UPGRADING OUR FAITH #9, implications of upgrading our faith # 2

green-update-button-hiImplications of upgrading our faith Part 2

 Whenever you change something, there are ramifications not foreseen, especially in the Church of Jesus Christ. What follows are some of the implications of upgrading our faith to become more concurrent with the situation in which we live.

  1. Any new construct of theology must be visibly reflected in real LIFE. Taking a saying from the modern-era church , if correct belief produces correct action, then all the more so in a reformatted theology. “Faith without works is dead.” says James.  Or, as we say around our office—Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. Theological belief as a foundation, per se, will have to be reflected in the lives of people changed by the power of God. It cannot stand alone. A systematic or Biblical theology will never become irrelevant to forming the Christian life, but it will acquiesce to the demonstrated work of Christwithin the believer. LIFE will replicate Truth. We truly ARE forgiven.
  2. Building on the previous platform, living with forgiveness will require that we learn to grasp guiltless living. So many of my friends, who are far from Christian, comment that “You Christians may claim to be freed by the power of Christ, but you still come across as motivated, even driven, by guilt. At least I don’t live my life riddled with guilt.”  Therefore, they don’t see any advantage to becoming a Christian. They have a point. Unless we shift our “encouragement” from constantly reminding each other that we can never be good enough for God to one of being truly FREE in Christ, then we can never even begin to believe that our guilt is taken away. (Nor can they.) It’s time we started to live like God intends us—  guiltless before Him, truly forgiven, new creations, through the work of Christ on the cross.
  3. Once God has cleaned out your soul, cleared your spirit of so much stuff, a funny thing happens—  you can see things more clearly. In other words, having a clear view to God, and allowing Him to have a go at cleaning out your life, opens a window for you to gain a clear perception of things around you; like people, problems, life’s normal situations, and the effects of sin on life. When our spirits are clean before God, if we have accepted the forgiveness and freedom Jesus purchased for us on the cross, we can see His point of view and understand His way more clearly.  Living the Christian life then ceases to be a chore or a duty and becomes more like a great challenge or an adventure. In John 8, a woman caught in the act of adultery is thrown at Jesus feet.  The law said she should be stoned. Jesus takes the situation in hand by admonishing those calling for her stoning: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” After everyone has faded away, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers are. “There are none, Lord.” she replies. Jesus simply says “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He saw the forgiveness he would purchase on the cross and bestowed some of it on her… early. Do we see people who don’t understand, whose lives are driven by guilt, who think they can never measure up to the standards of God; do we see them like Jesus did? I wonder. We need to develop that same clear perception our Lord manifested if we are to live in the new realities of North America’spostModern, postChristian culture.
  4. A fourth characteristic of this new reality for the Christian is the need to be immersed in the surrounding society. But first a warning. To genuinely immerse yourself in your surrounding society, you need first to be a committed member of a Christian community. You need the emotional and spiritual support of like-minded believers who know the importance of being a clean, genuine Christian.  It is imperative if you are going to be immersed in a hostile (though somewhat passive-aggressive) society. Make no mistake, North America is adapting a more contrarian position to the Christian one on almost everything. There are so many preconceived assumptions about Christianity (judgmental, bigoted, racist, anti-environment, anti-abortion, pro-war, to name a few) that, at least in the area where we used to live, to answer the question Are you a Christian? in the positive could bring an extremely negative reaction. Before I answer it, I ask “Well, what do you mean by ‘Christian?’ That can be a somewhat pejorative word.” In your community, what would be an appropriate answer to the question—  Are you a Christian? What would the reaction most likely be? Most of us never find out. Why? Because for many of us, our lives come across as so marginally Christian that no one would think to ask. Still other Christians are so weird, out of it, dork-like even, that normal people in our society don’t want to know. We’ve already confirmed their suspicions.
  5. Oddly the last ingredient of faith in this new reality brings us full circle.  If people will not believe in a Truth they cannot see, then there must be some explanation provided for what they do see. In short, we need Christian explanations for the behavior of people who claim the name of Christ. This returns the Christian to become once again the student of the Bible and of the world. For any Christian explanation of a Biblical principle must be set forth in a manner which can be understood by Normal, everyday people. I said earlier that Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. That’s where belief hits reality. But action needs both context and explanation. We do not want postModerns thinking Christians are good people just to be good. The motivation to act must also be understood as well. It’s the why of life that gives our actions meaning and context. And for anyone who has had an experience with God (and many I have met have) it is absolutely tantamount that they understand their experience through the filter of Christian faith and Christian Truth. Their experience can only be validated through filtration and reflection in the Bible. To validate it through any other source would be to invalidate it as a genuine experience of God.

