The Grand Narrative in a Postmodern Age (Part 1)

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Dr. Ken Turnbull, ACU Vice-Chancellor

Civilisations are united, built and progress on vision. There must be a narrative that brings commonality to people through the past and unity to purpose in the present. The narrative must offer promise that carries forward to the future. The West was built on the Judeo-Christian narrative of the Bible. It brought commonality to people as created in God’s image. It united people in purpose as those redeemed by the blood of Christ, reconciled to the Father and gathered into the church for the purpose of accomplishing God’s redemptive mission in the present. It provides hope in the assurance of promises secured in the future narrative of the sovereign Creator and Sustainer. The Bible’s grand narrative defines the church and the resulting civilisation that brought flourishing to humanity through the modern age.

That age has passed. We now find ourselves in a post-modern age where there is no longer vision. There is no accepted narrative that brings commonality from the past or purpose to the present. There is no narrative upon which promises can assure hope for the future. Any unifying narratives are deconstructed and relativised into truthless fantasies for the personal needs of the weak. Globalism seeks to assemble people with nothing to unite them in commonality, purpose or hope. It is a doomed experiment where the missing factor is truth. Where there is no truth only foolishness can result. As Paul declared in his letter to the Romans, truth was suppressed and they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.

How does the church minister reconciliation in this age of truthless confusion and hopelessness? The church must offer the missing truth only found in reuniting with our past, created purpose: to glorify God. The church must reintroduce present purpose by proclaiming the truth of the message of reconciliation of all things to the Father through redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ. The church must be a glorious bastion of hope by guiding the foolish, dark-hearted sinner into discovering his place in the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan where promises can be assured in the future glory under the sovereign control of the Creator.

In attempting to be relevant through the modern and into the postmodern era, the church has drifted into secular tendencies that have weakened the deep anchors to the beauty and truth of the grand narrative history upon which the church was built. To say in words that everything is about Jesus and what He said, and yet to abandon the very foundations and doctrines upon which the faith of His church was established, is the secularising trends that have neutralised the church in her redemptive purpose. That rich, nourishing history that connects the church of today through the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan since eternity past and carries on through eternity future must be recovered.

It is the Word of God which guides all that we are and all that we do as God’s image-bearers into His mission work of redemption. It is the rich confessions and creeds of church history that give framework and depth to our thinking and our engagement. The foolish and dark-hearted sinners of this postmodern age must find a divine narrative in the church that opens the heart to the light of truth, the glory and comfort of being reconciled to their Creator, the hope of promises assured by the One who holds the future in His hand. The church must return to the historic expressions of the Scripture, the hymns, the creeds and the confessions that unite us with our true history, rooted in God’s narrative of creation, our fall, His work of redemption, and His promise of the new heavens and the new earth as our eternal home. The lost world, wandering in the darkness of relativism needs the securing truth of reconciliation into God’s narrative of truth through redemption in Jesus Christ.

ACU seeks to educate students in this tradition. The purpose is to root every student’s knowledge in all academic disciplines of study in the grace of God that has guided the revelation and discovery of all truth throughout history. Graduates must be equipped to be ambassadors of Christ who can display and describe the historic truths of God’s redemptive mission to this postmodern age through every vocation and sphere of their lives. Whether the student’s vocation is in art, agriculture, business, engineering, education, medicine, science or theology, every student is to be equipped to display and explain the grand narrative which brings unity, purpose and hope through redemption by the blood of Christ. Support the work of African Christian University as a ministry of the church so that Africa might be guided through the darkness of postmodernism to the light of reconciliation of all things to the Father of hope and glory.