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Friday, February 09, 2007

Mushy Brains

Well, class is finally over for the weekend. After 5 intense days of systematic theology, I think I can safely say that my brain has been overloaded and turned to mush. It will take the weekend at least to return to a normal state of functioning! I hope that you've enjoyed this journey through theology and all of the questions it brings up and asks us to consider. Honestly, I just hope a few people have actually read this! If you are reading, I encourage you to participate by leaving a comment or question. In this way, we can dialogue back and forth and learn from one another.

I'll close the week with the idea that closed our class time. The main point is that every theology and Christian system is influenced by the context and culture in which it is presented. Because theology and terminology will differ from culture to culture, you have to decide how you will approach your individual culture. We looked at a chart with the far left hand side being "liberal and inclusive" and the far right hand side being "conservative and exclusive." On the one extreme, culture is viewed as completely good and healthy. In this view, the gospel is merely brought forward as a way to enhance an already meaningful way of life. On the other extreme, culture is seen as being evil and corrupt. In such a case, the gospel is taken to people in order to rescue them out of evil and bring them safely into a new culture.

By and large, Christianity in America has camped out on the far right- viewing society and culture as the fallen by-product of fallen humanity, and so we establish fort-like churches where we can shelter and protect people who are set free. I think there is something to be said for this idea, but by and large we have so sheltered ourselves within our own "holy" culture that the message just can't get out. The world passes by in front of us- within easy reach but out of touch to a church that no longer speaks their language. Now don't get me wrong- I also think it's a mistake to treat culture with arms wide open and unquestioningly accept all that it has to offer. But for those who seek to follow Christ, we need to move towards a greater degree of syncretism (harmony)with our society. Not to the level that the gospel is watered down or even worse changed, but to the level that we speak intelligently with people who have little or no knowledge of a Biblical worldview. To put it in the words of one author, "we need to start sitting in the smoking section." Ok, so most places have out-lawed smoking in public places, but you get the drift. Theology, doctrine, and apologetics are all wonderful and good, but if we can't speak the language of our culture, these ideas will never be heard by thsoe who could benefit from them most.

How do we do this? In the most simple of ways. Getting to know our neighbors. Taking in a community play. Hanging out at Starbucks past our bedtime. Watching a movie outside of our generational or genre preferences. Reading a book or buying a CD by a non-Christian author. In no way should these activities take the place of our spiritual disciplines, but being intentional to add them to our life can help us be relevant to the world around us.

Just my thoughts. Do you agree?

Enjoy the journey.



Anonymous said...

I agree, Nick, with what you are suggesting in the last paragraph. I believe we can have far greater influence in our world if we are creative, willing, and most of all intentional. What would happen if we all practiced this for a month? Who would we know better, what issues would we be more able to discuss, and what difference would we make? ~Ann

Anonymous said...

Ah, the old "being in the world, but not of the world" issue. I don't know how those in "danger" would ever get to know Christ if those of us who are "safe" always stayed in our own little community. There's this fear of the world (rightly so) but if we truly want to see the world changed, we HAVE to put OUR influence in to it. How will that happen if we only identify with what is "Christian"? It seems a rather simple question and answer, and yet still we either see that roadside preacher that freaks people out or we keep to our quiet little communities and never even attempt to communicate with those in the world.

How can we carry on a conversation if we don't even know what those outside the church are watching, reading, viewing or listening to??!! There are limits, of course, and each person should know what they can handle without being corrupted, but being a "Christian" doesn't mean only associating with one type of person, media, music, etc.

Just my thoughts :D


Pastor Nick said...

Ann and Britt-

Right on! As Bill Hybels would say, "Get the salt out of the shaker!"