"Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world." - Todd Littleton
"I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see." - Anon
"Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all." - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
"Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut
"Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals." - Jim Forest
"People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." - Anon
"... Certainly God's love has made fools out of us all." - R.E. Slater
"An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst." - R.E. Slater
"Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics." - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
"Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated." - Emil Brunner
"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)

Friday, January 4, 2013

What Emergent Christianity Can Offer a Secularized World

A Postmodern Emergent Church Response


At Relevancy22 we have systematically responded to the secularity found in Evangelical modernism by proffering a postmodern version of Christianity known as Emergent Christianity which actively recognizes the syncretic effects that modernity has brought into the Evangelical church. And in response, have sought to identify those modernistic elements within the church by deconstructing them, often to the alarm and dismay, of many well-meaning evangelicals. And yet, in the aftermath, there has arisen an emergent Christian faith which lives more hopefully in these postmodern times, in the rediscovery of the God of the Bible in our everyday lives. Who is real, and is faithfully connected to, our turmoils and troubles, our witness and mission, our worship and fellowship, through Jesus.
 
Moreover, in the recovering of the supernatural presence of God in daily living and witness, there has resulted a continuing, sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers the Gospel of Jesus as presented in, and through, His church. So that when considering secularity, the answer is not to so simply return to those starry-eyed days of pre-modernistic Spirit-filled fellowships, but to incorporate what this would then mean to the church when placed within today's more discriminating postmodernistic times. For Emergent Christianity should not be thought as more charitable to those undiscerning protestations of miracles, the supernatural, spiritual warfare, angels and demons, but more critical of it in the defining sense of re-considering how those Christian positions oftentimes support an indiscriminate modernism found present within Evangelical Christianity. Thus withholding it from transitioning to a mandated postmodern re-definition of itself. Meaning that, we do not wish to trade one defeated "religious perspective" for another "less competent perspective" but to incorporate a more vigorous postmodern vision that gives life-and-breath back to the Word of God without relying on earlier superstitions, non-scientific assessments, religious folklore, traditions, fictions and fantasies. More simply said, an emergent Christian would not deny these biblical portrayals so much as re-express them in a postmodern sense of Christian enactment and divine presence.
 
Hence, we have been careful within this blogsite to question (and then restate) just what miracles are; what the nature, mission, and operation of spiritual gifting (tongues, healing, prophecy) under the ministry of the Holy Spirit is and can be; how to conduct a literary and not a literal reading of the Bible, of God, and of God's mission to the world through today's postmodern church; what the ministry of the church is to society; what sin's relationship to creation and humanity's free will is; how to read the Bible in a postmodern sense; how to minister and comport our lives within a postmodern setting; and generally, a revisioning of what it means to see the Holy One of Israel apart from the Evangelical blinders that we have too readily adopted uconsciously through the veneers of religiosity too comfortably adapted into our lives, our thoughts, our beliefs, tongues and dogmas.

Specifically, a postmodern assessment of secularization will not encourage those Third Wave Christians, nor spiritists amongst the church, backwards towards earlier beliefs and participations that once housed varying forms of mystical gnosticism. Nor towards an indiscriminate reading of either the bible, or modernity, or both; a reading which generally gives way to more naive forms of cloistered, pre-modernistic, Christian communities and worship fellowships. But then again, nor do we wish too discourage our brethren either for we have much in common with such mindful Christians wishing to apprehend God and live for Jesus in witness, work, and ministry. To such mindful groups we would challenge not a reversion away from modernism into pre-modernal living, but a progression forwards in renouncing modernal expressions of Evangelicalism. While coming to appreciate, if not adopt, a postmodernal, Spirit-filled Emergent expression and understanding of Christianity. For if this is not undertaken, than the church can not - and will not - have a contemporary global witness that is effective within this postmodern world of ours so long as we live and walk and breathe upon this Earth the dead-and-dying airs of yesteryear's secular modernity.

