A Christian discussion blog for those interested in living a blend of Christianity that is as counter-cultural as it’s supposed to be. As a counter-culture we need to make ourselves truly different, yet also truly available – to anyone and everyone. Postmodernism is here and the Church needs to embrace a paradigm shift- (i.e.- emergence). And we need to do this while coming together (i.e. convergence). The journey continues…

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Emergent Perspectives - Part 2: Beginning with Questions

In my last entry I wrote about how the pragmatics of this so called "emerging church" movement are much more challenging in practice than they are in theory. However, just because something proves difficult, or problematic, doesn't mean it should be abandoned entirely. Heaven forbid! Literally. So let me move on to discuss something positive that I hope will come out, and is beginning to come out, of the Emergent Church. I have already seen glimpses of this positive shift in the actions and words of people like Brian McLaren. But before I discuss the positive shift, let me outline the original problem.

When I visit local churches near where I currently live in Knoxville, TN, or when I peruse the Sunday morning sermon broadcasts on TV, I still often find myself on the wrong side of a culture gap. I see pastors/ministers (whatever term you prefer) speaking and acting in ways that see highly peculiar. Of course I don't know most of these people personally, but I have to wonder if they act this same way (with so much hoopla and hallelujah assurance) on Tuesday at 8am when they've just burned their toast and spilled their coffee. Somehow, I doubt it. And to be honest- that still really aggravates me. It aggravates me not so much because I find it irritating personally, as much as because I know that someone who doesn't know Christ is not likely to be enticed by these "performances". If I were a non-believer I certainly wouldn't be.

But people in Evangelical circles have spent a decade or more talking about "acting naturally" and "coming as you are" to Church, so I won't belabor that point anymore. What I want to talk about is a deeper issue. I want to talk about humility. Now I know that we seem to talk a lot about the need for humility in our Christian circles. And we do- in terms of our position before God. However, I think we tend to use the word in a context that is entirely too narrow. Let me explain.

Any good social scientist will tell you that in order to understand a social phenomena you must study both sides. When I apply that to my walk as a Christian, I understand that to mean that its helpful to pay attention to what non-Christians are saying about their perception of "us". After all, if we are serious about spreading the gospel, then we should be willing to pay attention to what is apparently getting in the way. And what I hear non-Christians saying, on-mass, is that it is the flagrant lack of humility on the part of Christians today that they find the most "unbelievable". I think we should be concerned about this. After all we are here as ambassadors for the "Godman" who performed the most humble act in the history of history.

Now don't get me wrong, I get as frustrated as anyone else when people on the opposite side of the fence portray us as "extremists". I get frustrated when "the other side" oversimplifies our point of view so as to make us appear as intelligent and thoughtful as Neanderthals. I see, and am concerned and frustrated when others would like to see Truth itself banished from existence in our society. They seem to think that the belief in absolute Truth itself is the primamry problem with our world. However, all that being said, I still hear something in their complaints about us that rings true.

Let me put this in the form of a question: Why do we feel the need to have all the answers all the time? There's a big difference between believing some things absolutely, while holding other things much more lightly. Do we believe that God will love us a little less or that Jesus would deny us, or intercede a little less eagerly for us, if we went around expressing tension or confusion or even doubt about some issues? Do we think that somehow grinning and bearing it- while inwardly not feeling that way at all- is somehow more glorifying to God? I think that somewhere in the recesses of our "faith-thought"- we do. I think we equate having all the answers with having a faith that is strong and secure. I disagree with this assertion. And I think it is the wrong-headedness of this thinking that makes us look so "unbelievable" to much of the World.

So let me end by proposing an alternative approach. Rather than trying to pretend that we see the world in blacks and whites when we are fully aware of the grays, why not admit that its a bit of a paradox that we can see the gray "loud and clear", and yet still believe in an absolutely good and just and loving God? Why not talk about some of the tension we feel around that subject? My guess is that, in doing so, we will only gain credibility with the ones we're dialoging with. I think an admittance of "gray matter" makes a belief in God all the more compelling. If nothing else, they will know that we do not believe out of fear, lack of forethought, or from a delusional sense of reality.

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