While showering this morning I momentarily entertained this spontaneous, warm-water epiphany: I am a simple man with simple thoughts—some are “simply true” and some are “simply not”.
And that my friends is a revelation to me. I think that for much of my life I have believed that my thoughts, in so much as they emanate from my brain, are always worth something—even if that something may not be understandable or even manageable.
Lately I have been reading a series of books that in the general scheme of things deal with the Christian church and its “postmodern” phase. This pursuit has naturally raised many questions in my mind and engendered many diverse thoughts.
It is a road mostly traveled by critical thinkers and theologians and is not the type of reading that warms the cockles of your heart—in other words these authors use thirty dollar words and string together church history and global phenomenon in sentences and paragraphs that you almost need a road map to maneuver.
So it is with stops and starts that I attempt to digest these books that I personally feel are worth the effort—if only in order to help me attain a vocabulary within which will help me navigate through to the next level in my semi-eternal quest to understand my faith.
One of the main problems facing me in explaining my recent thought process is that “post-modernism” is still being defined. I can tell you what I think it means to me, but what it really is becoming as it relates to our Christian journey, still remains slightly hidden and undeveloped.
In part, Christian post-modernism is, according to Brian McLaren, author and emergent church pastor: “The Christian faith is understood as a story by a postmodern generation that sees itself as part of the developing storyline. Instead of breaking down the Bible and analyzing it as in the modern era, postmodern believers see the Bible stories as part of a bigger picture and larger story. How we understand the faith as a story … is in some ways relatively new territory because we just haven’t practiced seeing our faith that way,” McLaren said.
“And then understanding how our story relates to other stories and figuring out the role that we all play in this story – because it’s not finished yet – that comes to me as a very motivating and exciting way to understand our faith.”
In this context, popular “Wild At Heart” author John Eldredge is a post-modern story teller. In his 2nd book, “Journey of Desire” Eldridge explains that we are all part of a bigger, God breathed story that is happening all around us. Finding our part and enjoying the intimacy with Jesus that follows, is paramount to a full-filled life and the only way to complete happiness (my interpretation).
Thus, post-modern thought and a process called “deconstruction” work hand in hand to help us understand how Christianity on a global level is being interpreted and subsequently propagated.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines deconstruction as “A strategy of critical analysis […] directed towards exposing unquestioned metaphysical assumptions and internal contradictions in philosophical and literary language.”
To me this means, in practical everyday terms, that our Christian faith is alive and when “de-constructed” might not look like what the American church is defining it as being. Up to several years ago, my church experience was more like unto an artist painting the same picture every week—each Sunday was designed to be as much like the Sunday before it as it could be. We were trained to perpetuate what seemed to work and avoid what didn’t. Seeker friendly meets contemporary semi-prophetic prasie and worship and beyond.
Now in saying all of this, I have tenativly come to the conclusion that there is a lot more to this thing we call Christianity than I have here-to-fore imagined. And that certainly some deconstruction of what I have built up in my mind needs to take place before I can move into the next level of understanding and subsequent intimacy with the Creator of the universe as expressed through Jesus and Holy Spirit.
In other words—some of what I think I know has been built on a foundation that was never meant to hold all the “faith weight” I put on it. I firmly believe that it is past the time where we begin again to fully understand the hope that is in us and what we have believed as the gospel of Christ.
For instance: I believe that we can talk to God and that he is involved in our everyday lives and hears every prayer request that is made. I also believe that there is such a state of being called “walking in the spirit” or “being led” by God. Having said that, I began to consider what I really meant by this the other day while working out on one of the many treadmills at our local wellness center.
Does walking in the spirit and believing that God has a plan for our lives mean that there is a single road map created for us from the fourndations of the world and our job is to discover the plan and walk it out. Or, are there many ways that things can go and each step forward in obediance to what we believe God is directing leads the way to the next fork in the road and so on and so forth.
What I can say at this very moment in time is that I am begining to ask myself the hard questions that I thought were answered many, many years ago, but have laid around, half-formed in some box where we put these ideas and beliefs that are waiting for definition.
Not that we need to know and or understand everything—faith is the sustance of things hoped for, the eveidence of things not seen—but that we really owe it to ourselves and others to examine the foundations of our faith. Have we built upon that which someone else relayed to us in a sermon once upon a time or are we living a day-to-day experience with a living God that is more exciting that we had ever imagined. These choices are ours in a continuing journey to contextualize the message of freedom that was brought to us is the form of God becoming human all those many years ago.
May we have the daring and the strength to persue these and other story lines in the days, weeks and months to come.
Have a great ride in 2009.
I agree with your sentiments here. Asking questions about things we already thought were settled can be…well…unsettling! But I have enjoyed the exercise, personally. And it has strengthened my faith in so many ways because I have found some things to be far more sure than I ever realized. Other things had to be discarded along the way, but it was a removal of things that were better off gone anyway.By the way, not that I have the answer to your (mostly rhetorical, I think) questions, but I do believe that there is an “open” aspect to our walk, in the sense that you described about each step leading to the next fork. So many times, we are taught to fear that if we miss that one, specific path that God foreordained for us, we will have missed everything. I don’t buy that.
By the way, it’s great to read your thoughts again! 🙂
It is nice to hear from you as well. Hope all is going well in Abington. To finally be at a place where I can allow myself the freedom to actually experience the reality of Christ is great. And I think you are right about the forks—it seems to me at this point that divine appointments are always around us and whether we look to the right or the left at the point that we sense the presence of a “leading” determines the next step.
Steve mentions the “open” aspect of our walk in God’s Spirit. This is also what resonated for me in your thoughts. . .(there are) “many ways that things can go and each step forward in obediance to what we believe God is directing leads the way to the next fork in the road.” Yes, thank you for bringing clarity to a liberty that we all enter as maturing Christians. He stays with us through whatever paths we slog.This also reminds me of Paul’s exhortation that “all things are lawful, but not all things are useful.” We have God-given freedom to make directional decisions every day. We should choose well, lest we regress.C