A Parable of the Kingdom of Postmodernism
By David R. Kenney
The word in the Greek New Testament for the word parables is parabolē which appears in some 48 verses in the New Testament. For many, when one hears the word “parable” the name of Jesus soon follows because his use of parables set the standard. I agree with Wayne Jackson’s assessment of Jesus’ parables—“In that marvelous galaxy of teaching that came from the lips of Christ, a solar system of parables has instructed and thrilled multiplied thousands for nearly twenty centuries. The Lord’s parables contain some of the most preachable and teachable material in the New Testament and no good teacher can afford to ignore this depository of divine information.” (The Parables In Profile, Back Cover). If one thinks that Jesus was the only one to use parables, he would be mistaken. The term parabolē also appears in some 32 verses in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. According to Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament -- Abridged, “The use is the same as that of mâshâl--parabolē in the OT…” (p. 774). The Hebrew term mâshâl appears in some 39 verses in the Old Testament. Parables have been around for a long time. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a parable is “1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. 2. a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.” The term literally means a “throwing alongside” or “throwing beside”. A common explanatory expression I have heard is “an earthly story with spiritual applications”. For example, the Parable of the Sower takes what would have been common in everyday life at the time, but Jesus used it to illustrate spiritual applications. Here is an example of a parable I have written as illustration of this principle based on an experience I recently witnessed.
Parable of the Kingdom of Postmodernism
The kingdom of postmodernism is likened unto a man who went to the gym Monday evening to walk the indoor track as he had done for over six years. The posted rules state that the direction of traffic on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays is clockwise, while Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays is counter-clockwise. As the man began walking clockwise, he began to notice that a dozen or so were walking counter-clockwise. Time passed as the man walked the correct direction against the increasingly unenthusiastic glares of those who approached him. Alas! As the official came to the track, the man thought the others would be explained the posted rules and directed to walk the correct direction; however, the official called the man over to explain that he was going the wrong direction. The man pointed to the posted regulations, right by the official’s head, clearly stating the correct direction is clockwise. “They are going the right direction so follow them” was the official’s reply. The man asked if the scoreboard (on the opposite wall) was 12:00, then which direction would these be heading—toward 9:00 or 3:00. “That is your interpretation” was the response. The man thought maybe a sports analogy would work, being in a recreational center, and asks if the official was standing on home plate in a baseball game, which way is 1st base? The official pointed in the direction the others were traveling. The man reminded the official, “That is correct because when players run the bases they are running counter-clockwise.” “The sign is wrong” was now the reply. “We will have the sign corrected. For now, go the correct direction with the others.” The man asked how the sign could be wrong for over six years, but these people tonight be correct. “People have come and complained that you are going the wrong direction and disrupting them.” The man relented and changed direction to travel with the majority moving in the opposite direction from the posted regulations. Time moved on and the offending crowd on the track diminished. New people came and looked at the man who was obviously confused because he was going the wrong direction from what was obviously posted on the wall and had been for over six years. At least the first crowd was happy. The man became frustrated and went to shower and left. Upon leaving the facility, another attendant called out “All right now!” The man was tempted to reply—“All wrong now!” but decided he had better leave before they closed the facility because when it comes to reading the clock for closing time, there is no mistake the clock moves…clockwise!
Welcome to the kingdom of postmodernism! Where there are no absolutes, even when absolutes are posted, they are subject to change on a whim. If the majority goes against an absolute; no matter, because there are no absolutes. If someone who is in the minority protests, then that person must be censured because there are no absolutes except that one can absolutely not state the majority is incorrect. No one is right because no one is wrong in postmodernism. No one is unhappy because all agree to disagree. This type of mentality is impacting the church. Phil Sanders defined postmodernism well when he wrote in his Preface to the book Adrift “The Postmodern mindset at the close of the second millennium sets an individual adrift on a sea of uncertainty, not having a north star to guide him, a rudder to steer him, or an anchor to secure him. He does not know where he has been, where he is now, or where he is going; and he will not let anyone else tell him. He is insulted if anyone questions his right to drift. He may affirm his own plans as right and good but will not allow anyone to criticize or deny them. He will not judge anything as right or wrong, nor will he tolerate any intolerance. This is commitment to absolute and doctrinal freedom. He has set himself adrift on a sea without eternal foundation of God.”
Kingdom of Postmodernism Versus Kingdom of Christ
Thankfully the church is not the kingdom of postmodernism. We are a part of the kingdom in which only the standards of Christ are absolutely correct. We are warned about this twice the Proverbs—“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:2; 16:25, NKJV). People may be confused not knowing their right from their left as in the ancient days of Nineveh—“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11, NKJV). This does not change the fact that Jesus emphatically taught there is only one true way—“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b). People in charge of the kingdom of postmodernism may change the rules whenever it suits them; regardless of the protests of others because there are no absolutes, only tolerance. We will stand before God who does not show partiality but will judge with righteous judgment according to our works—“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NKJV). Man may change their positions because of social, political or peer pressure, but Christ does not change—“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NKJV). The laws of Christ are not subject to change. When we stand before Christ on Judgment Day, He will not announce changes to the rules in which those who are right are now wrong and those who are wrong are now right. This is not to say that we are anywhere close to sinless—“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, NKJV). Thankfully, we have an advocate when we fail to meet the standards, an advocate with patience and forgiveness available for us when we are Christians—“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, NKJV).