Reforming or Conforming? Introduction

Introduction by Gary L.W. Johnson.

From the book Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church

MP3 with Gary Johnson in which Gary talks about the book and what lies behind it and the emerging church movement that he calls “a radical reversal of the reformation”.

Picture 17-1Gary Johnson kicks this excellent book off with a quote from Carl Raschke on the church embracing ‘postmodernity” and immediately makes a connection with liberal theologician Friedrich Scheliermacher, Far too soon, I think. Raschke explains what he means by “postmodernity” in his later book “Globochrist: The Great Commission takes a Postmodern Turn, 2008″. In this book, Raschke, who shared a Belgian ale with me last year in the Netherlands, and is a wonderful fellow, prefers the word ‘globalization’ as a worthy successor to ‘postmodernism’, pointing out that no one can refuse to be ‘postmodern’ in this sense of the word. I think Carl would add that dimension to this conversation if he could.

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Lane Keister of Green Baggins likes this quote: “This is my favorite quotation from the introduction (unfortunately not Gary’s comment, but oh well): “Consider it axiomatic that when church leaders finally catch on to a trend, it’s over. The Counterculture movement of the Sixties ended at Kent State, yet trendy campus pastors were still doing bad folk masses with out-of-tune guitars way into the Seventies and Eighties. So it is today with Postmodernism. the buzzword is on everyone’s lips in church circles, while in university English departments where the whole Pomo (Postmodern) thing began, other theories like New Historicism have taken over. I contend that Postmodernism is now fading away and is rapidly being supplanted by other cultural forces” (F.W. Bave, The Spiritual Society: What Lurks Beyond Postmodernism?, quoted by Johnson, pg. 21, footnote 15).”

I agree with Lane that the word “postmodern” is problematic and has been outdated for some time. Although Johnson says that the emergent church “proudly identifies itself as postmodern”, it seems that most of us jettisoned the word a long time ago. I chose to move on from the word a decade ago and purposely taught a session at the 1999 National Gen X Forum in Florida on the emerging church without using the “p” word. Postmodernity and postmodernism [which are sometimes used interchangeably in this book, but wrongly so] were helpful words in the 90’s but, and I agree with Bave, that other cultural forces and trends have been lending us illustrations to our cultural shift over the past decade, in particular, network theory, new media, emergent theory, complexity, etc.

But since the word comes up again and again in books like these, it requires us to speak about it again which can be a vicious circle.


If the word “globalization”, now favored by Raschke over “postmodernism”, was used more often to describe the challenges we face in our engagement with the world, what new light would it shed on this conversation?

What miscommunication might it help us to avoid?

The Series so far:

Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church, edited by Gary Johnson and Ronald Gleason.

Introduction by Gary L.W. Johnson.

Chapter 1 – The Doctrine of Scripture: Only a Human Problem, by Paul Wells.

Chapter 7 – Church and Community or Community and Church, by Ronald N. Gleason

Chapter 9 – Joyriding on the Downgrade at Breakneck Speed: The Dark Side of Diversity, by Phil Johnson


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.

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