am the Co-Director of The Brights’ Net.

    I wish to make it clear that The Brights’ Net is not, and never has been an anti-religious organization. This is patently clear from a reading of the home page (www.the-brights.net). The purposes of the organization are also clearly stated on the home page:
    1. Promote the civic understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, which is free of supernatural and mystical elements.
    2. Gain public recognition that persons who hold such a worldview can bring principled actions to bear on matters of civic importance.
    3. Educate society toward accepting the full and equitable civic participation of all such individuals. The Brights’ Net is essentially a civic rights organizations, working to create a level playing field for all worldviews (both naturalistic and supernaturalistic).

    As an example which you can learn about from the website, we have created a Special Interest Group which is working with a large international religious organization.

    This Brights Action SIG-2 is formed specifically to enable a self-designated portion of the Brights’ constituency to interact with the United Religion Initiative. The URI organization focuses on uniting peoples of varied worldviews for action, attempting to bridge gaps between human groups in order to harmoniously work together to reduce religiously-motivated violence and advance justice across the globe.

  8. Sounds like you view religion in terms of two basic groups: Christian believers (I’m guessing evangelical?) and those scientists who aren’t Christian believers. To me, the religious landscape looks more multifaceted than this.

  9. Paul, I couldn’t agree with you more. Absolutely, I view religion in more groups than the two you mentioned. For the simplicity of the blog post I didn’t unpack every angle possible as it relates to religion, science and faith.

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  12. Interesting and thought provoking. After considerations, I see your views as a possible, but not at all likely future. I guess I have more faith in the possibilities of Christian spirituality to embrace change and of science to embrace, challenge and co-exist with spiritualilty.

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