    Truly, it is time for an upgrade to our faith. It is time for a reformatting of how we believe. Postmodernism’s myths have forced us into it. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, how do we do it? How do we express our faith in the language, idioms, and formats of our culture and still present our faith in Christ as the only legitimate way to God? Well, that’s the next chapter. Read on if you dare. I mean that. For the next chapter will stretch you about how you perceive and present your life of faith to others. And it all starts inside your soul. Is all this feeling a little unnerving for you yet? Good.

NEXT— Tune in two weeks from now for—

Getting from Here to There: what to do, what to do…?

  Gary

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Clueless Christianity, #8- UPgrading Your Faith- #1

fish-upgradeUPGRADING OUR FAITH— reformatting the expressions of faith…, probably part 1.

     Innovations in inventions & language are changing at a rate that has accelerated beyond being measurable. Ever notice that within a month (or week) of purchasing a new App for your laptop or smartphone, you receive notification that it has an update.

            The same is true in the exchange between the church and the world. When James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) went to China in 1854, he had much to learn. As with most foreign missionaries of that era he first had to learn the language. Through careful observation he continued to learn about cultural mores, kinship relationships, and the subtleties of cultural protocol and nuance. He learned how to dress appropriately so he would be more approachable, in the clothing of his host culture. He had to learn how to communicate the Christian faith to the Chinese culture within a Chinese framework. But the biggest shift Taylor had to make was that of expressing his own faith in a Chinese format. Western formats of faith would have been inappropriate here.

    Though cultural changes and shifts have accelerated at increased velocity Western cultural expressions of faith are just now catching up. This International evangelistic program known as ALPHA is highly successful in communicating the basics of the Christian faith worldwide. It’s a great experience, where great food and growing friendships abound. But…! I spoke with a youth worker who was also attending, and was not surprised when he told me, “This is great, but I cannot use it with my kids.” Why? I asked. “Because it answers questions that are totally foreign to their thinking.”

     This early 21st century finds us in a time where Christian leaders need to reexamine the premises of our faith. This is not a challenge to the Bible or questioning its authority:  it is reassessing, a repositioning, if you will, of how we approach the Bible as our founding source. The theological constructs of the past had no need to deal with the new definitions of life prevalent in North American today. Former approaches to the Bible were couched in concerns for the issues of their day. The Church in North America needs to address our present culture’s felt needs, pluralities, diversities, and philosophical fancies, and then implement a new kind of Christianity appropriate to the expressions and approaches to life of our time.

     What are the foundational premises we need to establish for a vibrant Christian faith to flourish in our generation?  These are the non-negotiables in the next wave of Christian life and expression in western society.

  1. The nature, purpose, and rubric of Christian theology need to be reformatted to fit this present cultural, generational, western society. I am sure you are aware that in any era, ALL theology happens through the interplay between the church, the culture, and the Bible. [Of course, individual personalities, personal positioning and church power politics are also a great part of the mix.]

     The last major theological construct in western society was Reformed Theology, circa 1517/1520. This theology grew out of a sense of injustice in the way clergy represented the faith to the people of Western Europe. Martin Luther’s cry was “The just shall live by faith!” and nothing else. Though that is still very true, the issues of North America in this 21st century are much more multifaceted. Time for an upgrade?

