DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Immanent Frame

Written by: on February 23, 2017

This week I ran across a story of a couple that became Christian in a heavily Islamic country.   Within two weeks of the man’s conversion, he was arrested, tortured, and starving in a cell. His story is so remarkable to me because he described his pre-Christian world and culture as being closed.  Their country controlled everything and there was no access to the Gospel.  He was a follower in Islam because he had no other choice and no other knowledge.  He was boxed in his culture and the Gospel was boxed out until he ran into someone who had an experience with Jesus.

In Charles Taylor’s, The Secular Age, the author suggests that those in the west are similarly trapped as my friend was in his Muslim land.  Taylor will call this theory the immanent frame.  Simply put, James K.A. Smith describes this concept:

               This metaphorical concept – alluding to a “frame” that boxes in and boxes out, encloses and focuses – is meant to capture the world we now inhabit in our secular age: “this frame constitutes a ‘natural’ order, to be contrasted to a ‘supernatural’ one, an immanent world, over against the possible ‘transcendent’ one (Taylor, p. 542).  We now inhabit this self-sufficient immanent order, even if we believe in transcendence (Smith, p. 93).

In Taylor’s theory, how you view this frame hinges on how one views transcendence.

Analysis

Taylor would argue within his text that we live in an immanent world in the West. Despite our belief, it is skewed towards the immanent. My inclination is to argue with him, but as I view my life, it is hard to come up with a sustainable argument against his thought. Let me give some brief examples by asking a series of questions.  Who do we run to first when we are sick?  How many nights of sleep do I lose wondering how I will make ends meet financially? What is my first thought when I see a beggar, immigrant, or addict? At times, I am ashamed to answer.  When I am sick, I quickly grab a bottle of something or see a doctor before I ask God to heal me.  When I am worried about budgets, I grab my calculator before I hit my knees.  When I see someone less fortunate, I am inclined to wonder what bad decisions they made that put them in that situation.  Here’s my point.  Often times, I do not live in the supernatural which is something that has been destroyed by our new secular framework.  Maybe that is being too honest, but I believe this is Taylor’s point. Even someone devout may have a “self-sufficient immanent order” hanging over their heads at all times.   We all have a difficult way making it back to a pre-secular age where supernatural thought was quite commonplace.

Conclusion

As a pastor, I wonder what are we to do to break this immanent order over our people’s heads.  How do we break over our own heads? Is it even possible? While I wish I had answers, I do not just more questions. I do believe it is something that pastors and theologians have to wrestle with, pray about, and discover.  The world as a whole may never change, but maybe our world can.  Maybe our congregations can have the mindset broken, but it will take exhausting, back-breaking work.  However, there is hope. If the Gospel can penetrate a dark culture where the name of Christ cannot be stated in public for my Middle-Eastern friend and change him, then he can do it for our people once again.  I believe a supernatural God can do that, but sometimes it is difficult.

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

10 responses to “Immanent Frame”

  1. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:
    I got emotional and convicted as I read your post. You brought us back to reality that secularization is more than just a historical account of the last 500+ years. Secularization is more than just “them”…..it is US too.

    You said:
    “Here’s my point. Often times, I do not live in the supernatural which is something that has been destroyed by our new secular framework. Maybe that is being too honest, but I believe this is Taylor’s point. Even someone devout may have a “self-sufficient immanent order” hanging over their heads at all times.”

    Maybe, just maybe, “things” are allowed by a loving, patient transcendent God that is trying to awake us to who He is. Can you give me 1 or 2 principles/point on how we can turn from our “immanent order” and get back on track to who He is?

    Great job….thank you for being honest.

    Phil

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Thanks Phil. I have to admit that this program is kind of wrecking me. It is opening my eyes to how much work we have to do to “right the ship.” Here is the hope, and I heard it from Smith in a lecture. When Julian Barnes says, “I do not believe in God, but I do miss him,” often times we focus on the first part of the sentence, but there is hope in the second sentence…make sense.
      As for practical principles:
      #1: I am working on moving our church from and attractional model to a missional, relational and incarnational model (which is a concept that Sweet pushes). I think we have to embrace the Spirit to help us do this. We need the supernatural again and we need to embody the message in our community. The driving question that I am asking is “if we were to close down, would our community notice?” With that question in mind, we are putting our money and energy in partnering with the community….we want a presence. I am actually walking my board through two books this year as we move in this direction: Next Christians (Gabe Lyons) and So Beautiful (Len Sweet)….both of these books are about incarnational Christianity. I do not think it will be something that will turn quickly, but I think we have to “be the church” more than just Sundays. I am looking at opening up our building for citizenship classes (for refugees) language classes, etc….we have to be more than worship.
      I am scatter shooting with my answers but I have a ton of thoughts in my head….after all my dissertation is:
      A re-focus of the Charismatic gifts toward mission will re-engage millennials within the Assemblies of God.
      Embracing the gifts with a focus on bringing about change is the most practical way….allowing the supernatural to flow to change our communities.
      Sorry if this was scattered.
      Jason

  2. Claire Appiah says:

    Jason,
    I love the introspection! Thanks for being transparent and honest. By sharing your thoughts, you have aided all of us in this kind of self- reflection as well. I think you are on the right track in allowing God to speak to you through these queries. An inquiring mind is one that seeks answers and a heart surrendered to the purposes of God is one committed to obedience in accordance with His revelations.
    I noted your reply above to Phil. I say praises to God for how He is transforming you and the congregation you are leading. I have no questions for you.

  3. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    What a powerful, real-life example: “He was boxed in his culture and the Gospel was boxed out until he ran into someone who had an experience with Jesus.” Even though that frame was created because of a different form of transcendence, it is a box-out none the less.

    It makes me think that even though it is a risk of epic proportions, the Truth of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom does not need to be threatened or inhibited by the possibility of living in social imaginary where “anything goes” in terms of religious options. In other words, since we know the Gospel is Truth, we must know that this Truth will stand in the market place of ideas. I don’t know if this makes enough sense for you to comment.

    Furthermore, as you wrote, “As a pastor, I wonder what are we to do to break this immanent order over our people’s heads.” I think this IS the challenge for pastors in America and Europe today. Do you have any first-step thoughts about how to break this order?

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Thanks Mark. I think first steps is realigned your congregation toward outward thinking. We have been doing this for a year and just starting to see some fruit.

  4. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    Great thought! You made a statement that you do not live in a supernatural world, due in part by its desctruction of a secular world. Do you think the “secular world” destroyed you dependence on the supernatural? Do you think your own flesh/laziness has lead you away? Is it the suppression or control you exert in a weekend service or ministry? I am only asking, because I feel, face, and act in the very ways you described. Great thoughts and questions.

    Aaron

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      AC,
      I do not think it is lazy. I think for me I just tend to not be mindful of it. It maybe my secular conditioning. I think I am also someone who needs to control and I am trying to break free of that.
      Jason

  5. Jason,

    In the “frame” is there any hope? Can the power of the Holy Spirit break us out or your friend out? What discomfort would that cause for us?

    Is there a way to encounter the power of the supernatural and live the transcendent life?

    Great thought and I loved the frankness of your post.

    Kevin

  6. Sobatpoker says:

    Amazing post here is more information for us thanks for sharing with us.

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