Christianity as it is in the present time cannot save modernity from itself. Does that leave the Church without hope? No. Biblical Christian Faith can. There is certainly a difference between Christianity that has been shaped, projected and promoted by the West, aped by the rest of the world and the Biblical Christian Faith. I am not trying to be smart, judgemental, critical or cynical in making this statement. It is more of a self reflection seeking to be effective as a Christian in my cultural context.
Murray Jardine’s captivating narrative The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society takes us from early pagan culture through the stages of history and social development to contemporary western culture that he says is currently facing a crisis. Human creativity is affirmed and the manner in which technological advances had led to the present modernity that was unimaginable in the past is explained. Christianity and the protestant work ethic while having had a significant influence in this process have also contributed to consumer-oriented materialism.
The solution that is put forth as a measure of reversing the rapid deterioration and ‘exhaustion’ of post modern nihilistic culture may seem at the outset a little too idealistic and farfetched but it is possible because that is the Mission of God (Misseo Dei). It stands on the pillars of restoration, reconciliation and renewal. Human instruments are God’s choice, created in His image (Imago Dei) and thus empowered to carry out this mission on His behalf. This Mission is all about bringing Mankind back to its original condition under the reign of God.
At various times in history whenever culture comes to a point of ‘exhaustion’, we see a move toward the formation of a dynamic, vibrant community, one that communicates within itself and communicates effectively outside through its lived out life to carry out this mission. This community continues to be effective in its influence until it becomes an institution.
Abraham was called out so a new community could be created. Eventually it became structured. Judaism, rather than a way of life turned into a rigid institution. Jesus came to form another community to communicate the invitation of God to a fuller and abundant life. It started off well and then once again became institutionalized. The Reformation was another call to rebuild this community. The Protestant message was powerful and effective until it evolved into structured Christianity and Christendom.
The point of exhaustion of culture comes about more rapidly now with technological advances. Christianity that has contributed to this process cannot be the answer. Jardine’s prophetic call to return to Biblical style community is not to present Western “Christianity” but to the Christian Faith as it should be lived and practiced in community and communicated contextually in every culture. This then is the challenge facing the Church of the 21st century, to present itself as:
a. Communities of people communicating with one another through the Word, Worship and Witness
“In order to establish such places, then, it will be essential to reconstruct face-to-face communities where people actually do talk to each other more. (Jardine 2004, 279)” “This would mean developing a culture that embodies the virtues of faith, hope, and love through such places as a democratized polis, apprenticeship, ritual, prophecy, and narrative, which can concretely set limits on human action … (Jardine 2004, 279)”
b. Communities of people caring for one another.
The church which is described as the ‘household’ (Oikos) family of God. They are identified by the caring relationship, interdepence and connectedness to one another and to those who surround them. “Such a project can be begun by restructuring urban environments, reducing hours of work, and providing personalized care for the elderly and dying (Jardine 2004).”
c. Communities of people creatively living out their lives as co-creators with God.
Everything that was created was for the good of mankind and given as a gift to mankind. Man has taken all of God’s gifts including the gift of creativity and of being a co-creator with God and turned it against himself for self destruction. It is completely true that God has completed the process of creation. There is nothing left for man to create now as God created in the beginning ‘everything out of nothing.’ Man’s creation now is discovery, invention and innovation, in accordance with his progressing intelligence and ability to grow in knowledge and skills. Whatever it may be, the concept of ‘co-creator’ places a responsibility on his shoulders as care taker of creation. It is also a constant reminder of his connected with creation.
d. Communities of people who dare to be counter cultural
“Thus what is required is the formation of local communities that can put the biblical understanding of human agency into practice to develop an alternative to liberal capitalist democracy as it approaches its collapse CITATION The04 p 279 l 1033 (Jardine 2004, 279).” Jesus was counter cultural and the call to His followers is also to be so. There is hope through Christ. It has to be lived out by His followers as He intended.
The good news is that I am witnessing the planting of such small communities each day in my ministry. They are making a difference.