The Church in a Postmodern Society

Author: Dr Jonathan Ingleby, co-editor of Encounters and Postgraduate lecturer in mission, Redcliffe College.


Why bother with context?
One of the seminal understandings of recent times has been that everything comes to us through language and culture. The truth is that we meet God, just as we meet our neighbour, at this point. We encounter reality in our culturally and linguistically determined context. This insight also includes a vital missiological principle. It is what Leslie Newbigin calls ‘the logic of election’. God does not come down to me as it were ‘through the skylight’ but via my neighbour. But my neighbour, if he or she is going to communicate with me, must do so by means of a shared language and culture. So the bearer of God’s word must enter the culture and learn the language of those among whom he or she is living and then communicate the message within that context. This is the process we call contextualisation.
Today’s context – life in fragments
Almost every commentator you read today suggests that we stand at a moment of decisive cultural change. The key indicator, as we all now know, is that trendy little prefix ‘post’. So this essay mentions a postmodern society. The information age is labelled post-industrialism, George Linbeck is a ‘post liberal’ and more than a dozen years ago now Dave Tomlinson wrote his controversial book called the ‘The Post Evangelical’. So what is going on?

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