Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Incarnate Church Planting Talks

Last month I had the privilege of taking part in the annual incarnate gathering of church planters.  I was invited to be the missiologist in residence.  My job was to kick off the gathering, join in the conversations and then share some reflections to wrap the whole thing up.  Enjoyed it a lot.

Any how on the off chance that someone might be interested there are audio files of my talks and downloads of my handouts to be had over at the incarnate website.  Pay the site a visit.  Have a mooch around.  Keep your ears open for the whisper of the Spirit.


tim f said...

Reaction after listening to the first one - tough crowd!

Even though I accept your basic point, I'm not completely sold on the idea that there are Christian words and secular words. I'm going to reinterpret you in a way that makes that idea acceptable to me - tell me if in doing so I've strayed from your intended meaning.

At some point the words we use as Christian words were (even if we adopted them from other languages) secular words. We adopted (or stole) them, then sought to redefine them into a fuller embodiment of the particular concept (yes, embedded in practice) that they refer to. In the process a portion of language was partially redeemed - on the way to being restored into a fullness of meaning that fallen language can no longer aspire to.

Only words that have gone through this process can be suitable for referring to the kinds of cosmic realities spoken of in the bible. Other words are inadequate, even though they are necessary starting points for explaining the meanings of the words that have gone through this process.

We should be taking people on a journey from the words they can use to capture a tiny aspect of the reality of the realities our words refer to, to being able to understand and use our words themselves. Somewhere in the middle that will involve faith, because without an encounter with God and the imparting of God's Spirit no-one can use and understand those words anyway.

That's a story I can get my head around, but does it bear any relation to what you meant?!

tim f said...

Where I definitely disagree is that commitment to Christ depends on being convinced that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and that if I was no longer convinced of that, I would ditch my commitment to Christ.

Surely when we give our entire lives to Christ, our connection to God is based on more than the consequences of believing a rational assertion? I don't think I could live without Christ emotionally or spiritually even if on a head level I was no longer convinced that Jesus is the way, truth and life. The process of "ditching" a commitment to Christ would finish me off, because Christ is too hard-wired into me, at all levels.

That's what it feels like anyway. I can accept living as Christians "feels" like different things to different people, so it doesn't have to feel like that for everyone. Is my description theologically wrong, though?

Glen Marshall said...

Tim, thanks for taking the trouble to listen and to comment.

I didn't mean to say that there are Christian words on the one hand secular words on the other. My observation had more to do with the relationship between meaning, language, and the significance for both of being located in and arising from a particular community with a particular story and a particular set of practices.

I think that the notion that we can translate meaning into universal, neutral categories is an illusion.

The meaning of the words we use as Christians will certainly overlap with the meaning of words used by those who belong to other communities; are shaped by other stories and follow other practices, but there certainly won't be anything like simple direct equivalence.

My fear is that if we don't recognise this we run the risk of distorting, or at the very least seriously thinning, the gospel in our eagerness to "get it across in terms they can easily understand".

At the conference I was mainly concerned to get people to think about this and to consider that there is more than one way to cross the culture gap between the world of Christianity/the Church and other worlds. More explicitly I wanted them to see the extent ot which discipleship is about is helping people to learn a language, integrating them into a community, introducing them to a way of life not merely getting them to assent to a supposedly simple straightforward formulation.

Does that help at all?

With regard to your other point about ceasing to follow Christ, yes, you are right; making such a decision is far more complex than I make it seem. It is certainly not a cold rational calculation. However I still reckon that if became persuaded that I was mistaken in my commitment, integrity would surely demand that seek to abandon that commitment. It would be hellish, I would be reconfigured as a person in the process and I may not ultimately manage it, but I would have to try. Don't you think?

tim f said...

Thanks Glen. With you on the first point. Still think you're privileging rationality over other ways of knowing as regards the latter. Which may be how some people think, but not how everyone thinks. I don't think integrity demands that we privilege rationality so that if our doubts seem to be in conflict with other ways of knowing we have a duty to abandon any commitment - even if that commitment was orginally based on believing a rational assertion before God took that and deepened it.

Glen Marshall said...

Not sure you have me right.

I don't think I'm unduly privileging rationality, certainly not mere rationality. Perhaps it would give a better flavour of what I'm saying if I spoke instead about convictions and the implications of changing conviction. Convictions do change, usually as result of a complex set of factors including rational, emotional, conscious, unconscious, personal, socio-political.

I quite like the word conviction. Seems to me it recruits multiple dimensions of who we are and also avoids the assumption that we commit to things on the basis of certainty. I certainly wouldn't want to abandon commitments because of doubts - that simply turns us into blubbering puddles of anguished introspection!