Saturday, March 21, 2009

Epiphaneia Conference

I'm at the Epiphaneia conference today, The Evolving Church Amidst the Powers. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to blog again as I interact with the people at the conference.

This morning's first speaker was Walter Wink, a person unknown to some of my colleagues, but well known in certain circles for his books about "the powers." I bought his books when I was still working at Yonge Street Mission and tried to read them and work through them - not an easy task by any means. But he does bring out a number of very good things. In particular that every structure and organization has its own spirit. This spirit is what he and scripture calls the powers. These powers are created good, but they are fallen and need to be redeemed. Wink doesn't accept the concept of individual spirit beings. He asserts that it is too much like superstition for him. At the same time he speaks in very personal terms about these powers, in that they have distinguishable characteristics and personality.

The workshop I went to was with David Fitch whose blog I follow fairly consistently. His workshop was called"Evangelicalism and the politics of complicity" and dealt with the idea that we have some sacred cows in the evangelical world that actually prevent us from living in obedience to Christ. Three things in particular we have elevated to the position of idol status - that is ultimately powerless. He calls them Master Signifiers - words or symbols that inspire us but don't really have any power. Three characteristics are:
1. They don’t really refer to anything but we rally around them - like Obama saying “change” or George Bush declaring a “war on terrorism” but justifying just about anything including torture.
2. They play on antagonisms – kick their butts – To make us feel better
3. pacify us for complicity with the powers – we don’t really have to do anything ourselves about war or about change etc. but allows us to rally around these ideas.

The Christian "master signifiers" are
1. Biblical inerrancy - because we say the bible is true in every way but we don't do what it says. We proof text it to prove our denominational position but don't let it speak to our hearts and change our lives.
2. The idea of a Christian nation that somehow the best thing to happen would be to have Christian politicians, and laws so that we would live in a heaven on earth. However this is an elusive pursuit. We don’t know what would happen if we got what we wanted. We really can't really legislate morality but we think that we should. Change happens because hearts are change - not because laws are changed.
3. The deification of the decision for Christ. We have reduced conversion to merely responding to an invitation to raise your hand or sign a card. We have emphasized being born again instead of following Jesus. It has become about after death salvation from hell (fire insurance) instead of repeated returns to the altar. It creates an I'm in and you're out mentality. It bypasses desire and decision becomes only a mental thing – baptism has become a secondary thing instead of the full experience.

The afternoon will feature Stanley Hawerwas and Marva Dawn. Should be good.

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