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Ministry to "Post Everythings"

Justin Taylor’s fine blog “Between Two Worlds” (http://theologica.blogspot.com/) alerted me to this excellent essay by Tim Keller on how Reformed Theology has answers for the postmodern generation. Here is an excerpt.

The next thing we must do is use the Reformed resources that God has especially granted this church to minister to the emerging culture in the following ways:

First, remember that post-everything people like narrative and story. They tend not to like the older kind of preaching that simply enunciated doctrinal principles. Neither are they excited about the newer user-friendly sermons of seeker-churches on “How to Handle Fear,” “How to Balance Your Life,” etc. So, do we throw overboard everything we have done? Absolutely not. We turn to Geerhardus Vos who says that every single part of the Bible is really about Jesus. If you know how to do Christ-centered preaching, then you turn every single sermon into a kind of story. The plot of the human dilemma thickens, and the hero that comes to the rescue is Jesus. Christ-centered preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into true sermons. Post-everythings who are interested in narrative are reached by such preaching that is deeply Reformed.

Second, remember that post-everythings are experientially oriented. They do not just want intellectual propositions. For them life’s meaning is grounded in what they experience. Of course, as Reformed Christians we are very word-centered, and we know that eternal truth is not based on our subjective experience of it. But Reformed preachers have a tremendous resource for an experience-oriented generation in Jonathan Edwards. Edwards taught that a sermon should not only make truth clear, but also should make truth real. In Edwards we find ways to preach that are Reformed, committed to objective truth and, at the same time, deeply experiential.

Third, remember that post-everythings are very much against moralism and self-righteousness. But Reformed preachers have Martin Luther to help with this concern. Traditional gospel presentations assume that the people want to be “good.” But our kids’ generation wants to be “free.” Luther said, “Look, you want to be free? Good. It’s good to be free. But you’re not. You are living for something and, whatever that something is, it enslaves you.” If a person lives for reputation, then he is a slave to what people think. If a person lives for achievement, then he will be a workaholic. As did Luther, we should tell such people, “You want to be free? Fine. But you’re not going to be free unless Jesus is your salvation.” When post-everythings rejected Christianity they thought moralism and Christianity were the same thing. But we can show post-everythings that the two are not the same, and that freedom really is in Jesus.

Fourth, take note of post-everythings’ concern for social justice. They innately sense that the church is not credible without care for mercy and justice. We can address these concerns with the wisdom of Hermann Ridderbos and other Reformed theologians who stress the coming of and the presence of the Kingdom. The Reformed understanding of salvation is not simply that God is rescuing individual souls out of the material world, but rather he is also redeeming all of creation. God is going to bring complete healing and shalom to the material world eventually. This makes Christianity (as C.S. Lewis says) “a fighting religion” against poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. We must bring this Kingdom message of Reformed theology to post-everythings.

Fifth, recognize that post-everythings love art because they love the material world. Abraham Kuyper’s understanding of Reformed theology enables us to say to post-everythings, “Christianity is not just a way for you as an individual to get peace, love and groovy vibes in Heaven. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview. You can be a Christian artist, dancer, manager, or minister and these are all ways of living out the gospel.” When post-everythings hear that, they get extremely excited. They have never considered that Christianity embraces the whole of life.

Finally, remember that post-everythings are not strongly swayed by evidences and proofs. If you start to present evidence for the deity of Christ or the proofs of God, post-everything eyes will glaze over. But the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til can work with post-everythings. I think Reformed theology provides us with tools for our culture that Josh McDowell’s kind of evidential apologetics does not.

I see people who are desperately trying to reach the post-everythings who in their desperation are trying to throw out essential elements such as the substitutionary atonement, forensic justification, imputed righteousness, the Sovereignty of God, or the inerrancy of Scripture. Many of them are probably over-adapting to the post-everything situation. But while they do not have our theological resources, often we do not have their level of engagement with the people of the emerging society. To correct this, let us confess that we really have failure across all our parties to reach the coming society, and let us resolve to use the premier resources of Reformed theology. If we can make these changes, then we may really start to see renewal and outreach, and we might actually be a resource for the broader body of Christ in this culture.

For the entire essay, go to: http://www.wts.edu/publications/articles/keller-posteverythings.html.

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