  1. The Christian community and individual believers alike need to start living their lives as if they were truly forgiven by God. One winter, NEED’s CHINA Consultant, attended an Emergent Convention in San Diego. Upon her return I asked her opinion of the conference. To my surprise she said she was confronted with her own reticence to accept Christ’s forgiveness for her sins and to stop feeding her guilt. She never believed that she was truly forgiven. Today, she is a different person with far more freedom in her life, and a freedom to fail before God, again…, and to be forgiven, again.

     For whatever reason, so much of the Christian faith is about doing more to assuage your guilt and/or to prove yourself to God as worthy [i.e., being moral]. Please, people, it’s time we trust in God and stop this nonsense. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming again.” Is this true? Isn’t this enough!? Isn’t this what is proclaimed every time we celebrate Holy Communion? CELEBRATION!? Everything that is necessary for us to be reinstated into a relationship with the God who made us has been accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. We are forgiven. This is foundational to the Christian life; without forgiveness there is only fruitless.

  1. Building on a new sense of genuine forgiveness, we must move to the holiness granted us by God. God declares us to be HOLY. Therefore, holiness too, becomes for the genuine Christian, foundational.  I’ve often wondered if holiness isn’t more of a platform for launching the Christian life than a goal to be striven toward. In my own life I have carried on a conversation with God that runs something like this—

“Now come on God, how can you declare me holy. You know my life. I know my life. There is just no way I am a holy person. So how can you declare that I am holy?” And the Lord God of the Universe would reply, “Listen to me, my son. Through Jesus I have declared you holy. Now live like it.” End of scenario.

     He has declared us holy…, live with it. We are still to seek after God and personal holiness; but we must always remember that He has already declared us holy…, as odd as that may sound. Therefore, living as if we hold within us a clean spirit is essential to any new foundation of the Christian life.

  1. The Body of Christ must truly become the Body of Christ. Commitment to Christian community is foundational to twenty-first century faith. Yet so many of us live in isolation, with little commitment to a church or even to a small group of believers. We need to be more a part of each other’s lives in a society where there is so much pain and fragmentation. Any profile of the Millennial/Mosaic generation reinforces the need for genuine Christian community. And that community might not be defined in terms of your immediate geography. Thanks to the marvels of our postmodern, technological society, our “community” can be pin-boarded on a worldwide map. My personal community also extends to places around the world. Our world has shrunk!

You know the mantra think globally, act locally? Well, it’s changed—think locally, think globally now act locally, act globally too. We are all part of something bigger than we could ever have imagined 35 years ago. The answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” has grown exponentially.

  1. The last foundational premise is the power of God, which is able to draw unbelievers into relationship with their Creator. He alone is the author and designer of life: he alone has the power to bring people into a relationship with himself. Remember, God’s Word, though foundational for all we believe, is still purely a historical recounting of the descriptions of the works of God on earth. It is not simply that Truth brings people to life— it is the Author of Truth Himself who does. Any new foundation for emerging generations of believers must be founded, not on Truth alone, but on real life encounters with God, on the God of the Bible who stands behind the Bible. We all must learn to trust in our experiences of God as much as we do in our beliefs about God (the Bible); one is validated by the other. This past year a local teenager came to me with a question. “What is a Christian?” A somewhat odd question from a liberal-based youth culture. So I responded with questions— What is your interest in Christian faith? Why do you want to know? What happened to you?  It was then that he launched into monologue about dreams and experiences he had gone through recently. He called them encounters— encounters with God. I described the context for Christian faith in creation, the context for Christ’s death to fulfill the requirements of Jewish law, the mark of His deity verified in His resurrection, His call to repentance and trust. [Not using those words, of course.] In essence I was explaining the Christian faith as the context for his experiences. He responded, “Oh, that’s it…, that’s what happened to me! This is great! I’m a Christian aren’t I!?” And so he was.  For postmodern, experience-based individuals will not believe in Truth alone.  This istheir way to come to faith; until they see it working its way out in people’s lives, Truth is no more than descriptive words. But when they see Christian life lived, and the power of God demonstrated in other peoples’ lives, and subsequently experience it in their own lives, then, our Biblical explanations have a context—  they make sense. Frankly, I find this amazingly wholistic.

