Does the name Ludwig Wittgenstein mean anything to you?
It should. Wittgenstein was a mid-20th century philosopher who gave us “language games.” That is, the way communities use language is similar to a game, and every community gets to make up its own rules of the game.
Two other philosophers of note, John Dewey and Richard Rorty, added a pragmatic twist to language games: Every group should strive to do what works for them. There’s no need to conform your group’s “rules” to any external standard, such as objective truth.
After all, no such standard exists.
On college campuses, this whole landscape is often called tribalism. What it means for Christian students/faculty is that we’ve been relegated to being one tribe among many. One shaper/creator of reality among all the rest. One language game alongside dozens of others.
Tribalism has gone beyond the postmodern university and has settled into mainstream culture. Thus the church is one of the many tribes out there, like one of a thousand flocks of geese, nothing more.
What does this mean for outreach? For evangelism at your church and mine? Two possibilities:
- We could work to regain our rightful “Voice of Authority” in order to shape our culture from a position of strength. This choice seems a dead-end to me. On campus, for example, it rarely if ever works.
- Accept our cultural demotion, act like one of the tribes, and commend Christian faith to a needy world from a posture of humility. Talk across the table with neighboring tribes rather than down to them.
In my view the Christian tribe should be the most humble, the most truthful, the most respectful, the most daring, the most artistic, the most fun, the most intellectual, the most emotional, the most supernatural, the most caring, the most interracial–the most compelling. . . of any tribe on the planet.
These qualities would revolutionize our outreach. What do you think?