Excerpt from Joshuanism (Michael Vito Tosto): Post-Christianity
you had a time machine. Imagine also that you had one purpose in mind for this
time machine: to ask human beings living at different intervals in history a
series of prepared questions. The goal? A detailed analysis of how humanity’s
worldview has evolved over the centuries.
Wiktionary.com’s definition of the term worldview:
– One’s personal view of the world
and how one interprets it / the
totality of one’s beliefs about reality
/ a general philosophy or view of life.
this definition in mind, suppose your first stop in history was the year 5,000 bc, somewhere in Mesopotamia (we must
also assume that you would somehow be able to communicate linguistically with
the peoples you would encounter). After you went through your list of questions
and notated the given answers, perhaps your conclusions for the worldview of
that time period might be something like this:
These people have an extremely primitive worldview. Their
entire lives are based on survival. Their relation to the planet they live on
is governed by fear of the unknown and a lack of scientific explanations for
geologic phenomena. Thus, they see their world through the worship of a varying
array of differing deities, whom they have created to explain these unknowns.
have a degree in history, so I feel safe in submitting that this is a somewhat
accurate assessment of what the worldview in 5,000 bc was like, at least in that part of the world.
your next stop in time was the year 800 ad,
in present day France. You spoke with some people of that time and place and
compiled an updated worldview. Perhaps it would read something like this:
These people live their entire lives through their
belief in and adherence to the Christian religion. They see life in terms of
heaven and hell, good and evil, sin and holiness. Feudalism dominates their way
of life, so they tend to see the world through a relationship between the lords
and the peasants. They live in a state of frequent war, and thus tend to view
the world as a brutal place. They have very little scientific knowledge, and
therefore have almost no understanding of the Cosmos or their place in it. They
believe the Earth is flat, and that it resides at the center of the Universe.
your next stop was Rome or London, sometime in the 1600s. Galileo has viewed
the planets through a telescope. Isaac Newton will soon discover gravity. John
Locke is alive and doing his thing. The Renaissance has already changed thought
and knowledge. Humanism has burst upon the scene. Copernicus has proposed
heliocentricity. The Enlightenment is about to dawn. What would the worldview
be like now? Would it not be drastically different from the worldview of 800 ad? Perhaps drastically different is an understatement. Maybe completely unrecognizable is more
you moved on to speak to some humans in 1950, five years after Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. How would their worldview differ from the one in the 1600s? One
glaring difference is that it would include a possibility that humans could
destroy the planet they live on. In addition, consider this weighty new
developments: Einstein has split the atom and introduced to the world the
theory of relativity, antibiotics are changing the way diseases are fought, and
innovations like the telephone, radio, television, radar, and sonar have
revolutionized how humans communicate. And consider that since the dawn of humanity’s
time on the Earth, the horse, wind, water, or raw manpower took people
everywhere they went. But by 1950, humans are buzzing around in planes, trains,
and automobiles (and very soon they will be in space). One might say their
worldview shrank as travelling about the globe became faster and easier.
think about this: no astronomer living in the year 1700, peering at the moon
through an old telescope, would possibly have believed humans would one day
walk on its surface. He may have fanaticized about it; that is not entirely
inconceivable. But he would never have believed it to be anything other than a
fantasy. Similarly, no Pony Express rider carting mail across the country on
the back of a horse in 1860 could have ever fathomed a day when a person could
sit in the luxury of their home, or in the back seat of a car, or at the top of
a skyscraper and, having pressed a few buttons on a handheld device, send a
message digitally and instantly to someone on the other side of the planet. Was
the word digital even in the
vocabulary in 1860?
point here, which is quite obvious on its own, is that as time passes, humans
evolve. And as humans evolve, their worldviews evolve with them.
writing this in the year 2012. As I sit here and write, I am contemplating how
much the world has changed in the last ten years. How much we have changed. What is our worldview today? Is it the same as it
was even five years ago? Will it be different next year? Could the people
living a hundred years ago have even fathomed the worldview of today? Can we
even fathom the worldview of ten years from now? The people who study this kind
of thing tell us that from this point on, as each year passes, humanity’s
evolution scientifically, medically, technologically, socially, culturally, and
even spiritually will gain tremendous speed and grow exponentially beyond what
we might even be able to handle mentally. In other words, we are evolving too
fast to even comprehend it.
have been thinking about these things, I have also been thinking about
Christianity. I believe in the Son of God, so I do not think about Christianity
from the outside looking in. I think about it as a veteran member of it, one
who cares greatly about its past, present, and future (though I myself am technically
no longer a “Christian”). I know that Christianity is not immune to change. I
know that as humans have changed over the centuries, Christianity has changed,
too. And when it changed, it usually changed as a result of 1) a shift in the
worldviews of the humans living at the time; and 2) men and woman who saw that
it needed to change and who, through God’s work in their lives, brought about
that change successfully.
also know from studying history that when Christianity changed, it almost
always happened amidst great turmoil and struggle from within.
all of these things in mind, suppose we went back to our time machine and
undertook a new endeavor. This time, we would make it our aim to visit only
Christians who lived within the last 2,000 years, since the time of Jesus. We
would do this with one goal in mind: piecing together a map of how the Christian worldview has changed.
