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Re- Tackling the era of post modern Christian culture in the Church today

by Church Times

By Dr. Oyewole Sarumi

I like to appreciate the piece titled ‘Of earrings, tattoos, dreadlocks, and the Christian faith”,  written by Gbenga Osinaike the Editor in Chief of Churchtimes, and the recent article captioned “TACKLING ERA of post-modern Christian culture in the church” penned by Pastor Toyin Oluwide.
It is from Oluwibe’s write-up that I coined my title for this piece, not as a response to his views, but as an additional thought for the church leaders to consider. This will help us have a better understanding of the post-modern Christian culture (PMCC) cancer spreading unabated in today’s Church.
I am going to quote a few lines from the two articles above as I add my thoughts to this interrogation.

It started in the 1990s

First, PMCC has been around since the late 90s, so it’s not a new phenomenon. But most churches were not discerning to stem its tide.
Secondly, it gained ascendancy especially in the US around 2010 onwards when key theological Universities and seminaries started the knowledge-balanced theme of using science to validate scriptures (which should be otherwise), and so created a group of Christian theologians who started using several scientific discoveries to nullify the sanctity of the scriptures, and many were vocal through some media that rally up with them in the vanguard of repudiation of the validity, sanctity, and inerrancy of the scriptures.
So, with the maturity of Gen Z (those born between 1999 – 2015) and their entrance into the workforce, we are confronted with a generation that requires definite answers to many ‘difficult questions’ that these ‘Christian theologians’ have thrown into the public space especially the social media which happens to be the first point of reference to the GenZ.
Meanwhile, as this onslaught was in progress, the church leaders were behaving as if nothing was happening, and they didn’t deem it fit to change strategies to convince this new generation of the inerrancy of the scriptures.
Rather, they expected the parents of these GenZ to do the job of informing them on biblical worldviews to counteract their now well-entrenched secular worldviews.
Also, most churches were still using the same tools and methods that were used to bring the GenZ parents into the church over four decades ago.
So, it was obvious that the church wasn’t prepared for the opportunity that this generation had thrown upon her, so the present mess was inevitable.

Pre-modern and post-modern era. 

One of the main characteristics of postmodernism is that it distances itself from modernism. Modernism distanced itself from premodern thought. So, it’s necessary to take a brief look at some main characteristics of premodern thought, modernism, and postmodernism. Let’s note that most of these have to do with epistemology:

In pre-modern thought:

¶ Absolutes like truth or morality exist and come from divine sources.
¶ Things often happen because of supernatural causes.
¶ Authority comes from the divine and as such it is to be trusted.
¶ Supernatural forces or divine beings have all the answers.

In modern thought:

¶ Truth, morality, and other absolute categories also exist, but come from logic, reason, and science. It is possible to be a “neutral observer” of the world.
¶ The supernatural is disregarded as it can’t be proven or observed by science.
¶ Concepts such as “progress” are emphasized.
¶ Authority comes from logic and reason and as such it is to be trusted.
¶ Not having all the answers, or the means to acquire them, is frustrating.
In postmodernism:
¶ Absolute concepts like objective truth, objective morality, beauty, progress, and human nature, are considered vague, if not disregarded altogether.
¶ It is not possible to be a “neutral observer” of the world. Instead, the existence of many different perspectives is emphasized, often in the form of relativism or pluralism (both moral and epistemological).
¶ Logic, reason, and science are very useful tools, but they do not have and can never hope to have all the answers. Neither can any religion.
¶ Any “grand narratives” (scientific, religious, and political) are viewed with skepticism or even cynicism.
¶ Authority comes mostly from people’s desire to control other people and as such it is NOT to be trusted.
¶ Not having all the answers, or even the means to acquire them, is tolerable.
As you can observe from above, the world has been gradually on a moral descent, and the church hasn’t responded appropriately.


In order to understand postmodernism, it is helpful to survey its historical background. As already shared above, scholars basically divide Western thought into three basic eras: premodernism, modernism, and postmodernism.
In the premodern worldview, there was a basic belief in God. The Bible was accepted as true and trustworthy and therefore authoritative. Truth was thought to exist “from above,” as revealed by God. It was objective and knowable.
In the area of hermeneutics, there was a variety of approaches toward the Bible. Most premodern theologians, however, shared a common understanding that the meaning of the text could be uncovered and understood. There was confidence that God’s authorial intent in Scripture could be discovered through the study of God’s Word.
The Enlightenment marked the beginning of the modern era in Western thought. With the rise of reason in religion and philosophy, rationalism became the accepted authority. The supernaturalism of the Bible came under attack as theologians began to doubt the miraculous.
The miracles of the Bible were accounted for or explained away through natural means. Truth was still thought to be objective and knowable, but instead of coming from God, it was found in the material world.
Truth was thought to be discovered primarily through rational and empirical means—the scientific method. Generally, modernists believed they could investigate and gather data objectively without bias.

