26 June 2006

Ramblings in a New World

I confess, I have not been a peacemaker. I confess, I have been more interested in tending to my wounds and validating my way of thinking. The question at hand is, can the divarication of the “new kind of Christian” (as termed by Brian McLaren) and the “traditional evangelist” (named by Robert Webber) be repaired? The western culture at large, as is well-known, is going through a shift akin to the Medieval times to the Modern era. While Post-Modernism may be the resting place (and hopefully receive its own name if so), or while it may be transitory, Christians are reacting to this alteration in differing ways. Unfortunately, instead of basking this conversation in love, both sides (it’s even unfortunate that I label them as sides) feel attacked, retreat, and become defensive.
The new generation expresses feelings of inauthenticity, of feeling rejected and/or unloved at times, of inability to enter into a meaningful relationship with God and/or community in the way that has been done for the past 100 years, of a desire to approach the Bible, still as the infallible voice of God’s revelation, with a different method at times. The “traditional” (and by traditional, we must understand that I mean the tradition of the past 100 years) church takes offense, understandably so. They feel that we are telling them that they have been doing things completely wrong and have led us pharisaically into a ditch, ruining the church. Of course, we are not saying this, but I understand how they would hear this. Their offense at what we say, as well as some misunderstandings and some fears at our approach, comes back to correct us so that the Word of God may remain pure in these frightening times. We both wrongly employ straw men, exaggerated figures that puppet a conclusion that serves our own arguments.
Side note, or side question: Do the “traditionals” believe that Christians are outside of culture while the “emerging” see Christians as tied to culture? This could greatly affect conversation. Also, many “traditionals” with whom I have spoken define post-modernism as a rejection of “absolute truth.” I have a different answer to that question. I would call it a rethinking of modernism. This has a complex and fragmented answer.
Side note: I dislike being camped with the “emerging.” I am excited about the post-modern change, and would even consider myself a pomo, but I think that being boxed in as an “emerging” is limited. The emerging church, I feel, is a great answer to the questions culture is asking, but it is not the only answer. Then again, how do you define the emergent church. Is it liturgical? Is it contemporary? Is it social? Yes, yes, and yes.
I have been married for a little over a year. One of the lessons Chris and I are learning in our young marriage is that sometimes the issue isn’t always about being right or wrong but why is someone feeling this way. How can we work together as a team to make the person feel more secure in love and in the plan God has for us?
I believe that two of the larger issues at hand in this conversation are missional and corrective.
Regarding missional, we, as the Universal Church, need to set aside “right” and “wrong” in order to try to understand why a large number of people feel a lack of authenticity in many churches. Why do so many feel that churches are inauthentic? Why do they feel unloved and rejected by the church? “Forms” and “approaches” need to be evaluated. In the same way that a missionary goes into a foreign mission field, so does the church need to go into the post-modern world. As N.T. Wright points out, we need to first figure out who we need to be for the world, and then set forms and structures for that. What are the questions of the culture? How are they asking these questions? Forms and structures need to be evaluated, and this needs to be in balance with 2000 years of global church history. What remains consistent and universal? I wonder if some in the “traditional” church might be surprised to see how much of their church is connected to modern ways of thinking. This has been appropriate in a modern world (and still is appropriate for the continuing modern world), but will not hold water in this new world. I wonder if some in the “traditional” church are more open than we think, once words and terms are clarified. How can we reach this new culture? How can we show them, as Christ’s body, Christ’s love and truth? This may affect worship styles; this may affect learning styles. Bible study formats, systematic theologies may resemble more of the Bilbao Guggenheim museum architecture than a skyscraper. This may affect preaching styles and apologetics. It may broaden the understanding of the gospel, not in the basis for salvation (Christ) but in how it is lived out everyday (Christus Victor model and social justice as well as personal salvation).
Side note: this “new” culture has many commonalities, shares some building materials, as the “old” culture, but scraps some materials and adds others. We’re still a western culture at heart.
I said there are two issues. The missional issue, I think, is where the majority of the fight resides. The second issue is addressing some of the inherent weaknesses in the western church. These are different issues for different churches and different denominations. I believe that both “emergings” and “traditionals” recognize and are addressing these issues.
This has been long and rambling. Much of this probably doesn’t make sense outside of my head. We all know the issues, but do we? Have we all been too caught up in our own causes to mend Christian relationships, being one so that the world may know that we are from Christ? So that the world may see something different in our union? Is my peacemaking reflective of a child of God?


J Hearne said...

Excellent post. Excellent questions. I recommend Kyle's blog for questions on the whole "Emergent" thing. I don't consider myself Emergent but I've been lumped there. I don't consider myself Evangelical but I grew up there.

I like your stuff. I'm still reading.

Anonymous said...

I don't consider myself Evangelical but I grew up there.

learn chinese said...

I don't consider myself Emergent but I've been lumped there.