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Artikelen | 24 juli 2003
Communication
Issues In Communication For Postmodern Times.

Door: Kenton C. Anderson

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Communications (discourse) in postmodern times offer a variety of new emphases.

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Narrative (pomo) versus Exposition (modo)

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Few things are as powerful as story. The experience of our life is best appropriated by means of narrative and imagery. A picture is worth a thousand words, it is said, and contemporary preachers who have caught the power of the story (Eslinger) are able to leverage their words to greater effect. Classic expositors, however, might disagree. The story may be too open-ended for some, leaving too much to the imagination. Those who affirm the communication of truth would prefer to be able to lay out the truth with prescriptive precision. If the Bible is the Word of God then it motivates us to make the truths of the Bible as clear and explicit as possible (Robinson). An approach like Fred Craddock’s leaves too much to the reader to satisfy some (MacArthur). Ironically, both approaches may be too strident for the pure postmodernist. Part of the postmodern critique of objectivity includes spirited opposition to metanarratives (Walsh and Middleton). As Fulford says, stories have a way of ordering experience along an intended trajectory. Postmodern attempts to "undo" stories have not slowed the human appetite for narrative at any rate.

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Orality (pomo) versus Literacy (modo)

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In the Lincoln/Douglas presidential debates (Postman) uneducated farm folk could participate in complex political discussion for hours on end. Now, political dialogue is handled via the sound bite. Neil Postman says that we are experiencing a "dumbing down" of public discourse that doesn’t serve well the people we want to reach. Others, like Walter Ong, say that we just need to understand the new, more oral, dynamics of contemporary communication. Viewing popular media (ER experiment) gives us clues into how people process information in these days. This less linear, more random approach to communication concerns those who express the value of laying down a careful propositional foundation for truth. Others say, that this is just a way of speaking to those who are oriented to the other hemisphere of their brain. A key question for communicators is whether we see our job as improving the quality of public discourse, or whether our task is to actually communicate. Is there anything within our message that demands a more literate presentation. It seems that Jesus was unafraid to use an oral, more random approach to communication. The discussion raises interesting theological issues as well. . If "the medium is the message" (McLuhan), how does an oral approach affect the content of our preaching? If we disagree with McLuhan, thinking that content is independent of form, does that free us to use any form we want?

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Entertainment (pomo) versus Instruction (modo)

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‘Entertainment’ is a loaded word. It speaks to us of silliness (Postman) or of show biz manipulation. The dictionary definition of the word is less frightening to us, however. Entertainment describes the challenge of holding the attention of listeners, which is undoubtedly of interest to people who are trying to communicate the scriptures. Preachers like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, for instance have given priority to the ‘felt need’ of the listener, allowing the auditor to set the agenda for most of the preaching. In their model, communication must address the listener’s perceived need in order to have a chance of winning their attention. Others, like John MacArthur, would say that this is selling the Word of God short. The Bible, as a source of objective authority is inherently relevant (contra McLuhan’s sense of ‘perspective’) and does not require reconfiguring in the image of the listener. On the other hand, is it possible that ‘entertaining’ could provide a doorway for the message we have in mind without any compromise of the message itself? Or is this listener satisfaction approach a Trojan horse that will prove to be our undoing?

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Technological (pomo) versus Monological (modo)

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Discourse in the postmodern age is highly technological. Traditional discourse, emphasized simplicity, clarity and as little external features as possible in order to create as direct and clean a conduit as possible. Traditional preaching serves that concern effectively. The monologue is simple and direct, though it may not be as stimulating as what contemporary listeners have come to expect. Sound systems, video, lighting, staging, drama, computer aided visuals, props and costuming have all become significant additions to the communication process. Such approaches begun to influence the church in significant ways. The preacher’s choices (a pulpit?, PowerPoint?, lapel mike?, notes?) have grown in complexity to the extent that many churches are now hiring producers (Hope Community) instead of worship leaders to manage the project. Is technology an aid to our task, or does it bring its own built-in dynamics that hinder us (McLuhan/Postman). For instance, does the microphone bring us closer or push us further? Does PowerPoint diminish the personal nature of preaching or does it enhance the cognitive communication of biblical truth?

