Context: Church vs. Culture
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 1:23 PM [+]
So I’ve spent the better part of this morning in contemplation of this topic and the numerous comments made on the post from yesterday. No doubt many an important laboratory experiment will fail because of this…but what’s really important in life??? I am beginning to wonder more and more if I should not get out of science and pursue some sort of career in which I can ponder religious, historical, and social issues on a full-time basis. Can you see me holding a sign on a street corner: “Will ponder for food.”
Anyway, some thoughts on specific comments, especially in regards to being “Incarnational.” I am not sure that it is fair or correct to derive so much accessory information from the incarnation of our Lord, keeping in mind that He united Himself to us so that we might unite ourselves to Him (partakers of the Divine Nature). To infer that this action also carries with it the notion that we must embrace the culture in which we live, I think, may be a stretch.
St. Paul’s words about “becoming all to all” must also have some context (and I mean that in a sense greater than the verse before and after) and so I am not convinced that he was saying here that the Church should be wholly free form and ready to change radically per the whims of pop culture.
The concept of our modern (or post-modern if you prefer) culture being a missionary field does not fall on deaf ears here…indeed we must engage and converse with it...but we must also convert it and transfigure it, no?
With this in mind, something bigger stands to be discussed. Most of this morning, I was thinking of the Divine Liturgy which is obviously the big example of how set in our ways (some might rather say stagnant and irrelevant) we Orthodox are. While obviously undergoing some changes, it has, for the most part, remained the same for over 1000 years (maybe more?). Why no rock bands, variation, audio-visual shows or any of the other cool things other communities are doing to attract the religiously dispossessed? Don’t we wish to be seeker friendly? Aren’t we afraid we alienate unbelievers with our worship?
Consider this: In the ancient Church, unbelievers were not allowed at the Liturgy. Even catechumens were dismissed before the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist took place and were forbidden to witness it. (As many of you know, the words of dismissal often remain in some Orthodox Churches and most monasteries still maintain the practice of “kickin ‘em out.”) The point is this: there is a fundamentally different understanding of what is taking place on Sunday (or whatever day you may choose to break bread) mornings between the Orthodox Church and the Em Church. The Divine Liturgy is not intended to be an outreach or in any direct way an evangelistic event. (Though it certainly has functioned “accidentally” in such a capacity)
This is an odd thing for us former evangelicals who came to believe that every single service must have that aspect inbred in it…a call to make a decision for Christ was essential in the evangelical minds I was associated with. But the Divine Liturgy is for the Church, the faithful, the believers – to literally feed on and worship Christ. Much has been said on blogs and newsgroups about what Orthodox evangelism should be like and no doubt there are many opinions on this matter…but The Divine Liturgy does claim that as one of its “intents.” In my mind Orthodox evangelism takes place primarily in everyday living as I strive to live the Orthodox way of life from day to day (and it is in THIS realm that I believe St. Paul’s words on becoming all for all are most applicable).
In this same vein of thinking, the Divine Liturgy is not intended to entertain or “work” for us, rather it is intended to shape us…Clifton has some interesting points on this.