Hermeneutically, modernism

Hermeneutically, modernism asserted that the meaning of a text can be discovered primarily through historical reconstruction. Kevin Vanhoozer affirms, “While modern historical critics may not view the authors of the Bible as inspired, the original meaning remains the object of interpretation for them as well.”
In relation to the Bible, this led to the historical-critical method. Historical criticism led to entrenched skepticism and anti-supernaturalism about the Bible’s historicity.
Historical critics demanded that biblical miracles must be interpreted with the experience of today. In other words, since modernists did not see or experience miracles, they believed that miracles simply were not possible.
Vanhoozer summarizes the similarity between the premodern and the modern eras: “The pursuit of premodernity and modernity alike shared a similar aim in interpretation: to recover the meaning of the text, understood in terms of the intention of the author. . . . In short, the author’s intention is the object of traditional interpretation, the longed-for ‘home of meaning’ where the author’s will, words, and world coincide.” (Douglas 2020).

A reaction

Many believe that postmodernism, which arose in the second half of the twentieth century, is the logical outcome of modernism. “Postmodernism is a reaction (or perhaps more appropriately, a disillusioned response) to modernism’s failed promise of using human reason alone to better mankind and make the world a better place.”
Postmodernism finds its roots in existential philosophy as expressed in especially the writings of Martin Heidegger. One of its defining goals is the disavowal of objective truth.  For postmodernists, truth is not something to be found or discovered. This type of pursuit is impossible for a couple of reasons. First, the truth cannot be discovered because every interpreter is laden with pre-understanding and biases that prevent him from seeing outside his own situation. Second, postmodernists reject the existence of universal metanarratives to explain the world—absolute truths do not exist in postmodern thinking. (Douglas 2020).
Instead, postmodernism sees truth as relative and subjective. Each interpreter creates his or her own truth. What is true for one may not be true for another. The ultimate authority is not found in God (premodernism), or the world (modernism), but the individual. D. A. Carson states this well: “Postmodernism is an outlook that depends not a little on what are perceived to be the fundamental limitations on the power of interpretation: that is, since interpretation can never be more than my interpretation or our interpretation, no purely objective stance is possible.”8 Truth is merely how each individual perceives it. (Douglas 2020).
The ramifications of postmodernism have been catastrophic not only in hermeneutics but across society. Morally, people have abandoned absolutes and opted for radical relativism. Right is now wrong, and wrong is right. Culturally, society has plunged headlong into radical pluralism. It is no longer acceptable to hold exclusive beliefs. In fact, one is expected to approve of others’ beliefs. Tolerance is now society’s greatest virtue. In relation to religion, postmodernism leads ultimately to universalism. (Douglas 2020).
Hermeneutically, it has led to the abandonment of truth and the absence of meaning. As an absolute, postmodernism espouses the untenable conundrum that no one can claim the truth. Carson asserts, “Philosophical pluralism has generated many approaches in support of one stance: namely, that any notion that a particular ideological or religious claim is intrinsically superior to another is necessarily wrong.”
Abdu Murray claims that the culture is now post-truth.
The Oxford Dictionary, which selected “post-truth” as its 2016 word of the year, defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Murray explains that in post-truth thinking facts are subordinated to preferences. (Douglas 2020).


At this junction, it is imperative to highlight some characteristics of the GenZ while contrasting it with that of the PMCC so that we can observe after due scrutiny the intersection of ideas and opinions that shaped their confluence.
Most members of Generation Z are children of Generation X or younger Baby Boomers. As the first social generation to have grown up with access to the Internet and portable digital technology from a young age, members of Generation Z, even if not necessarily digitally literate, have been dubbed “digital natives”. (Wikipedia).