     These Foundational Premises lay the groundwork for a new kind of freedom wherein Christians can grow and flourish with less spiritual baggage, less ecclesiastical classification, and less theological fuss. If implemented, these premises create a framework for us to explore new and different avenues of Christian life and thought. Each Foundational Premise, in turn, evokes an ensuing response that must be joined with its principle, and implemented. Do you think you’ve got that? Sorry to be so obtuse; this form of thinking doesn’t exactly proceed along linear/sequential lines.

NEXT— Implications of UPgrading

  Gary

BEING a CHRISTIAN in a NEW ERA— it’s a generational thing. Part 2

2167097486_cac6eb6a70_bWe need to focus more tightly on an important question—

     How will we have to change to fit the changes that are taking place all around us? What will we need to look like so we will still be identifiable as genuine followers of Jesus Christ as our culture understands less and less about true, Biblical Christian faith?

     My thoughts… .

  1. A Rich Faith in Christ– No matter what our generation or culture, our emphasis on having a quality faith must remain constant— a deep trust in Jesus Christ that works its way through our everyday decisions and practices. There is no room for a superficial faith that puts on a pious façade and a smiley face.
  2. A Generationally Specific Character– Parents are always trying to force their teenagers to express their faith in the same way that they do (or did). How much better would it be if parents helped their teenagers develop a faith that reflected their own generational formats of expression? Many 50 year-old+ Christians hold propositional truth and understanding the Bible to be the underpinning of their faith. People 30 and under, generally, think in music. They image their faith in God as a set of experiences, and find in the Bible a context to explain their realities.
  3. A Generationally Sensitive Interface– There are a lot of TV shows that picture a generation of mostly young people living in a place seemingly devoid of anyone older or younger; no older adults, no grandparents, no children or babies. We live in a world of juxtapositions where different philosophies, penchants and personalities coexist side by side, spanning the generations. We need to learn to live with each other; but the ability to love someone different from yourself is no small task. We need to make a commitment of time to be with people different from ourselves. In my life both older and younger people have brought the voice of God to me in a ways I was not used to.
  4. Ageless– If any inter-generational connection is to be forged, it is necessary for Christians of every age to adapt to the relational and communication patterns of those outside their own group. This new kind of Christian will have to be intergenerational, adaptable, able to express their faith in more forms than just their own. Two personal inspirations to me are two, older, life-long friends who live in Jackson Hole, WY.  They are wild about God, people, and life! If the older generations can turn up the volume (or turn it down,) and listen to younger generations, if millennials can turn down their ear-buds and listen to the older generations, what might the shapes of our faith look like?
  5. A Culturally Adaptable Faith Expression– Pluralism has attuned us to be sensitive to dissimilar cultural value-expressions other than those of our personal heritage. Style of dress, dance, music, food, and the language mix have turned North America into a multi-culture with life expressions galore. People are used to dining out in whatever culinary culture they fancy— Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, etc. Just scroll through any radio display and you will hear as many music styles as there are languages. So also should the new kind of Christian be able to adjust the expression of his/her faith to fit the surrounding culture, inside and outside of the church. When I worked with the Episcopal Church I had to learn new ways of expressing my faith, ways that were unfamiliar to me. At one point a priest approached me and commented, “I just don’t know how you can pray so earnestly without reading it!” [~from the Prayer Book]. New ground.

It is paramount for new kinds of Christians to adapt their faith both to the new expressions within the church as well as to express it to a new generation (versus explain it) outside the church.

  1. A Musically Acclimated Faith– Music is such a powerful expression of every culture of the West that it deserves special attention. One key expression is that younger generations think in music. They do not bifurcate or separate words from music, even though in making music the two are kept separate at first, then blended.

     New kinds of Christians will have to learn to express their faith and their beliefs musically. And in different genres of music— from rap to country, hip-hop to soft jazz, classical to well, something that’s probably just going pop up while you’re reading this sentence. But it’s not just music expressing faith and belief that must come of age. The structuring and shape of theology itself needs to go through an overhaul and be upgraded. And whatever it is will be something worth dancing to! Maybe it is time we stopped analyzing so much and started dancing. Turn up the volume!