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Humbled (pomo) versus Confident (modo)

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Postmodernites are increasingly open to the concept of mystery. Postmodernites are humbled by a sense of their personal limitations. The modern project was more confidence about their ability to know and communicate truth. This has lead to a confident apologetic approach to discourse that seeks to offer rational for various propositions. The goal is to persuade. Postmodernists are less comfortable with the idea of persuasion. The would is too big and too uncertain. Better, they would believe, to posit suggestions and possibilities. Robert Farrar Capon, for one, has offered this kind of approach to homiletics, taking seriously Paul’s concept of preaching as ‘foolishness.’ Preaching involves humans handling mysteries. That ought to stimulate humility. At the same time, preaching is God’s project. That ought to create confidence. Can the two meet in the same discourse?

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Event (pomo) versus Education (modo)

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Communication from a postmodern perspective is an event more than it is an education. An education model would suggest people gaining information that could be applied at some later date in some other way. Pomo people are probably too impatient for such an approach. The Barthian concept of preaching, as an encounter with the Word of God might be attractive in these times (Paul Scott Wilson). Whether we can go as far as Barth, preachers ought to welcome the presence of God in the task of preaching. If preaching involves connecting listeners with the voice of God through his Word, his Son, and his Spirit, then there will be a much stronger, present tense sense of things in the sermon. Postmodern people live for experience. What greater experience could we offer than an encounter with the living God?

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Integrative Preaching for Postmodern Times

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Oxymorons are one of the favorite themes of postmodern culture. Leonard Sweet likes to say that "the postmodernist always rings twice". "Those," he says, "who are standing in the middle of the road risk getting hit by the traffic flying by them in both directions.

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Less well acknowledged is the idea that the Bible itself is full of oxymorons (share the list). Oxymoron, etymologically (sharp/foolish), might well define the "foolish wisdom" that is preaching. Preaching seeks to help people connect with the mystery that is God. Preaching that appreciates the mystery of the Word become Flesh might have an opportunity to communicate with greater power in postmodern culture.

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Jim Collins in his book Built to Last (research into the Fortune 500 companies that are older than 100 years) describes "the genius of and." It’s a principle worth considering with regard to preaching to Postmoderns. For too long we have been swinging pendulums, moving from one extreme to the other, exposition or encounter. Perhaps its time we recognized the genius of exposition and encounter. Refuse to choose!

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E.O.Wilson builds on the old concept of "dialectic" to offer the possibility of "consilience" or a "jumping together of interests, adventures, and discoveries across disciplinary lines, specifically the links between science and the humanities. Disciplinary boundaries within the natural sciences are disappearing, in favor of shifting hybrid disciplines in which consilience is implicit.

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The concept is "integration" (integer; integrity) which is not about compromise or even about balance. It is about bringing together two or more complete substances so that the unity that results does not diminish in any way the essential integrity of the original substances. That is to say, we can offer people careful instruction of the biblical text at the same time as presenting a dynamic encounter with the living God. Clyde Fant described the problem in terms of the history of the church, describing "homiletical Docetism" on the right hand and a "homiletical Montanism" on the left. On the one hand are the preachers who are afraid the power of preaching will be diminished if it admits its own humanity. On the other hand are the preachers who believe that if anything meaningful is going to happen, it is up to the preacher. "The tragedy of these one-sided efforts," he says, "is that in both cases of the communication of the living Word to the living situation never happens."

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Perhaps postmodernity provides the right opportunity for an oxymoronic homiletic that will speak holistically and powerfully to people.

Bron: www.preaching.org

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"Wij prediken Christus, de kracht van God en de wijsheid van God!" (1 Korintiërs 1:24)