Monday, February 01, 2010

Building spiritual muscle

We had a really excellent Later Service yesterday evening. There weren't many of us but the conversation was rich and stimulating. I guess the latter was very much the product of the former!

We were continuing our reflections on Nehemiah, looking at chapter 4 and Glenis, having set the scene really well, asked what opposition we feel we face from outside the church.

We got the usual stuff about people being too apathetic to oppose what we're doing providing it doesn't interfere with how they live their lives and the fact that certain elements in our culture, especially the liberal media, are mounting a concerted campaign against belief.

So far, so expected

I don't buy the second argument - though I think the first has a lot of merit - and said so. To which one our people said that it's alright for me because I used to be a journalist, I've studied a lot and I know how to answer people and so I'm not fazed by such attacks. She admitted that she found such attacks quite unsettling.

I was lost for words (momentarily!).

Part of the issue here is the end of Christendom, something we who've read missional church texts know all about. It's about how the Christian faith has been moved from the centre to the margins of our culture - quite rightly in my view; it's where we belong.

But the upshot of this is that all opinions are now equal and therefore are equally fair game. And this is still a relatively new experience for Christians, especially those of a certain age and those who grew up in Christian families. For them it feels personal; their faith is being attacked now in a way that would have been unthinkable 30 to 50 years ago. And that's uncomfortable.

So, it's made me think about how we help people in church to think about their faith.

People were talking last night about such opposition calling for spiritual warfare. And I guess that's true. But it depends on how you understand spiritual warfare. For me the idea is much more about how we live than how we battle unseen spiritual powers. I tried to sum my view up in these lines:

In the early hours
writing these lines
aware of unearthly powers
in unsettling times;
war rages on our TV screens, the front line’s in my soul:
your light and these neon dreams still wrestling for control.
cause I hanker for the good life that work and money brings,
seeking the products as advertised and clinging to these things…

I’m not looking for a way out, Lord,
just some high ground so I can see
this game and its many rich rewards
in the light of all you have for me…

So we overcome evil by doing good, according to Romans 12; and we take thinking captive so that we can demolish arguments, according to 2 Corinthians 10. This means that we know how to think and how that thinking works itself out into the way we live. And the church's 'teaching' programme should be addressing that in a variety of ways.

It's back to that issue I keep returning to in this blog, discipleship. There are two facets to it here: how we can be disciples in today's challenging environment and how does what we do in church help?

Lots to think about there...


Anonymous said...

I think your group member may be onto something. Christianity is now deemed a lifestyle choice by people. Because the rigourous intellectual arguments are lost in a din of controversy about sexuality or women priests or whatever, the essential kernel of Christianity has all but disappeared. People don't understand the point of being a Christian. And when someone who is a Christian is challenged, they often don't have the intellectual capacity to respond.

If you asked someone like Richard Dawkins for a reasoned argument, you'd get one. Faith and reason don't always sit together well.

Christianity has been discredited by science and philosophy over the years. But it's also been discredited by the woolly and flabby thinking. Where are the role models? Who is speaking up for Christianity to make it a choice that people want to make?

I don't see any. You've either got the sweet old dears sitting at the back of the C of E parish church or the gut-wrenchingly awful scenes on last week's Songs of Praise of people swaying around in hypnotised, emotional states to psuedo-rock bands.

What christianity in the UK needs is frankly, a good kick up the arse. It needs to be relevant, challenging, exciting, invigorating and robust.

None of those adjectives seem to apply at the moment!

simon said...

I think you're basically right.

Christians are very poor at what used to be called apologetics. And we need to get better at it.

I think Terry Eagleton, no fan of the church, would disagree with you about Dawkins. He regards his polemic as flabby and badly argued!

And I think I'd take issue with you on the assertion that Christianity has been discredited by science. I think there are challenges that we need to face up to. But I do think that people like Francis Collins - of the human genome project - and others of his ilk - scientists at the top of their game who are also believers - make a good case for faith remaining utterly credible in the world of science

But I think your adjectives are spot on except that there's one missing - 'true'.

I think we need to make the case that the Christian story is true and that because it's true, the way of looking at and living in the world that hangs on it is also true.

オテモヤン said...
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