  1. A Community Entrenched Faith- So many of us live our lives of faith within the church walls that we have forgotten how to be part of the world outside. We have taught for too long that we must break all ties with our former life, friends, and activities. Even Jesus didn’t spend as much time inchurch as we do. He mixed it up with people who thought they were religious, knew they weren’t, and some who didn’t care that much. ALL generations of new Christians must make an effort to include people outside the church in their daily walks of faith…, on their turf.

     But the story hasn’t come to its end yet. We still don’t know how this new mix will come out. Still, we have the privilege of writing a new design for the new church, of expressing our Christian faith in a way that is founded on its past, and in our Lord Jesus Christ; but we also have the privilege of writing the script for the new Broadway play of faith for this new generation, and all the world to see.

NEXT— UpGrading Your Faith

  Gary

BEING a CHRISTIAN in a NEW ERA— it’s a generational thing. Part 1

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“We must become what we seek to create.”— Mohandas Karamchang Ghandi

(Oct 2, 1869 – Jan. 30, 1948  —assassinated on his way to evening prayers.)

     The fact of the matter is that people are different now. Young people find it difficult to relate to the church’s way of doing things. When family structures and society were more stable people did come to church to find answers, to find community, to worship God in a traditional manner. But the breakdown of our society, the dissolution of so many marriages, the Iraq wars, renewed racial conflicts, 9/11, the 2008 financial collapse, and our present political conundrum, have all contributed to the fragmentation of society and isolation of the generations. We have ceased to learn from the older and wiser; this alone constitutes a major fracture in our family cohesion. And thanks to the Baby-Boom of 1946-1964, YOUTH CULTURE (their children) does, in fact, dominate our world.

So when young people ages 14-25 come to church what do they find, generally?[i] They find a shape of Christianity virtually irrelevant to their virtual realities. They find a pyramid power structure contrary to their relationally oriented networked reality. They find generational separation. They find “lecture style” instruction. This is NOT true of every church; but it is true of far too many.

But fear not! Facebook has now has 2.3 billion subscribers, bringing us all back together…, maybe, sorta.  In recent years, more of the Silent Generation is flocking to Facebook to see their grandchildren. So their kids are fleeing for their lives to Instagram and Snapchat. If the Church could do anything to correct this generational drift, it should re-kindle intergenerational relationships; not online, but face to face.

Two American sociologists, Neil Howe and William Strauss, have categorized our generational differences in ways that might also be helpful in our understanding of those differences and in the efforts to bridge the gaps between us… and them. Check out MILLENNIALS RISING: the next great generation, (Randon House; New York, 2000). In essence, generational characteristics must be taken into account when any presentation of the Christian faith is expressed. If they are not considered, both our communication of the faith and its comprehension levels drop into the abyss of vacuity.

The Question for us becomes— How will I express my Christian faith in a way that is appropriate to my culture, to my generation, yet sensitive to other forms of expression, as well as to the world at-large?  In the church context—  how should my worship honor God in the Body of Christ?

Between early 2005 and 2015 NEEDinc conducted a series of interviews with genuine Christians across North America [“Genuine” being defined as a faith whose principles influenced at least 75% of their daily activities]. Each interviewee was drawn from a different generational grouping; each expressed answers to the interview questions in a manner with which they were comfortable.

What we learned from the interviews surprised us a little.

  1. Some saw church as central to their Christian worship while others did not. A common frustration and disappointment in the state of the church crossed all generational lines.
  2. Though all were genuine believers and held a rich faith in Christ, they expressed that faith through worship, music, and societal involvement in different ways and to different extents. This observation followed generational lines and complied with their peer group expressions.
  3. Though younger generations held a respect for their elder’s expressions of faith, it was not reciprocated. Older believers knew little about the formats and subtleties of twenty-somethingexpressions of faith. They judged the younger generation’s faith too emotion-based, too relational, and not grounded enough in a Biblical, comprehensive worldview.
  4. Everyone was willing to consider the other person’s faith expression…, in theory. In practice, well, that didn’t work out so well. “Getting together” at all was the first hurdle to overcome.
  5. ALL considered themselves in process; that is, they understood they were each at different places in their spiritual journey and had much growing yet to come.

