Monday, February 27, 2006

Hey You, Out there on the Wall...


O.k. here’s the deal; I know sometimes there are some lengthy posts that are a bit too in depth. The truth of the matter is that I started blogging’ figuring it would be a sorta internal dialogue. I thought i'd make some posts that i'd end up reading back to myself, to see if these thoughts that I'm having have any sort of validity (self analyzed of course). So truth is, i never thought anyone else would end up reading the blog, though I do like to hear people’s thoughts on the matter. I kinda thought I’d send out the blog address so people could peek in if they wanted. I never expected that anyone would want to return after seeing the subject matter. i'm glad you did though.
So anyway, I will attempt to shorten some of the posts. Now, the post on Counter Reformation has already been created and will be posted “as is.” Future posts will try to consider the fact that other people might actually want to dialogue, (which I completely would love if you are nice), and I will therefore try to shorten them. The typical format of a post will go like this: 1. Presenting Problem 2. Alternative Solution/Question. Since there are two sides to every post, it will be a challenge to make them as short as the typical “Daily Post” blog. Yet I will try.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Maranatha?



Why is the Church so often “behind the times”? One likely reason has to do with our Eschatology. We must admit that the majority of the Church has held a fatalistic view of the earth’s future. We stress the immanent coming of Christ. With this coming we also teach a final judgment, which includes judgment against the fallen elements of creation. It is said that the earth will be burned with fire, or purged. A new heaven and a new earth will be created. Long-story-short: “This world is not my home, I’m just-a-passin’-through”. This, at least, is the unspoken assumption. McLaren (The Church on the Other Side) likens this mentality to the following analogy: “Worrying about the long-term future of planet earth would be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” This is why Christians don’t plant trees, refrain from using aerosol cans, or help clean up oil spills. Even worse, this is why we are not future oriented when it comes to remodeling and reshaping church culture.
The Church so looks forward to the coming of Christ, that to look into the future of rapidly changing culture and to prepare for change is almost akin to lacking faith in the immanent return of Christ. Yet, (can I say it?), year after year goes by, as well as millennium after millennium, and Christ has not yet appeared to claim his Church. Maybe we ought to think about kicking up the footrest on the la-z-boy and prepare to finish a good movie. Yes, Christ may return at anytime, but his idea of “immanent” seems to differ from ours.
So often, we look at the current culture of the church and attempt to escape the need for a cultural shift by appealing to our “counter cultural” dynamic. Actually, we fit in real well with those of last century. We are not “counter cultural” but cultural lagers. We do not know what it means to live the Christian life, so we associate Christian living with the “ways of yesterday”, perhaps mistakenly identifying the former days, when the world was a much better place, with acceptable modern Christian practice. Therefore, to not change is considered a change for the better. It is how we disassociate ourselves from contemporary non-Christians, who otherwise might seem to be a lot like ourselves.
The problem with this type of thinking is that we become irrelevant to the younger (non-Christian) generations, who do not fear the cultural shift, and indeed cannot help but to be a part of it. This is why there is such a great lack of 18-35yr olds in our churches today. We simply are not speaking a language they understand. It is not that they have rejected Christ, but they reject modern culture, science as a means to determining purpose, and absolute statements concerning subjective issues.
If we are to effectively encounter evolving culture, we must first be willing to admit that we are part of a world which may keep on turning for some time to come. The Church was no holier yesterday than it is today, and therefore we do not have to hold on to yesterday’s customs, traditions, and speculations in order to maintain a sense of Christian identity and spirituality. The expectation of the immanent return of Christ ought to give us great boldness in becoming leaders of cultural change, since we believe the future belongs to the Kingdom of God. Why not let go of yesterday’s secular ways and pave a new path of cultural relevance? The Church, which embraces such mysteries as the Trinity, the eternality of God, the divine/human being of Christ, and an unseen spiritual realm parallel to our own, ought not to feel awkward or out-of-place in a culture which rightfully questions absolute knowledge.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Intolerance Reconsidered


I know that our early life experiences deeply affect us. I know that I am critical of the institution of Christianity because of some large, screaming, red-faced pastor who breathed fire and brimstone onto the congregation, as he pounded his sturdy, hardwood pulpit. I remember when he told my mother that she was not allowed to come and voluntarily clean the church on Saturday wearing a pair of jeans, but rather was expected to wear a dress. She could wear jeans under her dress if she liked. I know every time I think of the “Church” I think of him, because he was the first representative of the Church that I had ever really known. I know that it is not right that I sometimes daydream about happening upon him by some odd chance, spitting in his face, kicking him in the balls, and while stepping on his neck after he’s fallen to the ground, declaring that he is the reason why I denounced Christianity and believed it to be the ploy of egocentric, totalitarian, not to mention highly depraved human beings.
I certainly wish he were some random, misguided person; an exception to the rule of Christianity. Yet when I read through the history of the Church, he seems to pop up everywhere. I see him in Athens, and Constantinople. He’s in Rome and Alexandria. He’s fighting to dominate the Holy Land in the twelfth century. Later I find him ruling the Church in England, France, Spain and Germany. He has sat in the seat of many Pope’s, Cardinals, Bishops, and Protestant Pastors. He has inked the pages of the “City of God”, posted his “Theses” and written his “Institutes”, and countless other tracts “Against the Heretics”.
As I studied the wars between Monotheism and Polytheism (Jonathan Kirsch: God Against the Gods), I found myself rooting for Julian “the Apostate” to end the rule of the Christian Emperors of Rome. They were murders, relentless authoritarians, and without a doubt, evil men. I saw virtue in the tolerance of the pagan polytheists who incorporated the gods of their fallen enemies into their own pantheon. Every person was free to choose whom they would serve and exalt, or not exalt. They seemed able to live side-by-side without allowing walls of religious differences to completely alienate them from one another. This made me think about the Church.
I harp on-and-on about the doctrinal and denominational walls dividing the Church. I see it as the evil part of modernism and absolutism sweeping into the pulpits and pews like a Tsunami, bringing its destructive winds and waves. I know that these denominational differences have slowly begun to break down, and I’m glad for it. In the tearing down of these barriers, I see the building up of the Church.
Julian too saw the potential destructiveness of intolerance toward doctrinal differences. Rather than wage war against Christians through persecution (which seemed to unite them), he decided to recall all the bishops and theologians of the Church who had been exiled for “heretical” teachings. He believed, that if given the chance, the Church would effectively destroy itself through internal conflict, and his enemy would vanquish himself.
In my vision for the future of the Church, I no longer see Calvinists or Arminians, Pentecostals or Evangelicals, Open Theists or Predeterminists, Baptists or Covenanters, Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. Instead I see “Christ Followers” who may tend, or lean toward any one or more of these theologies. Also, rather than condemning those of differing religious persuasions, we will enter into peaceful, respectful dialogue. Our witness and testimony will speak more through our actions than our words. Friendship with the world will no longer be regarded as “conformity to the world”.