Christians we spoke to in the decades after Jesus lived would have firsthand
knowledge of the events. As a result, they would probably be confident of what
they believed in beyond anything we can imagine, because they actually saw what we have only heard about. They
have a movement on their hands, and
it’s growing. Their worldview is filtered through a lens of possible and
probable martyrdom. Their physical lives mean little to them, and they boldly
adhere to the message they preach, a tactic that for many of them results in
their violent deaths. Most of them believe Jesus is going to return much sooner
than he ends up returning (since, as of this date, he still has not), so their
worldview is based on an assumption that the world will not be around much
Christians we spoke to in the 400s would be quite distinct from the ones we
spoke to in the decades after Jesus lived. These Christians aren’t really a
part of a movement anymore. They are
part of an established institution,
the official religion of the Roman
Empire (which is unfortunate, because the point of a movement is that it moves, which means it’s alive—institutions, on the other hand
are stationary; that is why they are
called institutions). A Pope now rules the Christian realm like a king would
rule a kingdom. There are numerous rituals in place, many of which reflect a
strong pagan-Roman influence. Deification of the Virgin Mary, a theme which
seems to figure nowhere in the writings of the New Testament, is becoming
prevalent. Only the clergy have access to the written scriptures. The regular
lay Christian cannot sit in the privacy of his home and read them for himself.
These Christians see the world through the lens of hierarchy, each level of
Christianity having its authority; coming first from God, moving through the
Pope, through the Bishops, through the priests, and eventually reaching the
layperson. The everyday Christian has little to say about how things are done
within this religion. Their superiors do most of the thinking for them. Hell
features prominently in their worldview, the prospect of which is used as a
scare tactic to preserve the structure of the hierarchy and the power of those
Christians we spoke to in the late 1340s would have all kinds of problems on
their hands. The Black Death is decimating the population. No one has any idea
about microscopic organisms called bacteria.
All they know is that people are dying by the tens of thousands every day and
no one has any idea why. These Christians see their world as having been turned
upside down. They do not understand anything anymore. Their long held belief
that if they did good God would protect them seems to have been quashed. They
feel God has abandoned them. They begin to question his existence and the
validity of the religion passed down to them. Nothing makes sense. Even the
priests seem unable to pray this disease away. Prayer, in fact, seems to be
completely useless. The ensuing deep-seated and widespread doubt and
disillusionment that seizes multitudes of Christians eventually finds
rebellious expression as Europeans begin seeking other explanations for the
mysteries of life and the Universe. This gives way to the Renaissance and
Humanism, which both eventually lead to the Enlightenment, which eventually
leads to the Industrial Age, which eventually leads to the Age of Information (which
is where we are today, in the year 2012).
is an interesting question: what would we encounter if we spoke to the
Christians living in the 1950s America, a time period not so far removed from
us? Many of the Christians who were alive then are still alive now. Yet would
we entirely recognize the expressions of Christianity and the Christian
worldview if we went back and spent a week in 1956? For one thing, we would
definitely see segregated churches. For another thing, we probably would not
see any electric guitars, drum sets, or projectors littering church
sanctuaries. There would undoubtedly be an organist, possibly a pianist, and
rows of pews stocked with hymnals. To these people God probably resembles a
bearded Charlton Heston. You wear your Sunday best to church, because God loves
suits and ties. The denominations hunker down and tend to their own personal
kingdoms, rubbing elbows with each other as little as possible or not at all.
And perhaps most importantly, this is a Christian worldview characterized by
traditions, Americanism, ethical values, and a specific, rigid code of moral
to bring it even closer to home, say we spent a week in 1995. Here Christianity
seems synonymous with being a Republican, at least in most circles. In fact, to
the Christian worldview in the 1990s, God himself is most likely a Republican.
The quality of church worship music is beginning to replace the quality of
preaching and teaching. In other words, people now search for the “right”
church based not on who is teaching what, but by how good the band is.
Christians see the world as being categorized into “us” and “them,” or “the
lost” and “the saved” (a mindset that is not exactly new, but in the recent
years seems to have become more of a definitive factor in the Christian
here is another interesting thought: suppose we reversed the process and
instead of visiting Christians from various time periods, we pulled a Bill
& Ted and used our time machine to pluck Christians from first century,
from the 300s, from the 1350s, from the 1600s, and from, say, 1845, and
transported them all to the present. What would they think? How would they
react? If you dressed them in some baggie jeans and Coldplay T shirts and sent
them to a Gen-X styled worship service, or to a Sunday school class to discuss
the challenges of day-to-day Christian living, or to a screening of Mel Gibson’s
The Passion, would they have any
connection to or recognition of the faith they practice in their own time
point here is that Christians living at different stages of history saw the
world differently and expressed their
faith differently as a result. To put it bluntly: Christianity changes.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken. Moreover, anyone who resists change
within Christianity by arguing that Christianity does not and should not change
is deluding himself. Christianity changes all the time. All the time. Just as humanity is constantly evolving, so too is
Christianity constantly evolving. Why? Because Christianity is made up of
humans! God may be its soul, but we
are its substance.
consider this time period that we are living in. This is the greatest age of
radical change humanity has ever known. This is the most rapid stage of cultural,
social, and scientific evolution the world has ever seen. Ever! It’s like when
you stare out the window of a speeding train. The world outside flies by in
flashes of barely recognizable images; it’s just a blur. That’s how it is. We
are here, and the world around is just flying by in a blur. That’s how fast
humanity is changing. That’s how fast we are evolving. And it’s only going to
get faster and faster and faster.
view of all this, I ask the question: in the midst of this tremendous change,
this terrific evolutionary upheaval, where is Christianity going?
I believe God is moving his believers into new expressions.
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