Reflection

How would you respond to these five observations? How would you imagine older/younger Christians responding? What commonalities have you observed between different generations of Christians? What issues do you believe still exist between diverse generations? What passions might they share in common? How might different generations of genuine Christians teach each other about their own individual expressions of faith?

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era—  Part 2

Gary

[i] I am well aware that to employ the phrase “churches generally,” is impossible. What is at stake here is the general reaction of unchurched youth to traditional Christian worship, whether or not they employ more contemporary worship music.

[Note— If you can find a copy of James O. Gollub’s THE DECADE MATRIX: why the decade you were born into made you what you are today (Addison Wesley Publishing, Reading, MA, 1991), currently out of print, you will learn that the title just about says it all.]

 

OF PASSION & PROPOSITIONS: growing a non-balanced faith

6874balance_scale     When I was in the final stages of producing my doctoral dissertation I ate out a lot. Escapism, most likely. During one such luncheon at Panda East, a Chinese restaurant in Amherst, MA, I opened a fortune cookie which read— Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without passion. I thought of some of the great names throughout history for whom this proverb has proven true— Hammurabi, Moses, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Christopher Columbus, Albert Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan— all were driven by passion and tenacity to accomplish something beyond themselves.

     Yet, the church in North America seems driven by balance— balance in life, in our families, in faith, in our behavior— moderation in all things, no rocking the boat. Straight-forward, rational explanations of life should suffice to renew the mind and focus our resolve. It is almost as if being out of balance, or slightly extreme in any way, is viewed as the real threat to the church and to the stability of our individual faith.

     But if Truth is primarily personal (though certainly not exclusively), found in the Person of Jesus Christ, there are some very critical implications for us that impact our Christian lives, balanced or otherwise, and how we exhibit our faith to others. This will probably flip me from the frying pan into the fire, but it is time we examined belief and emotion in light of Scripture. After a great deal of scrutiny, I must admit that I do not find a lot of only believe-ism in the Bible.

     In many churches across America, there are large banners running across the front or the back of the sanctuary— TO KNOW CHRIST AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN. Now hear me out on this one. I find no fault with this banner. But I do find it curious that it seems to be all about the knowing. It is assumed that everything else will flow out of that, even the “making him known” part. There are many churches that excel in fulfilling the first part: teaching their members to know a great deal about their faith.  But I find very few exerting much effort in training their members to fulfill the second part: making Him known (to those outside the church). Most sorrowfully, our interface with those outside the church has become solely an effort to pass on the information about Christ, rather than any genuine immersion in the lives of normal people.

     Why is this? I fear it might be due to our fear of the outside, or, much worse, a simple desire to remain in control. If we learn anything in our walks of faith it must be that God is in control…, not us. I’ve often wondered if the failure of our evangelical culture in the West to be part of our culture is that we fear being out of control.

     We need to learn to grow a nonbalanced faith: one where God is in control, where we don’t have all the answers, in which our passion for people, and for our Lord, takes over our whole being. For reference, I point you to an account of the revival of religion in Northampton in 1740-1742 as was reported in “The State of Religion at Northampton in the County of Hampshire, About 100 Miles Westward of Boston.” The letter was published in The Christian History, January 14, 21, and 28, 1743, written by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, [ http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/jeaccnt.htm ].

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era:  it’s a generational thing.

Balancing my faith on one foot…, now the other one; whoops,

  Gary

Rethinking Thinking: the non-propositional nature of truth

reflection  “Cogito ergo sum.” (I think therefore I exist.)—Rene Decartes

  “Cogito ergo sum…, cogito.” (I think therefore I exist…, I think.)—unknown, I think

     By now you’re probably thinking—

     “Okay, are you suggesting that the way Christians have thought about their faith for hundreds of years no longer fits this postChristian culture? And what about this non-propositional Truth stuff? This is getting more than a little weird.” And you’d be right.

