The following are my thoughts on a small section of Chuck Smith’s book, The End of The World….As We Know It (Waterbrook Press, 2001). I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Modernity had a way of seeing everything alike, even the way people came to faith. As a result, much of established Christianity made an attempt to take the experiential and emotional out of the process and concentrate primarily on the faith decision that followed some type of learning. People were skeptical until proven otherwise. Many had to overcome the rational arguments of people like Hume and Kant. The Bible was submitted to scientific scrutiny to see if it could stand up under the light of reason. A great appeal was made to the head. A good example would be confirmation where one learns and then commits to believe. So the process was, learn first, then believe. A good example of this form of faith was seen in Thomas who doubted until he saw the nail prints in his Lord. (See John 20:24-28 for an example of skeptical faith)
Modernity’s way of understanding the process of coming to faith was very different from the Pre-modern understanding where one simply believed without much knowledge at all. People took the claims of Christianity at the face value. They saw the empty tomb and believed. They experienced the Risen Christ and they responded. They were told to go make disciples and they did. One simply decided to believe and they were a believer. Usually, the decision was about which God was I going to serve. In the Pre-Modern world everyone within Christendom was considered to be a believer. (See John 20:19-23 for an example of simple faith)
Now, as we enter Post-modernity a new way of understanding the process of coming to faith is emerging. They do not require ANY scientific understanding or explanation of the Gospel. They are not looking for neatly defined theories. They rely more on symbols and images that point them to reality. They prefer intuition over interpretation, ambiguity over neatness, symbols over facts, and story over doctrine. (See John 29-31 for an example of symbolic faith)
Now you see why Tom and I refer to the future as Pre-Christian and closer to the 1st Century than the 20th Century. The heart of Post-modernity is much more simple and far easier to reach with the Gospel than Modernity.
However, Post-modernity’s view of faith does differ from the Pre-modern approach. Pre-modern faith assumes that it can connect directly with reality. What they see is what they get. Post-moderns assume that it is impossible to connect directly with reality. Instead, they connect through symbols. They have no need to interpret the symbols, only to be moved by them into a new form of understanding. As such, they have a strong affinity with the mystics.
The key for us is that all three of these world views are still with us. Therefore, we must be willing to function in all three worlds and be conversant with all three forms of coming to faith and not rely on or insist upon one way to come to faith.