Excerpt from Joshuanism (Michael Vito Tosto): Post-Christianity


Imagine 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.

Consider Wiktionary.com’s definition of the term worldview:


[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.


With 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.


I 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.

Suppose 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.


Suppose 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 apropos.

Imagine 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.

And 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?

The 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.

I am 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.

As I 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.  

I also know from studying history that when Christianity changed, it almost always happened amidst great turmoil and struggle from within.

With 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.

The 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 longer.

The 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 in charge.

The 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).

Here 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 conduct.

Now 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 worldview).

And 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 period?

The 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.

So then, 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.

In view of all this, I ask the question: in the midst of this tremendous change, this terrific evolutionary upheaval, where is Christianity going?

Personally, I believe God is moving his believers into new expressions.

For more posts about Michael and his book, click HERE.


Popular posts from this blog

In Memoriam: Carl Don Leaver

A Publisher's Conversation with Authors: Book Marketing vs Book Promotion

Author in the news: Gregg Bagdade participates in podcast, "Chicago FireWives: Married to the Job