November 24, 2005

The Church in Emerging Culture 3

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology :: Permalink

The third essay in The Church in Emerging Culture is by Frederica Mathewes-Green and it is by far the most enjoyable to read and the funniest so far. It’s written in the form of a self-interview, modeled after the “Icarus” section of Joyce’s Ulysses.

The first half of the essay makes the point that in previous generations, too, there were people who wanted to be seen as rebels, who wanted to shock people by their art or their behaviour. Those “rebels,” however, weren’t as shocking as they had hoped; their art is now found in museum exhibits. The implied application to much of postmodernism is appropriate.

But the second half of the essay, in which one would expect Mathewes-Green to present her positive case for how the church should interact with the culture of the world around it, doesn’t take us very far. Mathewes-Green is Orthodox, and several of her theological points are helpfully critiqued by Michael Horton, who frequently points out that Mathewes-Green is making either-ors out of what should be both-ands.

In the end, beyond prayer and a desire to know Christ, I’m not sure what Mathewes-Green’s program for the church really is. She talks about the importance of having one’s life transformed by Christ: While many people have tried to make Jesus acceptable to us, conforming him to patterns that we can be comfortable with and understand, Jesus’ alternate plan is to transform us into people who can know him.

But what is the result of those transformed lives? As Erwin Raphael McManus asks, what if there are two or three or more people whose lives are being transformed? How will that transformation become evident and work itself out in their interactions? And how will the culture they necessarily develop relate to the culture(s) around them?

Those questions Mathewes-Green leaves unanswered.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:07 pm | Discuss (0)

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