Moreover, Dr. Olson (below) has well pointed out the deficiencies of modernized Christianity. And though a postmodernist would wish to depart from such oversimplified characterizations of "secularity" knowing that such dualisms are a part of the classical modernal world being left behind, still Dr. Olson does point out (in modernal terminology) the deficiencies of modernity in using this type of categorical representation. However, in counterpoint, a postmodernist labors to remove as many of the dualities of the modern mindset as possible from the language of postmodernism, and from postmodern Christianity, so as to remove (reduce, or exclude) classical thinking and its paradigms from oversimplifying the person and work of God, His Word, His world, and mission through Jesus. While also seeking to remove modernal attitudes placed upon God, His Word, world, and mission, that are self-referential and self-reinforcing producing a prohibitive witness and exclusionary fellowships to God, His Word, world and mission to the world.

In its place a postmodernist seeks to integrate a wholism to life that incorporates a pluralistic perspective that places dualities along the fuller theological spectrum of quantum insights and definitions. It is a language that can only grow and occur as future generations develop it and the church absorbs it. Moreover, a critical component of postmodernal thinking is that it demands, as a mandatory basis for enjoining oneself to it, a self-criticism and introspection that would create a healthy respect for doubt, mystery, and a closer respect for those individuals and people groups who are different from ourselves. In this way it becomes a superimposing superstructure that can better give way to any future philosophic eras arising along the lines of demonstrated authenticity and global participation. How? By requiring a decentralization of our personal experiences to that of the expanding whole of humanity, as well as to that of creation ecologically. It has well been said that a journey of a 1000 miles cannot begin without first questioning the need for such a journey. For where there is no introspection or doubt, so too will there be found delusion and contempt (which is my humble attempt at speaking in terms of Peter "Rollinisms").

For those modernists amongst us, we will always feel less convinced and less willing to let go of our dualisms. But in the world of quantum physics, as in the world of quantum living, such classical descriptors cannot be helpful. Neither to a postmodern way of living and thinking, nor to our biblical studies and Christian worship. Emergent Christianity is a different type of Christianity than we are use to seeing. It is foreign to us, and startling new and refreshing. And as such, generally feared and dreaded, called names, and chastised as from the devil's own pit of hell, by the less informed, or less willingly to move forwards towards God's gracious calls of repentance and submission.
 
And though it is true that postmodern emergent Christianity has radically changed many of the goal posts of pre-modern, and modern, evangelical Christianity, it should also be known that God is still the same, only now we are gaining a richer, more fuller, understanding of His majesty and glory. As such, the wisdom of God's salvation through Jesus is itself radically removing all the goalposts of our Christian (and non-Christian) lives unto the furthering majesties and glories of God's renewing Kingdom. Not magically, nor mystically, but in a very real, definitive sense of spiritual undertaking by the Holy Spirit. Requiring the insights of today's younger, more nimble postmodern minds and spirits, which are more willing to rediscover the God of the Bible lost upon the foundering sands of religious secularisms and secularized lifestyles (I speak in modern day terms here, just as Paul did to his first century listeners!).
 
Underneath will be found a truer spirituality than can be found through the fantasizations and mysticisms many think must accompany a reforming Christianity. Certainly, there will be devils enough to fight; and, principalities and powers too! But don't be surprised to find those devils and powers housed quite comfortably within the halls and board rooms of the church. For inasmuch as there be heaven-sent angels let them be likewised clothed in flesh-and-blood hearts and souls through the postmodern day you of emergent Christianity. Who will globally speak Jesus' love and healing in as many tongues, and prophetic ministrations, of the redeemed to an unredeemed world lost in its hedonisms, atheism, pride and hate. It will require a greater power than our own human spirit of altruism and social justice. It will require the spiritual power of God's Holy Spirit testifying in-and-through us, to the power and resurrection found in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Who Himself will put down all principalities and powers, and even the sin found in me and you. For it is to this postmodern day power of liberation and freedom, healing and forgiveness, that we are called to speak in Jesus' uplifted name. Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
January 4, 2013


   
 
 
 
How Secularized Has American Evangelical Christianity Become?
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/01/how-secularized-has-american-evangelical-christianity-become/

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