Well, it’s been nearly 2000 years since canonization, and still be read the Bible. Jews got the Old Testament finalized in the first century AD, and Christians somewhere round the 3rd century (as far as I remember only made official in the fourth). Still we read the Bible, but some things have changed…

I remember the tensions we had as theological students because we really loved exegesis. Faculty of Theology at TUKS (University of Pretoria) is famous in South Africa for its biblical sciences, we had some great lecturers, and we loved doing exegesis. Pastors a few years older than us would say that this is just because we are currently at facutly, and that this will stop when the reality of congregational life hit. They might be right… but I think they might be wrong…

In a recent article the development of our view on how the Bible is interpreted was put out in the following way:

  • Pre-modern: The preacher has absolute understanding of the Bible, and his interpretation is done with this in mind.
  • Modern: The Bible is studied critically, with teaching or analyzing as the goal.
  • Early postmodern: The Bible is studied pragmatically, with finding practical implications as the goal.
  • Late postmodern: The Bible is studied contextually, with finding better insight into the witness concerning God as the goal. A re appreciation of ancient discourse is important.

I think this might be correct. If I preach a number of pragmatic solutions to my friends, they’d kill me. As one of them once said: “if you preach a 5 point sermon I don’t come”. Early postmoderns might not appreciate exegesis, since there is much easier ways to find pragmatic solutions and quick-fixes from a Biblical text than exegesis. Late postmoders I believe will more and more find that we cannot do without exegesis. Combine this with the fact that “slow movements” would also resonate with this group, and you have pastors who prepare sermons slowly, who want a sermon to become part of them, who might just explain a text, without any application, and it would be fine.

Are they then any different from the moderns? Yes, it’s not about analysis and teaching. Where moderns (and this in large part was how we were trained) did exegesis to be able to teach a purer truth, a more correct interpretation, a perfect analysis that can withstand the rational scrutinizing of intellectual congregants, late postmoderns do exegesis simply to open the text up. I don’t care to teach the implications of the text, since I believe that those listenins can figure it out for there own context.

Last thing. It was common for all previous generations to say that exegesis is done at home, that you don’t take your homework onto the pulpit, that you chew the text on behalf of the congregation and give them the final product. Pre-moderns did this simply because the preacher had some magical insight, moderns said what you gave was not the exegesis, but the pure teaching that results from the exegesis, and early postmoderns that exegesis is not the thing, but the practical implication thereof. I believe that as much as possible of my exegesis can be given, since this help those listening to get insight into the text.

Maybe the place where we preached from also tell this story. Pre-moderns from the catholic side of the church, stressing the importance of the fact that God was here in some mystical way. Moderns (read Bosch to see that the Catholics didn’t initially make the shift towards modernism) from the pulpit, stressing the rational truch. Early postmoderns from the stage, where common practical guidelines came from. But late postmoderns prefer preaching from the pew, which put us on the same level as everyone else.

Still my Gen-X and Boomer congregants expect a “good sermon”…

What determine who will come together in our conversations about church and God? I spent most of last week at the assembly of the Northern Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church (a much more positive experience than I expected, I must add), and we made quite a lot about different generations. They invited about 60 theological students which sat all over the place, and the facilitator stressed that we should listen to everyone. I tookpart in a dialog between me and my one collegue, where we talked about the changes which are happening in society, and stressed that the changes is much more complicated than people generally would like to know, and I linked this to generational differences as well.

But upon reading Attie’s critique on this generational thing, I realised that this is not what I really meant. I myself live in the illusion that a younger generation will neccesarily portray this single vision on the future of church. Reality is that I find more and more that what bind people together is not generational identity. So, here is a few things that I believe run deeper than generations, which will bind people over different generations, or drive people apart, even when from the same generation:

Top-down or Bottom-up theology: From what vantage point do you do theology? Is it theology from the perspective of the powerful, or the powerless? Most trained theologians come from the world of the powerful, from the societies with money, power, with a loud voice, and obviously most do theology from the perspective of this group (the most extreme example being prosperity theology). Some come from a society of powerless, those without money or a voice, and attempt theology from the perspective of this group, and some, although from the first group, attempt to do theology as far as possible from the perspective of this group. Those who attempt to do theology from the bottom-up, and those who do theology top-down, believing that this is the only possible way, might have a struggle to find each other, even if from the same generation.

Those who get it: In The New Christians Tony Jones tell the story of the emergence of emergent in America. Brad Cecil did a presentation on worldviews (find it here), and this basically divided the group into those who “got it”, and those who didn’t. What’s it? Do you get it that our worldview is changing? Some believe it is, others don’t. Some believe this change run very deep, other see it simply as a new way of communicating, or what have you. I don’t mean this arrogantly, as if some ain’t able to understand it, simply want to point out that not everybody like the idea of a change in our worldview. But OK, since most people are by now convinced that something is changing, maybe Doug Pagitt’s three categories of emerging ministry will help us here. First, those who do ministry to postmoderns, I believe will be isolating themselves more and more, since they will be attempting to evangelize or minister to the the third group, maybe even the second. Second, those who do ministry with postmoderns, will be like my Ethics professor who would admit that he ain’t a postmodern, but who listen to those who have made a more natural transition into a differing worldview (may I add that I have a lot more respect for those who admit that they ain’t postmodern, but are open to listen, than towards those who clearly don’t get it, but attempt to make as if they do). And then lastly, those who do ministry as postmoderns… I’m sure you can figure this part out for yourself. So, although this might sound similar to generational differences, it’s not, you’ll find all three these groups in both Gen X and Y, only time will tell how future generations will look.

Denominational differences I believe will become less and less of a determining factor. Many of the very influential conversational partners in my life I don’t even have any idea what denomination they are from, or what theological education they had. What I know it that we agree that we should attempt to do theology bottum-up, and that we have a gutt feel that we might be doing ministry as postmoderns. Many of the books I read I find myself differing on many dogmatic assumptions, and even find myself to be from differing generations, but when we agree on some of the above-mentioned, we tend to find each other.

What other factors would be more important than generation?