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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

[11.1] BELIEVING WITHOUT BELONGING?

The report of the group working on Christian witness and formation in the context of post-modernity can be found here on the World Council of Churches' mission and evangelism website. It stems from a consultation in Breklum, 2002.

Some of the key learning points were identified as follows:

* Are we willing to be an alternative rather than rushing in to arrogate ourselves as the alternative? Some Christians fear this language, but we see it as an opportunity not a deprivation. The biblical vocation is to say ‘we testify’, ‘we propose’, ‘we witness’ on the basis of the God who dwells with us in Christ and as such is revealed as beyond our instrumental control.
* It would help to revisit the relation between theology and economics, rooted in a re-reading of those biblical traditions that point towards the need for community as the fundamental orientation of life.
* Our founding documents are ‘texts under negotiation’ (Professor Walter Brueggemann), part of an ongoing argument within Christianity about the meaning of God’s ways with us. It is argument not war insofar as it is bounded by fellowship. Within that argument it is necessary to seek biblical and tradition-derived resources for a positive response to human diversity – receiving it in communion, rather than perceiving it as threat.
* This negotiation of our texts can also be part of a dialogue with those of other faiths and convictions, whereby we challenge one another to revisit our own traditions in search for the roots of a fresh kind of unity (one that takes seriously the destructive forces in our midst).
* ‘Not knowing’ can be hopeful – “He is not there” (because he is risen, a fact that means hope coming back to us from ‘off the page’). But sometimes not knowing can also be an excuse for resignation. It ought not to be.
* Authority cannot be based on mere control and ‘knock-down truth’: in the gospel life it arises from tangible authenticity, integrity, encounter and daily lived experience among people. “Don’t tell me, show me.”
* Tradition can be re-evaluated as a call to conversion, as the story of faithfulness in ongoing change, rather than a block on change.
* We can question the contemporary concept of relationship as ‘competition’.
* We need to ask what the basis is of being human – is there some ‘baseline’?
* We need inner and outer dialogue because we are part of the culture. (Complex interrelation between ‘church’, ‘culture’ etc.)
* Actually secularisation gives spirituality another chance – enabling us to lose our ‘shame’ about the gospel, but also challenging us to think what it means and how it is received today, as in every age.
* Construed in certain ways, postmodernism also seems to loosen the taboo on God. But which God and how?
* There is an important task to work out how to discern the ways people express spirituality in secular life and how appropriately to respond to them.
* We need to be in a process of change but also to be able to address the question of the human search for trust and stability in life.
* The need to be dialogical is rooted in our belief that the Holy Spirit blows at will and can speak to anyone anywhere.
*Therefore Christians have to develop listening as a spiritual discipline.


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