Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Church Still Stuck in Christendom

Ready for another quote from my DMin paper? Here it is.

This demise of Christendom is hardly a new phenomenon. “Taken as a sociopolitical reality, Christendom has been in decline for the last 250 years, so much so that contemporary Western culture has been called by many historians (secular and Christian) as the post-Christendom culture. Society, at least in its overtly non-Christian manifestation is “over” Christendom. But this is not the case within the Western Church itself. Christendom, as a paradigm of understanding, as a metanarrative, still exercises an overweening influence on our existing theological, missiological and ecclesiological understandings in church circles … Constantine, it seems, is still the emperor of our imaginations.”

As the demise of Christendom continues and its influence in the world wanes, many in the church still continue to oppose any change in the status quo, as though buttressing the system will somehow make it more relevant to our society. It is not just that we need a new style of ministry to attract a new generation. What the Church needs is that revolutionary new/old (ancient-future?) approach that fundamentally reforms its Christendom structures. Trying to make the Christendom system work in our current milieu is like trying to fly to the moon with a twin engine Cessna. It’s a good airplane but it won’t get us where we want to go. We need a flying machine of a different order.

So to attack secularism and pluralism as contrary to “the Christian values this country was built on,” seems to miss the point. In fact, Clapp maintains that the church is actually responsible for secularism because it has sponsored the system, it privatizes faith (Jesus as my personal Savior) and trivializes vocation (only full-time workers are “in the ministry”) and then calls on its members to be model citizens while it allows the state to determine the laws and the norms for what it means to be a good citizen. To quote Albert Einstein: “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”


Volkmar said...

I think I'm hearing the response..."If my Cessna won't take me, then I ain't goin' to no moon, no sir'ee!"


hillschurch said...

That's a hoot!
I had a conversation with someone yesterday who reminded me that my focus needs to continue to be on Jesus.
As I was thinking about the paper, perhaps a better analogy might be that we've been flying in a Cessna and missing what is actually happening on the ground (in our culture). Maybe we should be walking and not trying to fly to the moon.

Volkmar said...

"Maybe we should be walking and not trying to fly to the moon."

Yes, that strikes me as true.

Isn't it the case that our natural tendency is to fashion a "craft" that we think will get us where we think we need to go?

All of our denominational forms and programs are our attempts to interface culturally. The problem is that the forms we build are static, whereas the culture is always on the move.

This idea, no doubt, will contribute to your perspective that a particular church (and form) will have a limited "shelf life", so to speak.