Chapter 1: Post-Enlightenment Culture as a Missionary Problem
Here are a pair of great questions a couple of discussion participants asked forthwith:
- "Is it possible…we have actually surrendered the claim of Jesus Christ to be Lord of the world? Does he truly reign for us only over the realm of the personal?"
- "Is it not possible for our personal choices to effect changes in the public world?"
Next I'll ask if "we" is the corporate, royal and deferential "we?" I'll dare assume it's the "you and me" we. I wonder if I'm too tame and cautious in confessing Jesus Lord of all even with other Christians. Bishop Newbigin mentions several Christ-icons, including Christus Pantocratur / Christus Cosmocratur. He says we're living in a pagan rather than a secular culture, and though I'd never considered that fact, I believe he's correct. It's a sure thing that here in year 2003 [fast-forwarding to 2004, same thing] Jesus Christ has become one of a plethora of possible choices and very few mainline-type Christians are into being thought of as exclusive and particular Christians.
Among the cautions and counsels Bishop Newbigin gave to all of us missionary-evangelists are warnings I know I need to begin taking more seriously:
- my version of Christianity is an "adapted gospel," shaped by my total life experiences;
- a person's Muttersprach is "the language of the home and heart" and the Word that transformed Paul of Tarsus' life - and heart - was a vernacular word!
- We must learn to speak not only the formal language but the dialect, speak the culture of those we evangelize.
- I need to learn to speak "pagan" rather than the "Christianese" most of us theologian-types speak so fluently!
- Finally, I need to become much more aware of the syncretic elements in my own Christianity, and I say that especially as a person who has lived in and who's (literally) conversant with the symbols of a fairly broad range of cultures and styles.