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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Implications for Christians Living in Postmodern Times

The following is from Michael Spencer's Blog. You really need to read all of it. It's very good.

1) Diversity is not just a liberal totem to be avoided and ridiculed. It is a reality in healthy communities. There must be a balance between unity of confessional agreement and the diversity to allow inclusion, discussion, and necessary change. Amen Michael!

It was the Southern Baptist Statesman Herschel Hobbs who likened confessionalism to tying a grazing cow to a fence. If the rope isn't generous, the cow will starve to death. Theology is both sail and anchor, and diversity within communities is the recognition that the wind doesn't always blow from the same direction.

2) Leaders in Christian communities must competently and humbly discharge the responsibility of interpreting the contemporary world. The fundamentalist-modernist controversy has caused many Christian communities to put a premium on loud, self-referencing, ignorant men as leaders. The authority of God- and the "certainty" that Christians so desire- has been transfered to men who are capable of glibly dispensing "God's Word" on every subject.

The determination of certain Christian subcultures to chain the Bible to authoritative leaders and their interpretations has a mixed record. The price paid is considerable, and these subcultures often have a trail of wreckage and destroyed faith in the wake of their accomplishments.

The New Testament challenges Christian communities to seek out leaders who will be faithful to what they have been given to guard, teach and pass along. At the same time, the New Testament warns against the kind of egocentrism and leader-worship that many subcultures routinely practice. It is not uncommon to notice that more reflective, tolerant and contemplative Christian communities are led by leaders who do not have the kind of angry football coach or scolding professorial demeanor of other Christian communities. There is a pragmatic reason for this difference.

3) Christian communities should resist the temptation to pronounce the "Christian" answer to every question or the "Christian" version to every activity or interest, particularly if these answers venture far outside of the clear center of scriptural concerns.

Church A tells its members how to vote, how to practice birth control, how to date, what to wear, what to avoid on television, what music to listen to, what books to read and where they should be 7 nights a week. Church B offers worship, teaching, service opportunities, the sacraments, prayer, ministry to the poor and occasional social activities. It is safe to say that Church A, with the right leadership, is going to be more successful in the current environment than Church B, simply because it is offering a more comprehensive approach to the complex world in which people are attempting to find meaning and raise children.

Church B may (may) be more faithful to the Christian Gospel, but will quite likely find itself tagged as "liberal," if it does not spend large amounts of time telling its congregation how to vote and what are the threats to be avoided.

This is ridiculous.

4) Those who choose to engage the world in which we live with a more positive attitude towards other ways of seeing "information," are not the enemy. They may be the vanguard of the church's venture into succeeding generations. They may be the contemporary missionary church, rather than a retreating and fearful church insisting that all the surrounding culture is a threat.

A mentor once said to me, "Thank God for your education." What he meant was that education, rather than giving me all the answers, had really taken away much of my certainty, and gave me the potential to be kinder, a better listener, more gracious and less arrogant. I've thought of this many times over the years, and it is more impressive to me. I grieve over the many young Christians I see who have read two books, been to camp, and have all the answers. I am disgusted at the "Five points; No questions" mentality of many young Calvinists.

I realize, however, that many of these young people are part of churches who have insulated the learning process, published the list of approved authors, founded the schools that are safe, and provided the media to reinforce the community.


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