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Session 2:Our Mission Field: Post Modernity

Aims

By the end of this session you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of modernity and post-modernity.

  • Critically analyse and reflect upon the impact that the shift from modernity to post-modernity has had upon our culture and the effect of this shift upon our engagement with God’s mission.

Prayer

Begin with a time of prayer asking God to teach you new things about the mission to which we are all called and the part God wants you to play in this.

Introduction

Over the next three sessions we are going to explore three major paradigm shifts which have contributed to significant changes in our contemporary British context, the context within which we seek to engage with God’s mission, our “mission field”.
The first of these paradigm shifts is the move from modernity to post-modernity.
Watch the video for a basic definition of post-modernity (or postmodernism as it is sometimes called).

We can see something of the transition from Modernity to Post-modernity in the differences between Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Watch the video now to see this in action.

Societal changes are often seen most clearly in art, cinema and design. Zeffirelli seeks a “faithful” reproduction of the “original”, whereas Luhrmann makes changes to engage and entice his target audience. Zeffirelli seeks to retain the meaning of the play by seeking an “accurate” portrayal, Luhrmann seeks to reveal the meaning of the play by making contextual changes. Luhrmann “updates” the setting to “increase” the impact of the story for his audience.

Part 1: Modernity

Modernity was largely the result of the Enlightenment; a philosophical movement which became prominent during the 18th century. The Enlightenment, or age of reason, was centred around the elevation of the concept of reason as the primary source of knowledge. Truth was seen to be found in the universal power of human reason.


The Enlightenment grew from the rise of the belief that all human beings have the ability to access objective truth through the application of our ability to apply objective reason.


In Modern thinking every problem can be solved by applying reason to come up with a process to solve the issue. For the firm Modernist; once a process has been developed using pure reason, this process will be universally applicable to solve all similar problems. Progress, industry, mechanisation, objectivity, order… and religion was something confined to Sundays. These concepts characterise Modernity.

Download the pdf file  in the Resources section  for expanded explanations of each of these points

Part 2: Post Modernity

So up until the early to mid 1900s it is widely accepted that our society and culture embraced “Modernist” ideas. Progress, science, reason, objectivity and the pursuit of universal absolute truth were at the heart of our thinking as a culture and a society.  From the mid 1900s and on into the present we can see an increased rejection of the values which underpinned the “modernist” worldview… …this rejection of the values of modernity is basically what Post-modernity is.

The paradigm shift to Post-modernity then can be characterised as the decline of the belief in the concept of “universal truth” and the rise of individualism characterised by a belief in everyone being able to declare the validity of “my truth”.


The pursuit of universal truth which was at the heart of the growth of Modernist thinking gradually became less and less accepted as a valid perception of reality. In reality life, culture, society are all far too complex to reduce to a set of universal statements or to messy to fit into a “one size fits all” system.

Our perceptions of reality shape our perception of “truth”. All claims to objective truth eventually prove false because any one individual’s perception of any “truth”is affected by our personal perception of the world. We all view reality through lenses of social, cultural, political considerations, along with a whole host of other experiences.

We all view reality through lenses tinted by our experiences, prejudices and preferences. Objective truth may exist… but we as individuals cannot access it, nor can we communicate any “truth” free from our own perceptions.

Download the pdf file in the Resources section  for expanded explanations of points in both these images

Put simply; for the past 50-100 years our culture has been becoming more individualistic, less bound by the “Modernist” obsession with categorisation, consumerism has become King, and we are less and less bound by traditional societal boundaries.Arguably the church has failed to keep up with this shift away from Modernity to Post-modernity. It has been said that in the institution of the church we are still trying to come to terms with Modernity…

Exercises

One
Look at the following articles online:



 

Can you see any evidence of post-modern thinking?

Can you see any of the following “Post-Modern” characteristics in these articles:


- Rejection of “cultural narratives”?
- Rejection of modernist values and industrialisation?
- Embracing Spirituality, but not adhering to formal Religion?
- Rejection of traditional sources of knowledge or authority?

Two

Do you see any of the characteristics of Post-Modernity evident in your local community?


Are there ways in which your local community has changed and become more Post-Modern over the past 50 years? (You may want to look into some local history research, talk to people who have lived in your community for a long time, and also have conversations with younger people who appear more “at home” in the Post-Modern world…)


Make a list of any elements of your local community where you see elements of Post-Modernity.
 

Do any elements of Post-Modernity expressed in your local context provide challenges or opportunities for your church community as you seek to engage with God’s Mission?

Spotlight on Doctrine

If we embrace Post-modernity, and therefore acknowledge our inability to make statements of universal truth which are independent from our cultural and societal filters, are we able to make any form of doctrinal statement?
To borrow a phrase from the American declaration of independence; are there truths which we can hold to be self-evident? Are there exceptions to the Post-modern rejection of our ability to make a declaration that some things are true for all people and in all a contexts?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
 (The American Declaration of Independence)

Spotlight on Spirituality

 

Take a look at the service of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer and compare this with the service of Holy Communion (Order 1) in Common Worship (Principle Services). Compare the level of choice, the nature of the language in the two versions, and compare how prescriptive the physical instructions are within each version.
Which is the more “mechanistic” and “rigid” form of service?
Which is the more “flexible” and “variable” form of liturgy?
Do these differences indicate anything about the Modern or Post-Modern nature of the culture within which the forms of service were produced?

Reflect

What elements of post modernity can you see in your own life and how do they affect your faith and worship?

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:

from you come our life, this world and all that we have and are.

Teach us to love and respect your creation and give glory to you.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen

To Do in Church This Week

What elements of post modernity can you see reflected in your church, both in its worship and its outreach to the community and the world?

Share some of what you have found on the discussion board in the Forum.

Resources

Values of Modernity

Values of Post Modernity