According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
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 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)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, December 28, 2012

Passing the Jesus Torch from Evangelicalism to Emergent Christianity, Part 2

Is Evangelicalism Ending? 2

by Scot McKnight
Dec 28, 2012

David Fitch, in his new book, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Theopolitical Visions), thinks evangelicalism’s influence is more or less over, that it needs to reexamine itself, and that it needs to rediscover what it could be in our world.

Here are the problems for evangelicalism today according to David Fitch:

1. Its presence in American politics has declined precipitously.

2. It’s cultural influence has fallen on hard times.

3. Popular perception of evangelicals has turned for the worse.

4. There is lots of internal criticism of itself.

What are evangelicals trying to do in response?

Some say return to a purer form; others propose getting beyond it into post-evangelicalism; others push for a more socially just evangelicalism; others draw up manifestos; some call us back to the ancient faith.
David Fitch proposes we examine evangelicalism as an ideology: “a set of beliefs and practices that bind a people together into a functioning community” (8). We need to ask what kind of people this kind of evangelicalism is producing, and ask if the people it is producing is faithful to its beliefs.
His theory is that its major three ideas (inerrant Bible, decision for Christ, and Christian Nation) were changed into de-personalized concepts, reified, and became a matter of political alliance that no longer spoke into a changing culture.
Each of these ideas was fashioned during modernity to respond to issues in modernity. Inerrancy out of the modernist fundamentalist debate; evangelism in the missionary movement; and activist stance as a response to the social gospel.
Here’s his view: “evangelicalism, in reaction to the modernist-fundamentalist controversies, pursued a strategy for survival via a defense based in the autonomous structures of modern reason and politics. In the process, we gave up the true core of our Christian politics — the person and work of Jesus Christ – and set ourselves up for a fall in essence becoming a form of ‘religious ideology’” (17).
To Fitch’s book now, which means to Zizek.
At the core of ideologies, and Fitch will examine evangelicalism as an ideology, is social conflict and the ideology is the way of coping or managing or controlling with the conflict. It establishes how “we” are framed over against “them.”
 Here are Zizek’s big categories:
1 - Master-signifiers: a conceptual object [idea, belief, etc] around which a group forms. For Zizek these are often fantasies that more often than not give people the sense they are committed to them but really are not. At the core of master signifiers is antagonism that enables a person to find an idea that forms an “us” vs. “them.”
2 - Irruptions of the Real: occasional and glaring events, etc, reveal, however, that what is at stake is not so much the idea/master signifier but antagonism and group allegiance. These irruptions deconstruct the master signifier as a cloak of the antagonism.
3 - Irruptions are obvious in over-identification: when someone is so committed to the master signifier that it looks like a farce. The fanatic is the over identifier. Jouissance, a French term for enjoyment, which is as often perverse as it is good, is the feeling people get when they sense their master signifier is the true one — jouissance can be triumphalism.
There’s the basic theory. Evangelicalism has three master signifiers: The Inerrant Bible, Decision for Christ, and the Christian Nation. (i) Each of these was formed in an antagonistic context (modernist vs. fundamentalism and the fear of cultural collapse vs. holding true to Christian ideals/morals). (ii) At times irruptions manifest fanaticism and jouissance, revealing that what is at stake is more than the idea — what is at stake is lining up with the right people in the antagonism of culture. (iii) The master signifiers are inherently elusive in meaning and that elusiveness permits different people to import different meanings, enabling a belief in commitment to a common master signifier but which is inherently so undefined they are often not committed to the same idea.
David isn’t a cynic, and he’s not arguing that these ideas are bad, or that these ideas have to be jettisoned. From what I can tell he affirms the theological legitimacy of each but argues that how each is used today in evangelicalism as master signifiers opens the lid on an antagonism that is passing away. These master signifiers then belong to a culture war and not just to theology. I think David Fitch in this book is peeling away some skins that reveal a serious issue at work in evangelicalism.
