Postmodernism and Missions

Q: Could you comment on how postmodernity has affected how we do missions or our view of missions?

A: The world of spirits is not traditionally thought of as an area of scientific investigation. In the Western world, that’s part of why it’s de-emphasized—if it can’t be measured, then it must not be happening. Well, postmodernism is really a movement that says there is an element of reality that is not entirely susceptible to modern methods. Modernism is arrogant. Modernity or scientific rationalism is too arrogant in essentially making a case that what’s real is what is explore-able in a lab or by means of scientific investigation. What is not investigate-able or study-able by those means either doesn’t exist or is relatively unimportant, or else you can’t make any decisions about it.

There’s obviously a huge variety of postmodernists, from those who would be willing to say nothing is possible to know, over to people who are just more ambiguous about knowledge, willing to use fuzzy logic. I think that’s where Christians are being affected. Not necessarily negatively by the postmodern spirit that’s in the air. They are more open to that which is mystical, and they accept the fact more readily that the way that God works is somewhat incomprehensible. It’s not as predictable as you think.

Therefore, Western methodologies have been criticized. We mention in the book that people are accusing the West of “managerial missiology.” There have been others who have accused us of having a militaristic strategy because we use militaristic terms—logistics, strategy, tactics. That’s an extension, to me, of our Western, rationalistic approach, because it looks so nice and cut and dried.

Yet I think for a postmodern person, such terms makes them feel uncomfortable when it comes to spiritual issues. I don’t think it’s that cut and dried. I think we’re operating at a different level of dynamics.

(Michael Pocock, The Gospel for All People)

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