Thoughts on the Future...

Well, here I am, one day before my wedding. My beautiful bride-to-be is frantic, running around, trying to tie up loose ends. I'm left to my own devices, and I couple of thoughts about the future of the church have run into my brain. I thought I would share. For better-articulated thoughts on the same subjects, check out Brian McLaren's "The Church on the Other Side!"

Looking Ahead (Farther Ahead)

One of the most striking dangers I see with the church's shift from modernism to postmodernism is a tendency to want to say, "once we get there," or maybe, "good, now that we're here," or, "I'm glad that's over with. NOW we can get BACK to doing church."

The most important decision the church could make during this time of transition might be choosing to remain in transition. Once we have acclimated to postmodernism, post-colonialism, emergence, post-whatever else, will we kick up our cool retro-black-euro-boots and say, "the job is done, we made it," or do we say: "OK, what's coming next? How do we continue to prepare for more changes?" Because cultures will not stop changing and adapting, neither can we, if we hope to remain relevant.

Looking Farther Ahead involves looking beyond even postmodernism... what will post-postmodernism look like? How about after that? With a little bit of whimsy, we might ask: How do we be the church on different planets? What does the "World Church" do with Lunar Colonies?

"Looking farther ahead" is vital because it is the outlook and attitude that might protect the church from revisiting its glaring failures of irrelevance with each cultural and philosophical move.

Designing a New Apologetic is Troubling

Dan Kimball wrote a piece on the sins (and occasional benefits) of apologetics in the Josh McDowell-strain of thinking, on his Vintage Faith Blog. Kimball's main points were...
  • We use apologetics to display the clever answers that we have come up with to prove people wrong - KA-POW!
  • We use apologetics like bullets to shoot people down - BLAM!
  • We use apologetics like we are lawyers on a television episode of Law and Order - WHAP!

Kimball suggests that our old ways of thinking of apologetics and argumentation are played out... there is little appropriate use for them. He writes that the only time apologetics may be appropriate are when people actually ask for them. Obviously, in those rare occasions, we should be prepared to give an intelligently articulated account for our faith.

Kimball follows up, however, by saying that we should not see the phrase, "I don't know," as a negative, or as a weakness. Humility must be at the center of any apologetic, understanding that God is the source of truth and understanding - not human intellect.

So the notion of creating a new apologetic is very necessary in these strange transitional times, but it is a daunting task, because I don't want it to be anything like the old way of us-vs-them, intellectual battle to the death, shame-them-with-their-lack-of-knowledge-style thinking.

I suppose what I would like to see in a new style of apologetics is a renewed love for the journey - a respect and honoring of questions.

Even more difficult for some: I would love to see Christians become excited by alternative perspectives - see them as a new angle from which to observe our own perspectives, instead of attackers at the gates of our theological strongholds.

How does this look in practice? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it involves meekness and peacemaking...

Holy Beatitudes, Bible-Man!


Rachel Birr said...

I think it can be hard to change the thinking that uncertainty is equal to weakness. I agree that uncertainty is a piece of what keeps us humble, which is a very good thing, but a culture (and sometimes a Church) that teaches having all the right answers is a sign of accomplishment is pervasive. Ahh, the beaditudes, what a revolutionary notion.

J.Peter said...

Pete: CONGRATULATIONS on your wedding and the beginnings of your marriage. Of course, Kathryn and I had wished we could have attended but that wasn't feasible at the time... May God bless, sustain, uphold and guide you two over the many years to come.

In regards to this post and the way some Christians use apologetics to "hit" people with "the truth", take a look at my latest blog at I've written a couple blogs on the intelligent design vs evolution debate, and how we should start using dialogue instead of just discussion in order to really hear each other and try to understand each other's viewpoint.

See you in the future.


jazztheo said...

What about an old apologetic ala Acts 7 & 13. Instead of propositions or personal testimony...what about the corporate testimony of one's peole? (I just posted on this if your interested, Jazz 101, Nov. 13)

congrats on your nuptuals!

Harlequin said...

The problem with the apologetics I've had inflicted on me is that it is a contact sport, but it also is entierly self referential. The concept of saing that one has the final word of God because its written on a piece of paper is, to me, not a way forward.

If one is impressed by debating team type semantic back flips, or the apologist appeals to an already held set of prejudices,they may work. Currently apologetics don't really do it for me, so I agree that 2pete has and makes an excellent point, as does j.peter (I'm really not a fan of ID OR the current state of the theory of evolution...I really don't see that anyone can presume to tell God how to make things...)

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