"Soul Tsunami" by Leonard Sweet

Steve Huber
Thursday, May 3rd 2007
Jul/Aug 2005

There is a tendency to overestimate the impact of phenomena in the short run and underestimate it in the long run" (Roy Imara of the Institute for the Future [IFTF]). This is the balancing act that Christians are called to in regard to the cultural tidal wave that Leonard Sweet describes in this unfortunately named book. If we overestimate the impact of the cultural "tsunami" of postmodernism's impact and make adjustments that are really "sellouts," the church could truly lose its very soul. "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).

On the other hand, if we underestimate the impact of the philosophical, technological, relational, and spiritual tsunami waves of postmodernism, we will not make vital adjustments in how we explain and call fellow sinners to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we simply write off the many cultures and faces of postmodernism as kooky and faddish, we risk making idols of cultures of the past that happen to suit our tastes, and we will miss out on the growth and joy that could be ours.

This is the tightrope that Sweet tries to walk. This book is a deluge of information that seeks to paint a picture of the massive changes taking place in our world-a picture of the environmental, technological, biological/genetic, relational, institutional, and philosophical changes that have happened in the last fifty years and are still happening at an increasing speed. As I said, it's overwhelming. Yet this is Sweet's point. It's overwhelming change-both in content and pace. The quotes and bits of information come at high speed and from every angle, and the book contains summaries and quotes from physicists, poets, futurists, pastors, politicians, doctors, laymen, dancers, historians, artists, and more.

Sweet puts forward ten "life rings for you and your church"-ten ways to avoid sinking and learning to swim and flourish in the new millennium culture. He aptly notes than many of our present cultural moments are "double rings"-great challenges to the church and yet great opportunities at the same time.

For instance, Sweet points out the paradox that, as a society, we are both "cocooning" (according to Faith Popcorn) and "decocooning" (according to Richard Celente) at the same time. We are simultaneously more isolated and more connected with technology. Postmodern folks are simultaneously "bored but hyper" (Andy Warhol). Amidst this culture of the busy yet empty, as Sweet points out, the church is called to be a community of genuine love where the hurting and isolated are welcomed and loved in the name of Christ.

Overall, Sweet does a much better job at describing the changes than prescribing the solution. "Postmodern culture is a sucker for the serpent's lie: 'You will be like God'" (289). Right on! Yet then Sweet gets wimpy with ideas like "truth" and Reformed Christians will pick up on and rightly be frustrated with this. Yet I believe that we do need to heed his call to be more humble than we have been. The need of the hour is to humbly yet boldly preach the Lordship of Christ-the one who dethrones sinners and heals them at the same time. And I would agree with Sweet in this: Whatever cultural waves are hitting us, "[p]eople want to know God. They want less to know about God or know about religion than to know God. People want to experience the "Beyond" in the "Within" (420).

Thursday, May 3rd 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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