"Inception" and Christian Mission, Part I: Postmodernism and Other Realities


This past weekend I got to see Christopher Nolan's new film, Inception. I've been a Nolan fan for several years, not only because of his fascinating way of story-telling, but particularly because of his incorporation of both "big questions" and neuroscience into his films.

One of the very big questions in Inception is the nature of reality. 

No spoilers here!

But  there is a line that Mal, wife of the main character (Cobb) says to her husband at one point that I think bears some discussion here.

I don't have the quote exactly. But the gist of it is something like this:
"You know there is more than one reality." 

Throughout the film, that point is made eminently clear. The deal is that not all "realities" are equally stable, but as long as they seem plausible, those who are in them are convinced the experience they are having is completely real.  

Call it postmodernism, pluralism, or the product of far more constant exposure to all of the varying views, perspectives and realities of the global community-- including the idea that there is a global community-- and you see that Mal's statement can also be understood as a frame for the context in which we are sent with God's mission announced by and in Jesus.

A frame-- not the only one. 

But a frame that is becoming increasingly relevant on several levels of reality in this world.

Though not all.

And it's a frame that causes significant degradation of any frames claiming there is only one reality on such levels. 

Or at least, in such multi-realitied levels, one might expect to find the collapse and ruins of "dreams" that there is just one reality.

But again, that multi-reality obtains on some levels does not mean it obtains on all. There are some where it does not-- or does not do so sufficiently yet to be noticed or even noticeable. 

So we find ourselves in a challenging situation-- living not simply in "the world" but in multiple worlds-- some of them acknowledging only one reality, and others aware of multiple realities-- and still called to be not "of the world" or "of the worlds." 

It's not a new situation for Christians. The apocalyticism in our earliest roots had already embraced a multi-worlds and multi-reality paradigm. A challenge is that that very apocalypticism has also been deeply buried, rejected, even forbidden-- and in some ways forbidden most of all in the modern world. 

We have resources-- biblically and historically-- for such a time as this. But since most of us (if not all of us) have grown up in modernism, a modernism that at once declares there is only one reality and enacts that belief in such a thoroughgoing way that it easily enacts a relativistic nihilism, we may not know how to access or use them-- and may have considerable reticence about doing so now.

How do you seek to live and engage God's mission in the multi-realities or singular reality where you find yourself?

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards