Postmodern Inconsistencies?

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More from DeYoung and Kluck rebutting postmodern critiques of the institutional church. DeYoung and Kluck acknowledge there are some valid critiques of the institutional church, but want to shed light on what they believe to be some hypocrisies or inconsistencies of those who leave the institutional church for less traditional churches. Here they are not talking so much about outsiders, but to "disgruntled Johnny." Remember too that these guys are youngins…not old guys with an axe to grind. Strong stuff…but worth considering.

"But then
again, consistency is not a postmodern virtue. And nowhere is this more
aptly displayed than in the barrage of criticisms leveled against the
church. The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of
Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and
run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and
love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a
hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing.
They don't like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then
hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more
diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other
well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and
carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family
and they'll complain that the church is "inbred." They want the church
to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are
critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide
the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then
complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity
and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact
that they have left to do their own thing because they can't find a
single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of
community in the church, but then want services that allow for
individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision,
but don't want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They
want a church where the people really know each other and care for each
other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country
club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be
connected with history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style
every week. They call for not judging "the spiritual path of other
believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people," and
then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most
unflattering terms.


Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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6 thoughts on “Postmodern Inconsistencies?

  1. Michael,
    I might suggest you read the book to hear their addressing of the “middle” group as well. The passage I quoted was not to address the “middle.” I, like you, hope the only option isn’t either/or…but I will confess that typically things fall in that category. My reading of the “church-is-lame” books leads me to be believe that the author’s criticism is dead on for those who write the majority of the most widely-read books of that genre. They, and those that hold their beliefs without hearing the response, are the author’s primary audience.
    I don’t anyone that has worked for a church that really can’t see at all where people are coming from when they criticize leadership, relevancy, etc. In fact, when off the record, church leaders (virtually without exception) are the biggest critics of the institutional church. My take is that it’s a matter of tone of criticism–and this is what forces the discussion outside the institution. It’s the equivalent of a theological bar fight… you gotta take it outside.
    It would be unfair to lay it all on the shoulders of emergents, missionals, or whomever. The church has more than it’s share of problems, and they’ve hit many of them in their critiques. However, the claims of the critics are subject to critique, just as the “institution” is. They should listen to it for whatever truth may be in it, and respond to it responsibly. I’m thankful for the challenges that have come from everyone from Kinnaman to Barna to McLaren to Bell to (fill in the blank). However, I feel like some of the medicine they offer is worse than the disease.
    Because I have so many friends in the emergent/missional/emerging streams, I know that everyone who is highly critical of the institutional church isn’t a bad person, unChristian (haha), or un-critical. I don’t believe they are trying to batter the Bride per say. I think some of them do so inadvertently, however. That is what the authors are trying to address…as well as any potential blind acceptance of what they believe to be harmful ecclesiology.

  2. There seems to be an increasing number of people, in which I would include myself, who find themselves some where in the middle. “People like me” and I am quoting another author here, “ want neither the self-indulgent narcissism of the one [extreme post-modernity] nor the unreflective absolutism of the other[modernity].” So, yes we ”want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell [us] what to do or how to think.” Is that really the choice? That sounds like two extremes to me. And yes we “Don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership.” Are “too much hierarchy” and “poor leadership” the only choices? It seems from the excerpt that this book bypasses those of us who fall in the middle and simply pokes holes in the arguments on the other extreme. There are many of us who have grown up in the institution and maybe, like me are ministers in the institution and see the countless ways the institution seems to continually miss the point. But, while I may not be a full-time paid minister for the rest of my life, I don’t plan to run off to a coffee shop. However, I can’t just ignore the real problems with the institution that I perceive and just continue to be institutionally loyal. You are right, there is a greater need for exploration of new horizons. But, where is that going to take place? In the institution? That is way easier said than done. Many, who long to explore those new horizons are finding that the exploration is being forced to take place outside the institution for obvious reasons. This isn’t the case with all congregations by any means, and while I am critical of the institution myself, I do not discount it nor do I discount those who stay in it. I guess my comment is, I would love to see more dialogue in the middle and it doesn’t seem like this book accomplishes that.

  3. Mike… I tend to agree that as rhetoric escalates, solutions are harder to come by. I do think though, it’s “fair” for those who’ve been on the receiving end of a slew of challenging, sometimes unfair and sometimes unkind books to say something in return–not punitively, but in the spirit of healthy dialogue and a felt need to offer an explanation for their attitudes and actions. Having said that, the quote I posted is strong, and could reasonably be taken by the “church-is-lame” crowd in a negative way–similar to that of the “church” crowd.
    I would love nothing more that to see all camps who truly follow Christ get it together together. That begins with, as you say, “acknowledgement.”
    Personally, I’d like to see about half of the books written in critique of the church be focused instead on new horizons in spiritual formation and mission. Many authors of “church-critical” books likely believe this is what they’ve done. But, they tend to be much longer on problems than solutions…and the tone of some such books tends to polarize rather than teach or shape.
    As new forms are put forth, they must be subject to healthy testing. But, all the testing must truly be done in God-honoring way…with a bias toward learning, not shutting new ideas down right away.

  4. I guess the best defense is a good offense. Unfortunately, too often it’s our defensiveness that’s so offensive. Let’s face it, the church, like anything else in life that possesses a tremendous potential to do good, has an equal potential to do evil when it fails to live up to its calling. Its saving grace is a combination of honesty, humility, confession, repentance that opens the door to receive God’s forgiveness. It’s our willingness to be transparent that allows God’s grace to be revealed in our very ordinary and misshapen lives. As we begin to get those things right, the rest will fall into place. Incidentally, consistency wasn’t a modern virtue either.

  5. I don’t think anyone is going to win the battle of who’s logic is more flawed … instead, can the ‘church’ hope to try and reach out to the “they” (church-is-lame crowd), and figure out a way to turn their paradoxical demands into something that can bring glory to God from within or without the ‘institution’? I believe the starting point is taking a paragraph like the one posted above and turning it into an acknowledgment (from both “sides”) – as opposed to continuing the escalating rhetoric.