Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Postmodernism: An Emerging Mission Issue

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Postmodernism: An Emerging Mission Issue

Article excerpt

Understanding the phenomenon from an eastern European Orthodox perspective

Very often the mission of the Orthodox churches in ex-communist countries of eastern Europe is described in a negative perspective, as a defense against western postmodernism. The present gap between western and eastern Christianity is conceived as being generated by their respective attitudes towards what is called modernity. The minority churches of western tradition - but also fundamentalist evangelical groups that change evangelism into proselytism - accuse the Orthodox majority church of failing to speak on this issue in a increasingly pluralistic world.

In fact, this is a return of the old stereotyped view: Orthodox are still "the separated brethren" for Catholics; "the patriarchal Christianity without culture and civilization," for reformed Protestants; "the ones who lack modernity," for the disciples of Enlightenment. As the target of a narrow view of their experiences in the last decades, the Orthodox are pushed again to marginalization. It is for this reason that they adopted a rather defensive attitude, being obliged to apologize for their permanent convictions, non-negotiable values, institutions, cultures. In the context of struggling against the damage of atheism, postmodernism can be seen as a subtle form of denial of Truth.

Certainly, the particular postmodernism faced by the churches in the secularized western world cannot be compared with the post-communist cultural framework. The secularization accepted in the west as a normal evolution of the religious phenomenon came to the east as a radical and destructive rejection of religion, i.e., materialist atheism. The Orthodox churches in ex-communist countries flowed into the global trend of postmodernism through the praxis of a violent nihilist opposition between Byzantine culture and communist ideology (marxism also is a child of western Enlightenment). The result is another version, an alien, hybrid form of the ordinary postmodernism known in the western churches as separation between politics and religion. There are similarities and particularities in their analysis. For example:

* The present world continues rapidly in changing and modernizing its configuration according to its internal logic and needs, without taking into account the will, the wisdom and the prophetic voices of the churches and religious institutions. To dismiss the present historical realities will be an error, for human history is given by God, and is not an illusion created artificially by God for church purposes. However, the church has the responsibility to scrutinize human history, because Christianity is not a dualistic religion that submits the creation to satanic powers.

* As a global dominant culture, postmodernism refuses values considered to be de jure divino, or binding divine authorities such as: Holy Tradition, sola Scriptura, ex opere operato. It cannot listen and accept the appeal to metanoia: on the contrary it has its idioms and symbols. The church believes that there is no inner renewal, spiritual education and social transformation without metanoia; it proclaims always: "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope."

* Religion cannot remain beyond question and criticism, especially because of the breaking points in the attitude of official churches in the communist era (1945-1989). It recognizes, however, that religion has a subsidiary place, as part of the intellectual heritage, as a stock of human knowledge. The church is reduced to a memorial role; limited to the individual life; it has not a soteriological role. Here, marxism and capitalism agree.

* The system of free market economy is propagated as the most credible and acceptable system. Hence, the austerity (financial, economic, military) imposed for the sake of the integration of the European structures. To overcome the gap between west and east, state, church, firms, factories, hospitals and shops, are more and more seen as private institutions, under no democratic control and without social responsibilities. …

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