Groping and Hoping

I was looking over my posts on this site and was noticing just how negative some of my posts have become…and I wondered…is that really in keeping with the spirit of ubuntu? I think not.

However, they are my person being shared with other persons, so maybe so.

Anyways, with that in mind I wanted to come on here and share a brighter blog, with a little more optimism and less criticism.

Currently I am in Irvine, CA starting my MA in Theology and Culture at Concordia University Irvine.

Over the course of a week now I’ve been in a riveting class, shared conversations with friends and done some reading that has pushed me in new directions. It’s been a refreshing and invigorating experience thus far.

Last night I was out at a pub with my friend Steve. He shared with me how he feels there are a lot of people in the world right now at the same place…and that place is a very good place. Steve’s seeing that the Church is in a good spot, a spot where they are moving forward, and looking around, and seeing that there are some important questions to be asking and discussions to be having with one another and with their LORD.

He described like this:  the church stepping out and looking around and asking, “Where are we? How did we get here? Where are we going now?”

That is a very good place to be.

And I agree with Steve.

A lot of us are there right now.

Through several conversations I can’t help but notice how men and women, young and old are all at the same place in their faith journey and their relationship with the cultural institution of the church. We all share the same feeling and yet we find it very difficult to pin it down.

Some people may call it the Great Emergence (McLaren) while others may call it the RE-reformation (personal convo).

Whatever it is, it is universal in scope (from Africa to Europe to Oceania to America) and it is gaining in momentum.

Yet, there aren’t any real answers yet; just a lot of questions.

And that’s a good thing.

Statements often lead to hate. Questions often lead to dialogue.

Answers may not be what we need right now (that plays into a very modern worldview that says we need hard and fast “answers” as if the role of the Church is a matter of fact rather than faith, which very well deals with fact [Jesus’ resurrection] but is not necessarily an act of fact, but of faith); maybe all we need is the dialogue.

In that dialogue we who are groping and hoping for Christ’s light to shine in this place and time (no matter where that may be) will come to see the ever-widening-and-always-glorious scope of God’s Kingdom through the conversations we have with others. This can be a great experience, especially when we are talking with people outside our comfort zone and from a different background.

My class was talking about Acts 17 last night and our anthropologist professor shared his thoughts on verses 26-27, 30. It led to a good discussion. I will share my notes below and ask that you respond with your own thoughts, your own hopes and your own groping discovery of God’s plan for his church in our time and place. Shalom.

“26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…”  (ESV)

Acts 17:26-27, 30

Holding to the Reformation credo of sola scriptura means reading Scripture carefully. That means being aware of our relative understandings and interpretations of Scripture and how our context dictates our understanding of the Bible.

Think of the connection between Sapir quote (“Culture is…not something given, but something to be gradually and gropingly discovered.”) and the words from Acts – “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place (note: not their culture) that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel (grope? -this groping is valuable to God, not just illegitimate, in light of Jesus Christ) their way toward him and find him (through their culture, as they grope for their meaning within the cosmos).” +Connect to Melanchton’s 9 proofs for natural knowledge of God.

*Schultz shared his anthropological view of these verses…

We find God according to our very ethnos.

+How we go about seeking God comes out of our placement in time and space. The how is a product of that time and space.

+Our cultural milieu shapes how we seek God. None of us are immune to these channels of culture.

+We are all ethnic.

Rather than denigrating non-Christian religions simply as false we should rather view them as incomplete, that is, they were appointed for a season, and that season passes when the fullness of God in Christ is revealed. At that time, we ceased to search for God and instead God was in pursuit of us. Christian’s communications with the nations must use the ethnic’s “seeking of God” as the starting place from which to communicate the fullness of God.

The metanoia is a recognition of the limited aspect of their understanding of the cosmos. It is not just admission of being wrong, but that in their blind groping God has found them in the person of Jesus Christ.

One of the many problems of our traditional Gospel missions is the disparity between higher and lesser powers. Thus, pre-Christian gropings in ethnic context can be seen as lesser. However, when these gropings are seen as the providence of God we can change our view from these ethnic gropings being flat-out wrong, and instead being incomplete (as ours were before Jesus Christ came).

Just as culture is critical in the formation of the pre-Christian religious seeking, it is equally critical in the formation of an authentic response to faith.

Our faith lives, as responses to the gospel, are embodied in a particular place and time, subject to preference and culture.

Our God-given seeking after God is incomplete. God must reveal himself to us if we are to know him as he is.

We must humbly admit that our view of God is limited by our culture, and strong in other areas. Likewise, other culture’s views are limited and strong. The best witness, and inreach, will come through dialogue between two relatively limited cultural understandings of the relationship God has with the ethnos through Jesus Christ.

+Perhaps evangelism must be understood as a dialogue where each part has something to contribute.

The missionary’s task is to be a witness, a proclaimer, not a converter. We speak of what we know; we proclaim what we have experienced…that is our calling.

Time and place are not blank slates that the Gospel can be communicated to…there’s been some groping already and that groping was ordained by God.

How do we embrace a variety of cultures as we create our own?

+Specifically in terms of converging cultures (say Hispanic and Caucasian…or Zulu and German?)

+And it isn’t just the worship service (the praxis) but also the underlying philosophy (say with the Aristotelian worldview and ubuntu philosophy)

Although it is good to understand cultures, and God works through cultures, in the end God works in the lives of individuals and we witness to, and serve, individuals.

+Look to where individuals, or cultures, find meaning and point out that a relationship with Jesus Christ gives us ultimate meaning no matter our background or place of relational (meaningful) emphasis.

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