Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wondering About the Church

I've been following the discussion at the Jesus Creed about people checking out Catholicism here and am still fascinated. I’m still working through all this in the context of where the church is actually going in the grand scheme of things. I often have a callous and cavalier attitude toward all church structures and traditions and am convinced that we don’t really have a detailed biblically mandated structure to follow. I've also been doing my share of deconstruction - wondering exactly what should be part of church and what shouldn't - both biblically and historically and sociologically and Holy Spirit guided -ly. So I’m doing some wondering aloud here …

There are a couple of wonderings here – mostly out of ignorance. I wonder if the RCC and EO hierarchies are sufficiently staffed to sustain a huge influx? One hears about the paucity of “vocations” and the scarcity of new young priests. Is there sufficient interest in this generation to staff the potential growth indicated by this interest we’re talking about? Are those expressing interest actually pursuing ordination? Or as I mentioned above is it more about a spiritual search that is consumer oriented.

My second wondering: Is this combination of factors (interest in RCC/EO, lowering of denominational walls, deconstructionism, consumerism, general interest in spirituality, lack of trust and commitment to organizations and institutions, the Emerging church, etc) leading us to a spiritual landscape where there are a few stable towers of hierarchical ecclesiology (the Catholic traditions on one hand and the mega church phenomenon on the other - plus a few reformed holdouts) and then the teeming masses of small groups, house churches, new monastic orders, aging and fading mainline congregations, each consuming religion where they want. Maybe the parallel is the emergence of the super store and the disappearance of the mom and pop shops. Some people will still be fiercely loyal to their neighbourhood stores but most will shop where they get the best selection and the lowest price.

Or maybe a better explanation is that we are going back to the pre Reformation days (sociologically not theologically) whereby there are the cathedrals, where major religious events happen and also the many small folk religions and superstitious practices and beliefs (remember I am speaking metaphorically here).

Any body done some reading or writing on this?

Catholic and Emerging?

Scot McKnight has observed that many college aged people are exploring the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox traditions. He has posted about it on his blog here.

I've found it rather interesting in the light of the last post about the Millennials being dissatisfied with church as we know it. There is a deep interest in Jesus and in spirituality in general but some are finding a hard time expressing it or finding it expressed in typical Evangelical churches. The post is worth reading (so I'm quoting some of it below) but the comments and responses have been very interesting.

Here are some of Scot's comments ...

Paradoxically, I see this as part of the emerging movement. One of the themes of the emerging movement is made up of several threads: weariness with evangelical bickering, a yearning for liturgical form, and an awareness of the value of the ancient fathers of the Church. But instead of pursuing the vicious radical low church ecclesiology we see in some writers today, which is evangelicalism on steroids, these young students move out of evangelicalism with some emerging ideas and return to the ancient church traditions.

How do you explain it? Here is the beginning of my thoughts:

These kids come to college with:

1. No ecclesiology to speak of in their low-church evangelical experience.
2. Complete ignorance of the first 1500 years of the Church.
3. A chaotic postmodern culture in search of anchors.
4. Pastors who act like popes and read the Bible authoritatively with reckless disregard for anything prior to 1500.
5. Professors who each interprets the Bible for himself (or herself if they are lucky to have a woman reading the Bible).
6. Learning to read the Bible for themselves … again with little regard for anyone or any tradition.

And… then these students …

1. Land upon Ignatius and Irenaeus and Athanasius, each of whom materially shaped what we believe.
2. Are told by professors how important these great thinkers were.
3. They see the budding rise of early Catholic and Orthodox thinking in these writers.
4. Know that Nicea is not only a good set of ideas but something you better believe or you get kicked out.

In other words….

Everything in favor of thinking EO or the RCC just might be the way to go.

And I suspect they have friends, good solid mature spiritual friends, who are EO or RCC.