Friday, December 08, 2006

Two Good Posts

Brian blogs about he and Bobby's trip to visit the nuns here.

A post on being incarnational and the matter of having a building here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why We Need a New Way of Being the People of God

One of the greatest needs I see for our current situation, is for a new ecclesiology. That is hard on my own denominational heritage (back to the roots idea of the last post) because so much of that identity was in matters of ecclesiology. The emphasis ended up, even if no one originally intended it to be this way, on forms concerning church gatherings for worship and church polity.

So when there arises a need for a new ecclesiology, that shakes the foundations of a denominational identity that is rooted in how to structure a church, what to call it, and what to do in its plenary gatherings. Put all your eggs in a basket of how the church is expressed (even effectively and redemptively) in a particular time and place, and you are likely lose all your eggs when the times change.

But the need for a new ecclesiology is not, in my opinion, due to the shortcomings of my own particular heritage. The problem stems from the fact that modernity and its monolithic confidence in objective, scientific data is losing out to something that is not modern. Instead, this new world is pluralistic, less certain, and thankfully less shallow. Little is as shallow as the empiricism and humanism of modernity. I remember the Time article several years ago that explained all human love and our appreciation of human beauty as a drive to find the most fertile and healthy mate to bear our genes.

We are determined by our chemistry. Modernity has no room for poets. Modernity is a type of scientific hyper-Calvinism devoid of human creativity, choice, and asthetics. Choice is illusionary. We do as we are forced to act by our genes and chemical processes. The anthropology of modernity is miserable and dehumanizing.

So why a new ecclesiology? A few initial thoughts come to mind . . .
  • We need to be more humble.
  • We must learn to be less certain of ourselves, though still certain of God.
  • We must avoid slapping simple answers on complex problems.
  • We have to find ways of being more communal in a less communal world.
  • We must offer an alternative to consumerism.
  • We can no longer trust the social sciences to handle all but "spiritual" matters.
  • We cannot use leadership models that are not Trinitarian and thrive in God.
  • We must learn to co-inhabit this world with others as aliens rather than rulers.
  • Our evangelism must be less imperialistic and formulaic.
  • We must not agree to be a figurehead chaplain who words meaningless invocations and benedictions at our culture's events.

It is not having a new ecclecsiology for its own sake, but finding how the ways in which we are the church may reflect a clearer sense of our real mission.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Church Roots

Leroy Garrett writes about changes within his denomination, the Churches of Christ, a group with which I once identified exclusively. I say exclusively because it is not that I do not identify with those churches today, it is just that I also find my identity with many others as well. I am not finding my home with fewer churches, but with more.

However, due to the demands of exclusiveness that are intrinsic to much denominational thinking, and very true of Churches of Christ, having a Christ-identity which embraces many denominations is sufficient to have one excluded from many groups.

In discussing what is happening among some Churches of Christ, Leroy praises one congregation in Fort Worth for not leaving that particular heritage "and becoming rootless." He talks about other congregations taking generic names and leaving the restoration.

However, I would suggest that there are not only these two options: 1) persisting in a restoration tradition, and 2) going generic and becoming rootless. In other words, is every congregation which doesn't keep a particular name and identify with a certain line of teaching and thinking necessarily rootless?

I am not accusing Leroy of believing in only two options. I don't know what he would say, but I am merely reflecting on my impression of his thoughts. I agree that many seeker-sensitive, mega-church wannabes do opt for a very generic and lowest common denominator type of ecclesiology, if not theology. Many do try to cater to people's consumeristic desires and apparently become rootless, even if unintentionally.

But let me say that I do think that there is another option - becoming rooted in historical, creedal, orthodox Christianity in a way that is not exclusive. Rather than becoming a rootless community, perhaps some congregations might leave the more distinguishing externals of Churches of Christ (or other denominations), not in becoming what some have called a-historical, but to move more thoroughly within historical Christianity.

If there is at least this third option, it is the one I aspire to follow. I certainly do not want to say that to preserve my "roots" I have to adhere to certain particulars of denominations in which I may have grown. I also do not want to simply reject those roots and be the church of now.

What if sometimes staying rooted means losing some exclusive aspects of an identity that comes with that particular heritage? Certainly seeking renewal within a denominational identity is admirable. One may also seek renewal within Christianity as a whole, and embrace the largest history of all believers.