Gen Z

According to the Generationz.com.au website, Gen Z is part of a generation that is global, social, visual, and technological. They are the most connected, educated, and sophisticated generation ever.
They are the up-agers, with influence beyond their years. They are the tweens, the teens, the youth, and the young adults of our global society. They are the early adopters, the brand influencers, the social media drivers, the pop-culture leaders.
They comprise nearly 2 billion people globally, and they don’t just represent the future, they’re creating it. Gen Zs have been born into the crisis period of terrorism, the global recession, and climate change.
They are predicted to spend their young adult years in a time of economic and social renewal. They are also living in an era of changing household structures, and are the students of today and university graduates, employees, and consumers of tomorrow.
They are highly collaborative, self-reliant, and pragmatic, according to new Stanford-affiliated research. Generation Z, the first generation never to know the world without the internet, values diversity and finding their own unique identities, says Stanford scholar Roberta Katz.
A 16-year-old described what we all need to know about the GenZ in this visceral article (https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1118/pages/a-16-year-old-explains-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-generation-z.aspx). I will encourage readers to go through it for proper understanding of the GenZ. Who else can reveal the truth about them except those who belong?


Now, let’s examine the characteristics of the PMCC to discover the meeting points, and why the GenZ seems to incline to them.
According to Wikipedia, “A post-Christian society is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion but that has gradually assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and also may not necessarily reflect any world religion’s standpoint or may represent a combination of either several religions or none). Post-Christian tends to refer to the loss of Christianity’s monopoly, if not its followers, in historically Christian societies.”
The postmodern outlook is characterized by self-referentiality, epistemological relativism, moral relativism, pluralism, irony, irreverence, and eclecticism; it rejects the “universal validity” of binary oppositions, stable identity, hierarchy, and categorization.
Now, if that seems too big to unravel, in simple terms, Kendra Morgan put it simply like this: “Postmodernism can be found in all aspects of modern life, from art to architecture to politics. We see it in the way we express ourselves, in art and literature, in the way we form relationships, and in the way we view the world.”
Postmodernism has had a pervasive influence on society and is best seen in the way we interact with one another, particularly through modern media. Social media and reality television are perfect examples of how postmodernism has taken hold of our everyday lives.
Furthermore, “we see people actively changing their self-perception and identity in order to conform to certain trends or values that become popular on the Internet. This shows the influence of postmodernism, which is not just an academic concept but a real-world influence.”
Also, “we see people relying heavily on symbols, symbolism, and irony to convey their thoughts and feelings, and in the way they make sense of the world. This reliance on symbols and the need for irony is a direct result of the postmodernist way of thinking.”
As you can see, there are so many aspects of postmodernism in our life. That’s the only world that the GenZ knows. We live in a world of hypertext. Dangerously, we don’t even realise how much our lives are influenced by postmodern narratives which make us skeptical of objective truth and moral values. That’s the reality of today’s people, including Christians.
Now, what further created the inroads of PMCC into the church is the result of theological schools and seminaries alignment with the secular worldviews in the US as earlier stated.
Many church leaders are now influenced to project such trends in the church so that they are termed “informed and modern” in perception and orientation even at the detriment of compromising the biblical worldviews.


According to Osinaike, “Odukoya’s defense of the tattoos and the dreadlocks is also laughable. If he had told the BBC man that the dreadlocks and tattoos are personal choices and that people are not obliged to copy him, it would have just been okay. But to refer to God’s instruction to Samson as the basis for his action is an abuse of scripture. In the first place, he is not a Nazarite neither did he take the vow of a Nazarite. So where did he arrive at the dreadlocks?”
That’s the problem of PMCC for today’s church. You can pick a scripture and contextualised it to suit your feelings, and not what the text means.
Also, Pastor Oluwibe stated that “the Post-modern Christian Culture reflects how most Christians choose their places of worship; they join the church because they are looking for contracts, business opportunities, girlfriends and boyfriends, and rich, handsome, and sexy Pastors.”
Due to the effect of PMCC, people now choose a church based on personal feelings, satisfaction, and idiosyncracies which are the hallmarks of the generation that we are in presently. So, he opined that “we must not walk away from this crisis but rather confront it. We need to withdraw to the closet and rebuild our prayer altars again. There must be a revival in the Church, for we are raised at such a time like this.”
Now, how to confront it is the main issue for church leaders today in Nigeria, Africa, and elsewhere. It is the main issue because the influence of the US theological mindset is already a moulding machine that will require concerted efforts to demolish.

Jim Erwin in his treatise titled “Five Challenges Postmodernism Presents for the Church” highlighted how the church should handle the problem of PMCC.

