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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Is Christianity irrelevant?

As we continue hacking our way through the dense jungles of the "emerging culture" with no map and a native guide who communicates with us only in gestures due to the fact that we do not speak the same language I would like to pose a fundamental question for my fellow adventurers:

Is Christianity out of style?

I think this question exposes a divide and a rift in the current church's view of culture and her mission. On the one hand the staunch conservative responds by saying that if Christianity is out of fashion with the world, all the worse for the world. Our job is not to change or mold truth to accommodate the spirit of the age. Rather, the church's job is to preserve the truth and speak/preach truth in its pure form and in all of its glory. Anything less is a sell-out and a compromise.

But there is that nasty "truth" issue again, eh? Is truth a timeless entity that one can pass down from one generation to the next? Or is truth connected with with our context in a more intimate way?

Let me try a different angle. If truth is a completely timeless thing how meaningful can it be to time bound creatures? I am asking a question of meaning here. How meaningful can a timeless truth be to a time bound dude, such as myself? For example, I can imagine that we could raise up generations on end who affirm the timeless truths of a doctrinal statement, but ultimately this seems quite meaningless if these truths are merely passed down and exist strictly on paper. In this case are they any more valuable than the ink and paper that preserves them?

I think that the staunch conservative would agree that truths should not merely be handed down as meaningless doctrinal statements. For the staunch conservative these things are quite meaningful - life-changing. Yet I submit that by brushing off the question of whether or not Christianity is in style the staunch conservative has assumed a gargantuant burden of proof. That is, they must demonstrate how a timeless truth has meaning for a time bound person. On my reckoning the more timeless a truth is the less meaning it has for those of us who live within time. The less timeless the truth the more potential I think it has for being meaningful.

So, we have the question: Is Christianity meaningful for contemporary culture? If so, how? If not, then why?


samlcarr said...

For the earliest followers of Jesus, 'the truth' was nothing more nor less than Jesus Himself. 4 gospels attest this belief.

I think, and this is my own idiosyncracy, that nothing other than this gospel is needed. Bring people to Jesus and then it's betwe4en the individual and Jesus.

When the church decided that it had to modify and repackage Jesus with this or that dogma, doctrine or theology, the church left behind it's basic mandate.

The truth is Jesus Himself!

The EC has tried to reconnect with the gospels but has swung the opposite way. The rest of the NT is what it is only because these are followers who have immersed themselves in Jesus.

Jonathan Erdman said...

So, Sam, are you saying we can get rid of the "rest of the NT"? Or is it just the creeds that have to go?

Melody said...

Jon, your talking about "timelessness" confuses me. The word is general used to say that something is always in style.

ex. "This timeless black dress is a must for every wardrobe"

And I just don't understand how something being true regaurdless of the hour makes it irrelevant.

The laws of thermodynamics have always been true, as far as I know, but that doesn't make them meaningless in my life. They're foundational for much of what happens in my life, whether I recognize them or not.

All that to say, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I think I am now confused, as well.

The main thing I was wondering about is whether or not Christianity is out of date and out of touch, and what we should do about it, if anything.

The stuff about timeless truths was just a bonus - a gift from me to you.

Melody said...

Ok...I guess that's going to depend on what you consider central to Christianity, which is still going to have you asking the truth question.

samlcarr said...

Melody, i'm not (i hope) advocating tossing everything out but I think the essential nature of following Jesus is just that, not necessarily + the creeds, or TULIP or whatever new or old formulations may have worked for others. He is the truth and that does not always have to be seen through a creed.

Jonathan Erdman said...

A creed would be an example of something that we have traditionally viewed as a "timeless truth."

Take a formulation from the Nicene Creed:
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible."

Let's call this a timeless truth.

Question: How is it meaningful for me? How is it meaningful for anyone?

In order for this "timeless truth" to become meaningful to anyone who lives in space and time (presumably everyone reading this blog, with the exception of the aliens who discover in about a million years or so how to travel through time and are now reading this post to study the blogging phenomenon) we have to appropriate it into time and as such it ceases to be timeless.

A timeless truth must be recontextualized within time and recontextualized for me, otherwise it remains timeless and meaningless.

So, are the creeds and doctrines and affirmations of the church in style these days? Or have they become meaningless?

samlcarr said...

I think an emerging response would be that "we can talk about it" and this is what is deeply dissatisfying to more traditional Christians.

Melody said...

I don't know if creeds are meant to be especially meaningful...they're mostly just there to establish parameters.

Like...company policy. If you're wanting to know what the point to your life is go read Thoreau(and when that's bored you to tears forget about meaning and pick up a novel) but if you want to know what your day to day responsibilities are, or even how to cash in on vacation days, you're going to need that section of the handbook.

And, you're going to be a little POed if Bill from two cubicals down decides to recontextualize "work" to mean "playing solitare"

Creeds are not the point of Christianity any more than company policy is the point of your job.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ok, then, if creeds are only there to establish parameters, then how about meaning? Is the Christian faith meaningless? To use your analogy, is faith just like a job - put in your time? Clock in and clock out? Join Bill for an occasional game of solitaire?

Melody said...

I think for a lot of people it is just like a job. Its an obligation they fufill becuase that's just what people do.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, now you've just got me depressed.....

Melody said...

It's only depressing if the bit of company policy that fires you for not showing up is the only reason you come to work.

Jonathan Erdman said...

So, what is the reason for "showing up to work", (i.e. living the Christian faith) if it is more than hoping they won't fire you?

Melody said...

Um. People's reasons are going to vary. Even in the Bible it doesn't really give just one...but, thematically the point seems to revolve around being freed from sin and death and striving to live with/for God.

Most of the other reasons people give (glorifing God, spreading the love of God, helping others, walking in righteousness...etc., etc.), to me, fit inside this one huge reason.

But in order to live for God you are going to have to define who God is, who we are in relation to Him, what He does and does not want, etc. and so on...which is where creeds come kinda in handy.

Not the point, parameters.