Home > Books > Chuck Swindoll, postmodernism, and all that

Chuck Swindoll, postmodernism, and all that

Earlier this week I got an e-mail advertisement from Christianity Today for a forthcoming book by Chuck Swindoll [link].

I love Christianity Today, sometimes more out of habit than out of desire. I appreciate their historical stance as an alternative to The Christian Century, as a magazine documenting and informing an evangelical culture as an alternative to American mainline Protestant Christianity. I also understand that getting advertisements from them is part of the price I pay for their otherwise free Web content. And I appreciate that Chuck Swindoll is an important historical figure in American Evangelical Christianity, as an Evangelical Free Church pastor and head of the primary Dispensationalist seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary. I also understand that he’s a book-a-year man, and these books are part of the price we pay for having Swindoll around; chances are slim Swindoll has said anything new, or even interesting, but he’s written more than his fair share of profound and helpful things, etc.

Here’s the blurb from the link above:

In THE CHURCH AWAKENING, Charles Swindoll discusses the challenges, struggles, and priorities of the church in the twenty-first century. He reveals the problems inherent in the entertainment-based postmodern church and shows how a return to biblical teaching will restore its strength and impact. Now being replaced by a feel-good message instead of what Christians need to know to stand strong in a world that’s lost its way–Swindoll exposes the problems of–and solutions for–the postmodern evangelical church.

This seems to be a fairly common theme nowadays: that belief in a Gospel expressed in modern, absolute, propositional language and received from a reputable authority is a refuge from a decadent postmodern church that has become too much like the decadent postmodern world in which it lives. The only odd thing about this phrasing of this refrain is that the word “evangelical” modifies only the bad church, not the good one Swindoll proposes as the remedy. I might almost expect this blurb for a book by Michael Horton or any of his ex-Evangelical now-Reformed brethren.

I’m afraid I’ve heard this “I am modern; they are postmodern” dichotomy so often that my inner warning lights flash whenever I sense it. I don’t think any of us think the Church should be a place where we go to be entertained, or where we go to hear “feel-good messages,” whatever those are. But this underlying message that the Gospel is first and foremost a set of propositions to be agreed to gets the cart before the horse, and it’s important to remember that Jesus did not call us to adhere first and foremost to Absolute Truth; He called us to repent and believe the Good News, and to follow Him. He didn’t call us to forsake postmodernism for modernism. The American Church isn’t in the mess it’s in because people want to be entertained or want to feel good; it’s in this mess because it has failed to be the Church. Some time in the last generation it got rich, moved to the suburbs, and joined the Republican Party, but it was already a mess before it did that. And calling out postmodernism, etc. isn’t going to fix it.

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  1. September 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Marketing copy is usually written by someone with a deadline, and the blurb from the link you mention betrays that fact.

    I think you would enjoy reading Swindoll’s book, as you and he may have more in common than you think. No doubt Postmodernism and entertainment are but symptoms of the greater problem. I believe that’s what Chuck is trying to get across.

    Such a pity that marketing stands in between an author and his readers. šŸ™‚ Thanks for your post.

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