Emerging/Emergent Trait 2: Transforming Secular Space - Sept 15

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Description: Here the goal and value is to challenge the sacred/secular divide that is a part of modern Western culture. This is said to result in a new ecclesiology where all space is sacred or at least claimed to be sacred, making all of life sacred. Secularization has created a spiritual vacuum and a need for integration in life. A result of this was the breaking up of life into categories, organization, and systematization. So E/E is generally hesitant about structures that are overly organized or systematized. Thus they see purpose driven, seeker or Gen X churches as still driven by such a dualism and its effects. All space can be given to God as holy. There is a rejection of linear thinking and expression to more nonlinear expression. "Truth is not simply a set of abstract ideas; it walks and talks." Reality is perceived in multiple ways. So in a service music or video may be in the background, artwork is observed, something else participatory may be taking place as teaching is going on. There is a move away from using the Bible and arguing about its consistency. "It is hard to repent from foundationalism. Once enlightened, you can never go back, because certainty is such a warm blanket in which to wrap yourself." the goal is to read the Bible without the presuppositions and restricted vision of modernity (which I believe means, reading it with a certainty that a case can be made for it and that one interpretation is a goal). There is worry about reading the Bible as a book with one voice, rather than having many voices. The Bible is not a jigsaw puzzle to be put together but a painting to be appreciated. There is a desire to move in a visual direction versus engaged in rather than in an elite print culture. All of life is to be embraced as topics of the spiritual. The desire is to encounter God in symbols, icons, and sacraments-- not just in words or emotions. So there is use of paintings, slides, drawings and candles, as well as video and TV clips. There is a goal not to react to culture defensively but to engage it as an insider. A goal is to bring the real world into the church and enable God to be encountered back in the real world. So they can meet in a warehouse, club or a pub as well as in a church. Worship is very collective and less focused on one or two people leading. They use common expression, not technical vocabulary. There is a use of the senses, which is why candles or other ritual acts (like making the sign of the cross) appear. They desire to point to God from life within the culture, livign a life of evangelism among those they hope to reach. Prayer, silence and liturgy are as prominent as music for worship. Evaluation: Once again, much that is said here is good, especially the challenge of the creation of secular space. One must appreciate what led to the creation of secular space. It was, in part, the tendency of those of religious persuasion to try and impose their specific model of religion on others, a process that also led to devastating wars in Europe for centuries, when that religious faith was combined with the political power of the state. So as the sacred is reintroduced, one must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of old and to recognize that in a pluralistic context some structures are probably best to be "secular" even if one's life is not to be lived that way. Nonetheless, the idea of a 24/7 sacredness to life is precisely what Scripture calls for as believers look to examine how they live. It is not only the church building that possesses sacred space; life itself is sacred. This is a natural outgrowth of an appreciation for God's omnipresence and his role as creator of life. The discussion about foundationalism and the Bible is a crucial one. Here is where some of my greatest concerns lie with some expressions of E/E. The wedding of the Bible and certainty is a good warning in that there is a difference between what the Bible is as God's word, and what my understanding of it is, which is subject to my own possible misreading of Scripture. But I wonder if this recasting of the Bible risks going too far. A move away from the conceptual and theological worldview-shaping role of Scripture is a problem for gaining spiritual maturity as the Word has always been central to God's people (e.g., Ps 119; 2 Tim 3:15-17). I have tried to examine this issue carefully while appreciating some of what postmodernism says to modern culture in chapter 1 of my Purpose Directed Theology. I have raised the question if there can be such a thing as a biblical foundationalism, a "soft" foundationalism, that is not based on certainty, which is the key objection of those who challenge foundationalism (for finite beings cannot achieve such absolute certainty and to sense one has it means becoming cut off from seeking to learn). Can there be a recognition that as the Word of God the Bible has a right to speak from a position of privilege and yes, even authority, versus all other forms of communication? The soft part of foundationalism I argue for also recognizes that as readers we make judgments about what the Bible teaches, making community in biblical dialogue important. Nonetheless, the goal is to learn to see the world as God has and to see an ultimate unity in Scripture and not just a cacophony of voices that can lead to confusion, disengagement from reflecting on Scripture, or merely choosing the bits of Scripture we like and ignoring the rest because it is another voice. So keeping the study and reflection on the Bible central to our communities is an important, even a core value, for the church. So is an affirmation that one Author ultimately stands behind it. In Judaism and Christianity of the centuries, the centrality of Scripture has always been the case in the context of worship. Here the centuries, both pre-modern and modern, may well have something to teach us. The E/E's exploration of various ways to communicate and worship is also helpful, especially as it seeks to engage the worshipper in participation in worship versus a mere passive reception and as it presses for more than the use of the mind.

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