Where the West is headed now, and how the Eastern Church might play a role
A Primer to Part Six
What the hell have I been blabbing about
I’m thinking this little series has become a bit (or perhaps a lot) disconnected, so let me try and connect the dots in my scatter plot-like thinking before delving into what little meat might exist in part six.
Recall that it all began with a quote on pop culture by Gene Veith which lead me to an article by him in which he discusses the paradigm shift of post-modernism in western society and how it relates to and is changing the face of Christianity. What was of particular interest to me was the effect postmodernism was having on Christianity (in particular the evangelical brand) and how it was playing itself out in the expression of “simple” church or “organic” church. The supposed connection with “historic” Christianity was also stimulating to my ears…sinful as they are.
I wondered to what extent this new way of seeing the world for the “emerging” church was a “return to historic Christianity” and also what exactly this meant. I suggested that much of protestant theology and practice was in fact rooted in the modernism which is itself so maligned by postmodernists and I lamented that it seems that postmodern Christianity is still failing to escape the bounds of the protestant mindset – which includes an underlying individualism inherent in protestant theology and a propensity toward theological relativism in order to maintain a balance between the unity commanded of the church in scripture and the need for diversity – as a moral value in and of itself – seemingly necessary in our culture today.
How do we know when we are caving into the wiles of our culture or just appropriately morphing the presentation of the Gospel to more effectively offer it to our culture? In other words, when we look at the history of the Church – pining for the “pure” church - it seems we begin to ask ourselves: what is cultural baggage and what is critical in the life of the Church today? And this becomes just as problematic as it is to interpret the Scriptures themselves, when it is left to the whims of each and every individual. What if the prevailing culture (of the world at this point) is diametrically opposed to the Christian paradigm? In order to know the answer to these sort of questions, I think we need to stop and ask ourselves what exactly IS the message we are trying to communicate?
Postmodern Christians, such as Wolfgang Simson often characterizes themselves as looking to the early church to see where they have come from and what they might be, but with varying degrees or respect or seriousness. Simson himself brings many presuppositions to the New Testament and looks to it as a guide on "doing Christianity" but he offers little in regards to considering other extra-canonical works of the same time period. In my humble quest I simply came to the decision that in order to understand what Christianity is all about (beyond the modern and somewhat multi-faceted concept of granting intellectual assent to the ‘lordship’ of Jesus Christ.) I ought to escape the millions of opinions surrounding me and get as close to the beginning as I possibly could. Let them (meaning those who were disciples of the disciples and such) judge me and my Christianity today – under the assumption that they would know better than John Calvin, Martin Luther, AW Tozer, Max Lucado, or the illustrious and well know biblical scholar James Ferrenberg.
This is what led me to the Orthodox Church. And this is also where I think the Orthodox Church can offer something of great substance to those seekers trying to escape modernism. First and foremost, as I pointed out, there is an alternative history, which stands outside of the common protestant/modernist take on the matter. It is a history ripe with a Christianity not seen in the west, not well understood by modernism, and certainly not much appreciated by our culture. It is a history that will both please and irritate postmodernist Christianity. And by the same token, the Orthodox Church offers an alternative theology, and I think this is a huge area where the postmodernist emerging church can reap some fantastic benefits – if for no other reason than because as I have read and listened to others it seems to me that postmodern Christian thought is simply 500 year old protestant theology repackaged more simply and tied with the bow of a new language. Otherwise, it is the same modernist Christianity.
Part six coming soon…
An Alternative Theology: Tradition and The Mysteries
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:15 AM [+]