Inerrancy, if you follow the discussion, applies only to the “original autographs,” which we don’t have and won’t have and it applies only to “authorial intent,” on which we often can’t agree — and have you seen the variety of groups that affirm inerrancy? … so … what have we got? Fitch suggests we might just have an empty and elusive signifier around which we can rally over against the liberals who don’t believe in inerrancy.
Irruptions occur in the lack of fidelity to clear teachings in the Bible for instance. Over identifiers — he points to Hal Lindsey and Al Mohler (on creationism) and Jack Hyles (on King James) and to Bart Ehrman’s biography of abandoning orthodoxy.
And the jouissance occurs every time someone finds something in archaeology that we think upholds the inerrantist claim. (Does this really change how we live or is this antagonism’s revelation?)
I won’t examine each, but it is not hard to see how the evangelical demand for personal decision is a master signifier that reveals often enough that evangelicals have made the “decision” but have not necessarily changed because of it (do we care to admit the recidivism rates?), that they are charged up every time someone (famous) publicly says they have made a decision, and over identification is so obvious when folks are willing to say the decision is all you really need, etc.. and on the Christian Nation — think Falwell, Kennedy, Greg Boyd, Jim Wallis and what this might mean and how clear the antagonisms are – there is a very similar set of Zizekian observations.
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Addendum -
"What does it then mean to be
a Postmodern Christian?"
by R.E. Slater
December 27, 2012
I would like to add to the above article that it is the stated intent at Relevancy22 that each of the 3 or 4 areas addressed above be both separately, and together, revisioned as we have been doing here these past 18 months at this website in reframing the church's evangelic past with today's postmodern rise of emergent Christianity. This has hopefully been done through a multi-disciplinary approach to both modernism's, and evangelicalism's, strengths and weaknesses, as presented to us through the church in its many Christian forms these past 500 years. And by admitting to a more recent postmodernistic presence of the gospel of Jesus previously unadmitted within evangelicalism's many arguments and self-sustaining subcultural perspectives, often found to be exclusionary, divisive, and unloving.
Moreover, it is with hope - and not despair - that a new kind of emergent theology is arising to replace its more popular predecessor, evangelical theology, by both deconstructing the church's more recent Christian past, and reconstructing a postmodern version of itself that is more relevant and applicable for today's postmodern audiences.
That modernistic Christianity (whether evangelical, denominational, or some other "body politic") is failing to connect to today's postmodern generations requiring a newer presence of the Christian faith that would better accounts for:
  • the significance of Jesus' incarnational presence in time and history, especially in terms of an historical-religious circumspection requiring an all-pervasive perspective of God's redemption for ourselves, humanity, and the world/cosmos we live in (theism vs. agnosticism / atheism).
  • the expansive mystery of God, His cosmos, and humanity itself (a "gentle" mysticism decoupled from its twin-brother of "mystical gnosticism" which generally devolves into various forms of Christian secrecy and cultic exclusivism).
  • better contemporary scientific assimilation with that of a postmodern biblical literary analysis and interpretive hermeneutics which would dispel, and justifiably remove, non-scientific, literal church dogmas from their current ascendancy of Christianized folklores held onto by religious innuendo and theological ignorance.
  • a fuller congruence between Christian faith and works, love and devotion, words and acts, in all that is said or done as followers of Jesus.
  • the uplift of love and relationship over intellectualized rationality (narrative theology vs. systematic theology, creeds and confessions).
  • an organic faith imparted into social involvement and interactive community service projects demonstrating the love and ministry of Jesus.
  • the admittance to failure in past church practices and programs subjugating select people groups to prejudicial bigotries, social dehumanization, and judicial inequalities (minorities, slaves, women, homosexuality, etc).
  • a renewed emphasis upon the value of our environment over that of humanity's environmental ignorance, destruction, and consumerist influences.
  • the reinvigoration of the human touch and presence to a faceless, technological generation, offering in its place the selfless sharing and giving of one's kinetic energy to community members in interactive activities of joint worship, service projects, social comportment and innovations. From recreational opportunities to ecological projects and urban gardens. From housing renovations to community innovations in the arts and well-being. The opportunities to reinvigorate community are endless.