     Actually, all Christians throughout history have articulated their faith differently, depending upon individual cultural setting. Some expressions are more experiential than theological; some are more communally based than hierarchical; some have a minimal understanding of the theology of their faith but hold a deep commitment to Christ in what theydo know. So as we rethink the thinking about our faith in early 21st Century North American culture, we must be careful to not create an assumption that things “have always been the same.” They have not. We must to be willing to reexamine our present-day view of the Christian faith and how it is expressed and understood in this generation.

 “Two different worlds…, we live in two different worlds.”

     Any assertion of “Absolute Truth” accepted broadly in the Modern Era (1450-1970) is now met with skepticism, if not blatant disdain. TRUTH is what you decide it is. Thank God the people who engineer our cars and airplanes and computers haven’t given into this fallacy. At the same time, Christians have known for two millennia that Truth is as muchPersonal as it is Propositional. When Christ said “I am the way, the Truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me,.” [John 14:6] he pretty much wrapped it up within his Person.

     But postChristians weave a web of thoughts & ideas & life philosophies that don’t necessarily need to hang together in any cohesive manner. They just are— existing in-and-of their self, to be accessed when needed to prove a point, solve a mental problem, or cope with a stressful life situation. Other than that, the ideas, intuitions, reflections or beliefs sit unattended and dormant while life goes on, waiting for something to happen (as opposed to making something happen) to awaken a need for their resurgence.

     For postChristians, truth exists in relationship; and in many respects they are right. This ideology can help them relate to the Truth, for Truth is found in a relationship with Christ, and with this world the way he set it up. Remember the movie Gravity? Einstein got so much so right.

            Now, in a very real sense, the whole process of thinking has been rethought. In the logical universe of the Modern era, things had to make sense logically-sequentially, supporting the discoveries of science and the dictates of logic. That is no longer the case: our trust in reason and logic to provide us with the answers to life’s riddles and mysteries is, for the most part, gone (albeit some still believe “Science” will answer ALL our questions about life…, eventually). Still, there is a logic to postChristian thought. It is based in life experience, in intuition, and in relationship.

     Christian thought has always been tied to the person of Jesus Christ. So, in every sense of the word, Christian Truth must be logical, personal & relational, wrapped around the work of Christ on the Cross; the final barrier keeping us from reestablishing a relationship with the Father could be eliminated. He paid the penalty to satisfy the consequences of breaking God’s law, of stepping outside of his perimeters of protection for us; thus there is now a possibility that we can be made whole again, in full, rich relationship with the God who made us, and with the world around us. If that doesn’t kick ass I don’t know what does!

     In a very real sense, Truth must be as much Personal as it is Propositional to make everything work

NEXT— Of Passion & Propositions:  growing a non-balanced faith.

Think about it. Or, er, rethink about it.
Gary

Ready, Fire, Aim!

merida_disney The rate of change during the twentieth century had a greater velocity than any century before. The certainty of how things worked was based on the assumption of continuous change— that is, that things change, but they have some connection to what has gone before.

     We are now in a transition of discontinuous change— that is, too much has changed, so rapidly, that it has little to NO connection to what has gone before. We have been in a paradigm shift from what was to whatever is to become.

     If you feel like you can’t seem to keep up, well, you’re right. You can’t. In industry, technology, communication, and nations it is no longer READY, AIM, FIRE. From here on out it’s READY…, FIRE…, AIM. 

     Let’s take a look at some of the sign posts that mark this present time period. Most scholars deem this era a postChristian era.

  1. postChristians trust in their own judgment rather than in traditional authority or group consensus.

            People no longer trust in BIG— organizations, traditional institutions (read the church), or business. Judgment starts and stops with ME.

  1. Young people conform to their generational peer values.

            The TV show FRIENDS was a fair representation of this. (Binge watch them all on NETFLIX.) Or, NEW GIRL, with Zoe Deschanel. Amidst the convolution of individualism and personal values there remains this hunger to be accepted. They are upbeat, positive, and do not like to be compared with older generations. Actually, they do not like to be labeled at all.

