Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fib Faith - Journal Entry

I'm continuing to wrestle with what appears to me to be a big polarization centered around the answer to the question: "What is the gospel?" Speaking broadly, it appears to me that the emergent and postmodernist views align with notions of social transformation, and vastly downplay the personal need for spiritual renewal and salvation from sins power and penalty. The modernist approaches are answering the question more like Billy Graham (and, I might add, the apostle Paul in Acts): "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved", with the notion inherent in that declaration that humanity is cut off from God and in need of a reconciled relationship with God more than anything else.

Feeling refreshed, and glad to be back in the city, I'm increasingly convinced of the need for an integrated view of both salvation and eschatology that integrates these two seemingly disparate views. We need what I'm going to call a Fibonacci faith. Perhaps you've heard of the Fibonacci numbers? They're everywhere in nature (as seen in the picture above). I love the spiral nature of it all, beginning in the interior and working it's way outward. Thus should salvation do the same thing... begin with a transformation of the inner person, and work its way out so that we, having become recipients of blessings, are empowered to give, serve and bless the world.

I think this book proposal I'm working on will have this as a major tenet. Furthere, I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this works for us at the church. Wow... when I read the previous entry I posted I realize that I'm already feeling refreshed, and looking forward to doing many things. REST IS VALUABLE!!


At 23/6/08 10:23, Anonymous donte said...

Speaking as a postmodernist-

I would argue that our proclivity for social transformation serves as evidence to our spiritual renewal. Most of Paul’s writings focus on what it means to Live a life of faith, rather than merely Believing. Wouldn’t James agree?

At 25/6/08 12:00, Anonymous thomas said...

-Donte, speaking as a post-postmodernist... ;)

I would argue that the emergent emphasis on social action and right action at the expense of inner spiritual relationship and right belief stems less from a spiritual renewal and more from an attempt to ground our spiritual life in more immanent terms as opposed to transcendent ones.
What I mean is that I think we try and find ways to draw God near to us (and I include myself in this approach) and the concrete results of social action provide comfort and a measurable revelation of God's power and presence. I say draw God near to us rather than the other way around because I think we (or at least I) sometimes have a hard time believing that it works the other way around (which is why we downplay some of the more devotional/personal relationship aspects). To really pray with expectation or receive the Bible as God's transforming word for us today requires a tremendous faith that there is something beyond/above us that exists without the need for our observation or participation - and I think that is very hard for us moderns/postmoderns/whatever-we-are-right-now to embrace. The demands of prayer, Bible study and other devotional disciplines require that we stop whatever we are doing (sometimes rejecting opportunities to meet the needs around us - as Christ himself did on occasion) in order to be shaped and transformed and grow in relationship with God - and that is very hard to accept when we want to be able to see and identify God's impact and presence and prayer...well prayer often seems to evaporate into thin air. Action is much more visible than "belief."

I think you're right in saying that Paul and James don't write a lot about "mere Belief" - rather I think they seem to sing the praises of both right belief and right action together (maybe Paul more so than James). I think my own fear about some of the emergent movement (and the movement of my own soul) is that with such an emphasis on social action we'll reach a point where we forget why that action is important - that we'll end up hollow. I'd be interested to get more of your thoughts on this as your comment was short and mine is...much too long.


I've appreciated your recent posts along this theme. One thing I'm wondering is whether we can move beyond the sort of linear narrative that says we begin with inner transformation, receiving blessings/empowerment and then we serve and bless the world. I think it would be cool if we could come up with a way to tell this story in a more...I guess dialectic way? Rather than kind of heading from devotion to action on a sort of one way street could we find some way to describe devotion and action operating in both directions - action inspiring devotion and vice versa? I'm not saying that we always do this but it is a very common way of describing the Christian life (our action comes out of relationship etc.), but I think at least part of the problem with the dichotomy and opposition that often seems to arise between emphasizing right action and right belief comes from us trying to tell the story this way. Can action lead to belief as much as belief can lead to action? It seems as though the spiral metaphor you're going for would work very well for this purpose - circular but always advancing...

Anyway, appreciated both the comment and the post.

At 25/6/08 12:19, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

yes...yes. Thanks Donte, and Thomas, for the thoughts. In fact, the new book that I've written, coming out in just about a week (look up o2 - Breathing New Life into Faith, on Amazon), argues that its actually better to begin by looking outward and seeing where to get involved.

But the reality is that either starting point is too formulaic. Maybe we should think of it as more of a dance...


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