First, on the questioning of universal truth, he opined that “the church has faced a number of challenges in responding to this questioning of universal truth. On the one hand, the church has traditionally claimed to possess absolute truth and has based its teachings and practices on this claim.
“On the other hand, many people within the church have begun to question this claim, and have sought to find new ways of articulating the gospel message in a postmodern context.” This is not right, but the church must stand on the truth of the scriptures because that is the foundation for biblical worldviews.
Secondly, on the problem of the Rejection of Meta-narratives, he stressed that “the church has traditionally relied on meta-narratives, such as the story of creation, the fall of man, and the redemption of humanity through Christ, to articulate its beliefs and teachings.
“In a postmodern context, these stories are often seen as irrelevant. The church must find new ways of expressing its message that are more in line with postmodern thinking.” My view is that the church must not change its biblical views based on PMCC, but stand on what the Bible says.
Thirdly, on the” Emphasis on Personal Experience,” the church, as an institution that has traditionally relied on objective truths, has struggled to adapt to this emphasis on personal experience. Many people within the church have sought to find ways to incorporate personal experience into the gospel message, while still maintaining the core teachings of the faith.”
Fourthly, on the “Celebration of Diversity”, he shared that “the church has struggled to respond to this celebration of diversity. Postmodern thinkers have often seen the church as an institution that is exclusive and homogenous. The church must find new ways of embracing diversity, and of valuing the unique perspectives and experiences of all people, if it is to remain relevant in a postmodern context.”
Lastly, on the ‘Rejection of Institutions,’ he argued that “as a result of this, the church must find ways of responding to this rejection of institutions, while still maintaining its commitment to its core beliefs and teachings. This may involve finding innovative and alternative ways of organizing and operating that better align with postmodern values.”
The fact is that as Christians if we try to do things as they were done in previous times, like the Modern Era, we will be a dying breed in a world that is tired of our oppressive, domineering claims. In a world that is more interested in hearing stories, our standard operating procedure needs to be updated from that of an argumentative controlling lecture of people to the humble stories of God’s grace and amazing redemptive abilities.
The battle is raging all around us and if we do not step up in this dark, pessimistic world that sees no hope, then many will get hurt and our future will be much darker and with much less hope.
When all is said and done, the postmodern mind no longer perceives reality but interprets it to no end. That which postmodern thinkers do not realize is that anything that isn’t realism is simply an intellectual option or commitment: there is no such thing as naïve postmodernism, just as there is no such thing as naïve idealism.


In this regard, a deep study of the Bible is important in our churches. Discipleship is the answer to postmodernism Christian culture. Are today’s church leaders understand discipleship and how contextualised it to deliver the scriptures’ message without colouration?
Postmodernism shows people that everything should be perceived positively and that there are no ideologies, and Christianity, on the contrary, teaches people to believe in God and honor him, which makes it a more meaningful and trustworthy religion.
Several researchers have established that the Christian worldview is better than the postmodern one, and some evidence of the existence of God has been presented in many reports now in the public domain.
Our response to postmodernism should be to continue to love people with that “sacrificial way of the Christ” — a way of agape love that emanates from us no matter what the spiritual life, or lack of it, is on the part of the other person.
Postmodern humanity needs God’s love perhaps more than humanity at any other time in its history.
The question is, how long will it take us to get ourselves out of the way so that Christ the Lord can shine out unhindered from within us? A very dark postmodern world is desperate to see this light shining in the darkness. We must roll up our sleeves, and start discipling the GenZ – they are the future!


Christians need to understand what postmodernism is and how it affects hermeneutics. Postmodernism undercuts the very possibility of interpreting and applying the Bible.
Throughout church history, followers of Christ have believed that the Bible is God’s Word—God’s revealed truth about Himself and His works in written form. Postmodernism destroys the concept of objective truth and undermines the interpretive process. The church needs vigilance to promote a high view of Scripture and to handle the Word of God correctly.
Furthermore, believers need to understand postmodernism so that they are better equipped to reach people who are entrenched in a postmodern worldview. Postmodern thinking has greatly affected our culture. Relativism, skepticism, and pluralism are common.
Christians need to know how to answer postmodern’ questions and provide a reasonable defense for their faith. The church needs vigilance to share and defend the faith.
Finally, the church needs vigilance to prepare the next generation to face the challenges of postmodernism. Equipping youth with a biblical worldview is essential if they are to avoid the moral and philosophical relativism in our culture.
High school and college students are abandoning the church in alarming numbers. Pastors and parents need to equip youth for the postmodern world they will encounter, or else, we are all doomed! May God forbid!
1. Douglas Brown. (July 28, 2020). Biblical Hermeneutics and Postmodernism. Available at
Dr. Oyewole Sarumi is a Pastor, Certified Coach, People’s developer, and The Chief Strategy Officer of the Christian Leadership Institute for Management Development. Email: oyewolethecoach@gmail.com, facebook.com/OlaOyewole.

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