Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Postmodern Transition...Between Something Real and Something Wrong!

Here we go again! Brian D. McLaren has posted the 96th Thesis and rejoined Martin Luther's invitation for a new discussion. As you recall Luther nailed a document to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany back in 1517 and his 95 provocative statements rocked the Middle Ages.

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology.... Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter."

McLaren begins his book A New Kind of Christianity describing his motivation..."Morning after morning I woke up in the brutal tension between something real and something wrong in Christian faith. The sense of something real kept me in ministry and in Christian faith; the sense of something wrong kept me looking for a way out. Somehow, by the grace of God, I held on to the something real long enough to begin to figure out what that something wrong might be. And eventually I began to get some sense of what to do to disentangle the one from the other, to hold on to the something real and let the other go."

With his spirituality intact he began to see that faith can transcend mere beliefs and what emerged was more a new way of believing rather than a rebuilt systems of beliefs.

He goes on to explain what he calls the "postmodern transition" from modernity where nearly all our Protestant denominations derived their institutional ethos in the first place: the mechanical universe of Sir Isaac Newton, the conquistadors, colonialism, the Enlightenment, nationalism and capitalism. In other words, our ancient Christian faith had been hijacked by a paradigm, framework or worldview shaped overwhelmingly by absolute scientific laws, consumerist individualism and rational certainty.

On the future side of the equation we have transitioned into a new postmodern realm of pluralism, relativism, globalism and ambiguity. Both modern Protestant branches of liberalism and conservatism were lost in the transition and in translation. McLaren states that both forms of modernist Christian faith were clueless in knowing and understanding the nonmodern and postmodern people outside their sanctuaries.

Roman Catholics were no better off and equally unable to evolve from their own medieval paradigms. They joined their Protestant brethren and made a similar bipolar adjustment, splintering into left/liberal and right/conservative parties that reacted to one another, while losing sight of the changing world outside their gated communities.

Harvey Cox, a Harvard Divinity School theologian speaks of the first era of Christianity (from Jesus through 300 CE) as the Age of Faith characterized by rapid growth, diversity, vitality, persecution, and courage. And that era ended under Roman emperor Constantine and the state alliance of Christianity with his Roman Empire. The unity of the church (and state) were promoted with creeds helping enforce submission to the emperor's regime.

This Greco-Romanization of faith codified belief as a tool of social control and the original catalytic faith of orthodox Judeo-Christianity and its three centuries of social transformation were effectively muted and diluted.

"Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliations, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable when anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question - a question about the divine right of kings, the origin of species, the relations between matter and energy, how races can and should relate to one another, the motion of planets, and the standard operating procedures used by the church."

Exactly my point! Perhaps it's time for another tipping point, another radical transformation, from"Here I stand!" to "Here we go again!" Not towards a new set of beliefs, but entirely fresh new ways of believing. In honor of Martin Luther, McLaren's 96th thesis is intended to generate new questions that inspire new conversations and ultimately launch believer's on a new quest.

"It is time for a new quest, launched by new questions, a quest across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith." A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

Stay tuned for the next blog highlighting his Ten Questions to stimulate responses: Preparations for the journey ahead.

Cheers, and enjoy the challenge! O'

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