A Time Machine into Your Future

President’s Note - BGU Amsterdam City Immersion

The April 2022 BGU Amsterdam city immersion might be a “time machine into the future” for many participants. Amsterdam has been at the forefront of trends in western culture for decades. Amsterdam provides understanding of key aspects of global culture which influences global cities through media and commerce. As global culture impacts long-standing national and local cultures, how can we best be prepared to understand the threats and see the opportunities for the gospel?

My mother is an artist. She might be described as a Bible-believing, postmodern, abstract, expressionist. That often means she paints her emotions, not an impression nor visual representation of a scene. Postmodern means that she is not interested in projecting her meaning on the viewer with her art, but instead provides freedom for others to find their own meaning in her work. When my two siblings and I were children, we would go to museums and sit in front of paintings like hers and she would put her hand over the plate beside the painting with the artist’s name and title of the work. She would ask, “How does this painting make you feel? “What story would you tell about it?” “What biblical truth does this bring to your mind?” “What title would you give it?” When she removed her hand from the title plate, it usually read, “Untitled”. That is the logic of the postmodern.

In April 2022, BGU is conducting an urban immersion in Amsterdam. Europe continental postmodernism for 60 years has foreshadowed what the US and other parts of the world would experience a decade or two in their own future. In contrast, non-western cultures did not buy into modernism at the level of the west, yet in our globally connected world, many of these cultures are experiencing premodernism, modernism and postmodernism all at the same time, the younger generation even more so. It is confusing.

The best way to find clarity is through biblical reflection within the story and relationships of places like Amsterdam. BGU's urban immersions approach cities with biblical truth in one hand, and open curiosity in the other hand. Modernism produced both liberalism that said “Man invented God as socially-helpful construct” and hyper-fundamentalism that said “Theology is a science that can explain God so that mystery is removed.” Both miss the point. Postmodernism provided the critique of modernism but rarely the answers. Exploring these conflicting perspectives in a city like Amsterdam with guided reflection and peers from around the world can transition the cacophony of jargon into meaning that provides guidance for you and those you lead.

What does all this actually mean? As a leader, you need to understand global trends and how they align with or contradict biblical truth. You need to journey with others listening to the culture as well as the Spirit in order to understand and communicate the good news of the gospel in new ways. You need ways to help those you influence also navigate these trends. You need the practical stories of how the jargon of theology and philosophy are lived out in relationships on city streets. BGU urban immersions provide this while building life-long relationships with friends with common values and callings living in cities on 6 continents.

More information about the April 2022 Amsterdam Urban Immersion can be found at info@bgu.edu.

Brad Smith

BGU President