Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reflections on the Great Emergence - part 3

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.
~ Buffalo Springfield (For What It's Worth)

I think I finally get why the conservative quadrant has such an apprehension toward social justice (and why Mark Driscoll has such a hangup with hippies).

The counter-cultural atmosphere of the 1960's in the United States is associated with a questioning of established authority and a reexamination of societal institutions. Of course, these things were happening prior to that time, but the 60's definately encompassed a decade of change and rethinking.

The 1960's also represent a strange dichotomy in our nation. Those who were challenging the status quo were also advocating "peace, love and understanding". In their defense of traditional society against these challenges, conservatives also seemed to find themselves necessarily rejecting the "social justice" ideals of their challengers. It seems we've been in a sticky situation ever since. (The problem for Christians, of course, is that our scriptures tell us the visible fruit of God's Spirit living through us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)

This "emerging church" stuff is nothing new. In my last post I mentioned theologian Harvey Cox. A year or so ago, while rummaging through an estate sale, I happened upon a small book of collected essays by Mr. Cox for a mere .25 (I was familiar with his name from college, so I figured it was worth risking a quarter on). On Not Leaving It to the Snake is a gem of a collection, containing essays written and published in various journals and magazines from 1964-1967. Apparently, the 1960's spurred theological change, as well. I'll give you a taste below, and I'm sure I will revisit themes and questions from the book in posts to come.

excerpts from the essay The Signs of the New Era:
(originally published as "The Changing Scene in Evangelism" in the June 1960 issue of the Andover Newton Theological School's quarterly journal)

In 1510 Luther was a medieval man with a medieval worldview, even though the Renaissance was in full blossom around him. [psychologist Erik] Erikson goes on to make this telling observation: "It takes time, especially for deeply preoccupied people, to comprehend the unity of the beginnings of an era which later will be so neatly classified in history books."

When we as churchmen ask, "What is the mission of the church in our time?" we ask it as deeply preoccupied people. We are thus perhaps congenitally least able to appreciate the radical newness of the context in which we minister. We have a vaguely troubled awareness that something is going on around us whose scope and dimension we only dimly discern. We live as modern men at the dawn of the post-modern age. The "scene is changing" and, as when in the world of the theatre, the scenes are changed, it means a new act is about to begin.

What shall we say to the heralds of a new era? It can be one of three answers. We can say, as many of us do, that they are wrong, that the world in which we are living is essentially the same as the one into which we were born. We can persist as modern men in a post-modern age to the puzzlement of future generations, who will wonder how anyone could have misread the signs of the times so obtusely.

Or, if we choose, we can listen to the warnings and believe them, as most of us do, but continue to act as though nothing were different. This appears to be at once the most anomalous and the most popular alternative.

The third possibility is the most awesome, but in my view the only authentically responsible one. It sees the paradox underlying the way we ask "What is the church's mission in today's world?" It sees that this is a question asked by an institution whose vocabulary, organizational forms, and style of life grew up in one age, about how it relates itself to a world whose whole life style and self-understanding is increasingly informed by the new age.

If we choose to believe the new voices and to live as a church in the emerging post-Western era, then we must ask the most basic question of all: How can the church now die to itself in the old body so that a resurrection to new life is possible?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, i miss you so much i came to read your is a beyond me ,at the moment, so we really must have lunch or such.

curly next door