  1. Today’s generation seeks meaning in service, doing, living-life vs. becoming couch potatoes.

            They want to be part of a thriving, working society.  They want to make a difference in our world, they want to have an impact, leave a mark. They are not as rebellious as Boomers or later Busters (GenX). With no internal guidelines to provide perimeters for behavior, most perceive life as a challenge to be figured out, conquered, and shaped.

  1. Postmoderns are more visual than linear-sequential. They “think” in music. They visualize life more than they analyze it.

The emerging generation in this early twenty-first century have grown up with TV, DVDs (now passe), YouTube, Gaming, Smartphones, Snapchat; and 3D movies with special FX. All has evolved to produce a truly visually-connected generation. “Imaging” a reality makes more sense than stating that reality in a logical, linear form. Words have lost their reference points for most of this generation; unless they represent a visual image in their mental milieu.

  1. Twentysomethings create personal truth-value systems to make sense of life.

Having witnessed moral failures in the church and the ethical failures of our government and sports figures, most have lost all their confidence in external institutions to provide them with a basis for making sense of life. So they look within themselves to create truth-value systems that need only work for one individual, myself. They bond with other like-minded individuals intimately. Oh, you believe in a god/God?  That’s great; I’m glad it works for you.  My personal truths/beliefs work for me too. ‘Nough said.

  1. Emerging leaders value experience-based truth over propositionally proclaimed truth.

One of the byproducts of an exclusive reliance on personal truth-value systems is an eventual abhorrence for anything nailed down, especially written. Writing something down makes it binding, authoritative, final. They want to move with the flow, the immediate, the next, and the synthesis of the experiences and insights of life. Propositionally stated truth usually flows out of institutional conclaves; they are not to be trusted. Personal experience is the producer of truth and Truth (if there really is the latter).

  1. They seek a spirituality within as a Life-Reference point, rather than outside of their inner world.

In a conversation with one of my 20-something friends I was taken back by his surprise that I “needed a god” to support my spiritual self. He responded,“I don’t feel any need for an external reference point for my spirituality. It comes from within.” postChristians hold little confidence in historical religions, especially Christianity. Not only do religions write everything down, they are insistent on the supremacy of words over life. Thus the church makes little sense to them. “Christians don’t seem capable of living life.

  1. Our emerging culture resonates with transparent, caring people whose lives reflect an inner integrity.

Well, frankly, who doesn’t like these kinds of people? They have a lightness about them that is infectious. Whether it is from some inner urge to escape and play or a zest for experiences that radiate with life they inspire those around them. But they don’t put up with any crap; they don’t play the games of social niceties. They expect those they meet to be up front with them, honest about life, open with their ideas, even when it might elicit disagreement. They resonate with positive, upbeat, transparent people in any age category. (Informing them that they are sinners before a Holy God is NOT an understandable starting point. So, what would be?)

  1. PostChristians are very picky about how and with whom they spend their free time.

Got any free time with nothing to do? Right, neither do I. So also with the postmodern set. Life is f-u-l-l, VERY FULL! Every given chunk of time is packed with work, play, and appointments; going, going, going more and more and gone. The work-force set has very little time: take a number. The college/grad school set can’t pack any more into their lives. And the junior/senior high school crew should really use the calendar sections on their cell-phones. Get the picture? If not…“have a good-one.

So… !? How can the Christian message ever make it into the lives of people who don’t trust traditional institutions, especially the church, don’t relate to linear/sequential propositional Truth, who construct value systems based on their own experiences (exclusively), who don’t like the arrogant authority of written codes and beliefs, and who find a spirituality within themselves with no sense of a need for any external reference point? AND they don’t have any time for you. Does the word conundrum come to mind? Hummm.

            Well, please forgive me, but this conundrum excites me! What a great time to be a Christian in western society! We are truly living in a postChristian era— a culture that thinks of institutional Christianity as having already been tried— and found wanting. So much has changed. If you are a Christian, and you are alive, you have an opportunity to make one of the greatest contributions to human history— to participate in reshaping the interface between the Christian world and our postChristian culture.  You’ve gotta love it!

So, again, now what?!? READY! FIRE! AIM! Absolutely!

  Gary