In my previous post, I made a rather dramatic and scathing, to be honest, criticism of my evangelical background. I didn’t write that lightly as there was much from my evangelical background that I do cherish and think is important. It is such that if you were to engage me in many Biblical and theological discussions, you might
I am not the first one. One might even say I am somewhat late to the party. Even though I knew of my problems for a while, I couldn’t entirely disassociate myself from the evangelical identity. It wasn’t that I didn’t see the problems, but I didn’t know the right direction to go. So, I considered myself marginally identified with evangelicals as I engaged what could be described as a personal reimagining of Christian faith. It was only as I knew where I was going that I could finally say it isn’t the evangelical direction.
Of course, many people have talked about reimagining the Christian throughout the past few years, across the theological spectrum from evangelicals to progressives. But, as can clearly be seen, there are very different results in the Christian reimagination as evangelicals and progressive reimaginations have come up with a
You might classify the evangelical reimagination as reapplication of the Christian message. A common motto is that the message of Christ remains the same but the way you express it changes. The question here pertains to how you can apply the same doctrinal teachings and the same ethical and spiritual principles to a different context. This version would see that the Christian churches of the past have become stale as the times have changed, so one has to figure out how to live in a new era. This form of reimagination has a past orientation, looking to the past for foundations that provide the answers for the future.
Another form of reimagination that can be associated with progressives and many
But, there is something that is held in common with the reapplication and revision forms of reimagination: the new imagination emerges as a result of our thinking, whether it be thinking about the doctrines of the
However, there is a third way of reimagining
Consider the disciples waiting in Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus. These are disciples who had heard time and time again the words of the Torah and the message of the prophets. They walked alongside Jesus. But there were told to wait. Meanwhile, they were anxiously wanting to know what the future held in store because Jesus had been raised from the dead: is it now that their political world would be set right? But they were told that wasn’t something they should now. Neither knowing what happened in the past was sufficient to prepare the disciples, nor was a sense of the future given to them to direct them.
But, when the Holy Spirit fell upon them as in the days of Pentecost, they suddenly had words to speak as Peter gave a sermon that connecting this present, in the moment outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a sign of the present age being under the rule of Jesus Christ. It was after the Spirit had been poured that they proclaimed the message that made sense of who Jesus is and the significance of His death and resurrection. Through knowing Jesus and through the pouring of the Spirit, the disciples discovered the message of God’s Kingdom, even as they did not know what the future would have in store.
Thus, as we see the Christian faith undergoing many tensions and pressures today in the West, some have tried to reapply the message, some have tried to revise the message. But another option is to rediscover, to linger and wait where we are at for God to show us the way to go.
In rediscovery, we discover what the message applies to before trying to reapply the message. In rediscovery, we discover what the message is pointing towards to before trying to figure out what direction we are to head. Then can past and future can be brought together.
But to get here, it will take a caution about our attempts to reimagine based upon our own analysis from past to the future or future to the past. By starting from our own thinking, we will inevitably pick an Archimedean point to start from that everything new will encircle if we hope to have any sort of coherent message. This is unavoidable. But we have no way we can rationally analyze what Archimedean point we should start from without assuming an Archimedean point. And there are a
A coherent message that represents God’s
So if we place too much trust in our own theological and ethical reasoning and analysis, we won’t be satisfied to wait. We won’t be open to receive. We will be ready to go now.
However, at the same time, if we disengage from theological and ethical reasoning and analysis in some sort of apathetic mood, raising our hands up in exhaustion rather than prayer, we won’t be ready to make sense of what we receive. Discovery happens because you can receive what you discover, but if you are unaware you will remain unaware.
Rediscovery doesn’t abandon understanding the past or the future, but it simply says: only by your will God will we understand rightly. Only by the action of God in Christ and through the Spirit will we comprehend.