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Friday, October 12, 2012

On the words "postmodern" and "existential"

One of the RSS feeds I get is the House 2 Harvest Network, which emphasizes completing the work of the Great Commission through the establishment of simple, organic churches.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have been receiving the blog entries of one a certain blogger who will go nameless here.  While it is clear that this person is traditionally trained in church leadership, and now is part of, and probably one of the leaders of, a house church in northern Virginia, and what he writes does not seem to have any connection to world missions, which is supposed to be the theme of that online group, I do not see that as much of a problem, either.  We have all said or written things that are not quite on topic.

            There is one thing I find disagreement with.  From his writing, it appears that he has been in contact with Frank Viola and some other known writers on the topic of simple, organic church with regard to their functioning as church planters, and is somehow unhappy with them.  To this regard, in every blog I have received over this period of time, without regard to what subject Jim begins to write on, somewhere in the article will be a veiled or not-so-veiled criticism of Viola.  Two specific criticisms of Viola have been applying the words “postmodern” and existential” to describing either him and/or his work, and, to me, it became less and less clear what he was attempting to communicate. 

            Personally, I do not know Frank.  In writing this blog, and preparing for my radio program, I have had the opportunity to communicate with a number of persons around the country involved in simple, organic church.  One difference in communicating with Frank is that the response always comes from a person on his staff, whereas I at least feel that the other persons I have written to were the persons responding to whatever I wrote.  This, in and of itself, is not wrong, only different.  I might say that if I were to send a communication to almost any sizable traditional church pastor, the response would be from a staff person, also. 

            Anyway, this morning, I decided to do one thing I can do passably, and that is research existing ideas.  As you will see, this is not really heavy research, maybe junior high level or lower research.  What do the words in question, postmodern and existential, mean?

            According to, “post modern: Postmodernism is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the rejection of objective truth and global cultural narrative.” 

            According to, “There is no consensus among scholars on the precise definition…”  With all due apologies to the anonymous writers of those definitions, the first defines postmodernism, and the second defines nothing.  Might I suggest, to use that first definition, postmodern is, therefore, a synonym to contemporary culture.

            As for the word “existential”, according to, “Existentialism is the philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the experiences of the individual.”  Now, this definition isn’t particularly good, in that, for the believer in Jesus, our experience of the Holy Spirit speaking into our spirit before repentance is certainly part of our life experiences, but the unbeliever cannot truly understand that, and, as such the person we might think of as being existential would not see things that way.

            Another definition I found is from, which defines as such:  1. Of, relating to, or dealing with existence. 2. Based on experience, empirical.  3. Of, or as conceived by existentialism or existentialists: An existential moment of choice.

            I went to post this as a comment on the last blog of his I received, but I couldn’t without a Wordpress password.   Just as a note, if you have trouble leaving a comment on my site, send me an email at I’m just curious; I’ve been writing this for nearly two years and never received a comment.  For about the first four months, comments weren’t turned on (my error).

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