  • the willing assimilation of one's personal background and beliefs into a pluralistic and multi-ethnic society where each member recognizes, and values, the contributions and presence of differently enabled community members.
  • a recognition that decentralizes self-importance and engrossed personal perspectives by offsetting mono-cultural social barriers supporting biased ideologies and prejudicial beliefs over that of differently enjoined pluralistic perspectives of lesser-valued social segments within society. Whether expressed in terms of majority v. minority religious, political, or social parameters.
  • etc.... Which means, that we add to the list above as we become better enabled to recognize the needs of today's postmodern generations; that we learn to recreate a Christian faith without personal-social barriers, resentments, distrusts, jealousy, envy, or pride. But which encourages a faith that uplifts Jesus in all that it says and does. In everything that it says or does. As is the will of God.
And although this list might be continued in a number of ways, in its preliminary forms it is enough to suggest key ingredients to the emergent Christian faith that wishes to address today's generational postmodern angst and needs. It is not a new perspective but one that is new to many evangelical Christians belatedly realizing the dramatic depth of change that has occurred between themselves and their faith.
To know and understand that God is not dead, but is amazingly relevant in this dizzying postmodern era of deconstruction and reconstruction. That the Christian faith is as relevant now as its was in previous historical eras, as each era subtended to the next, in a generalized eschalation of salvific import (or salvific contract) between God and man. Where both the divine and the human continue to grow in community, and in relationship with each the other - God with man, man with God, and man with man. This is nothing to be feared but to be wondered at and praised in the magnificence of God's glory and wisdom.
That the Christian hope is one realizing God's reclamation of all things God. That no one person is beyond God's reach and claim. That either in life or death shall all things be renewed both in this life as in the next; whether within the boundaries of heaven, or within that of hell itself - for even hell itself is a purifier (sic, the annihilation of sin and death). That God will be victorious over a free willed creation unsubdued to His restitution and renewal by one avenue or another. That He will not be defeated. Neither by wicked man, nor principality and power, nor by sin and death. That God will be All-in-All, even as He is the Great I Am.
That this victory will be by God's divine love (but not to the exclusion of His divine judgment as some would suppose claiming a form of undifferentiated universalism). That in all things God does love with a love that is patient, understanding, overpowering, and negating man's baser baser instincts and nature. For God did thus create with purpose and power. And in that purpose He reclaims with love. A love we do not understand. But a love which allows within us the habitation of disbelief, faithlessness, distrust, and moral failure. That looks beyond ourselves and sees Jesus in our stead as our atoning sacrifice and enabling power by His Spirit of redemption.
And it is to this Jesus, as the divine Incarnate God, who does evidence God's incarnational presence to man both historically (2000 years ago), and even now - within our postmodern generations - that gives to the Christian faith its historical bedrock and existential reality. That Jesus, by personal atonement and practical example, shared God's divine heart, love, and vision for redeeming humanity towards all things God.
Ultimately, this is the unfolding story of a postmodern emergent theology. It is one of hope and inspiration founded upon the personage and presence of the Incarnate God founded upon His sacrificial life-and-death unto the restitution of all things, both in this world, as in the next. Which refuses an opposing atheology that there is no God, knowing this position is untenable in a world expressly made, sustained, and governed by God. A world that is highly valued by God. And which is highly desired by God to be inhabited by His personal presence, fellowship, and rule.
For it is God's love that has ever made this reality so - despite man's natural recourse to reject God while disdaining His divine will. That by Jesus' atoning death and abiding presence through the Spirit, that man's natural recourse towards sinful arrogance, legalism, and pride, may be opposed and ironically subverted towards an iconic restitution of divine recreation by the Lord God Himself. In an holy act of continuing love and redemptive purpose based not only upon who God is, but what He will be to His creation. This is the redemptive story and the divine mission of the God of the Bible.
R.E. Slater
December 27, 2012
January 3, 2013


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