Friday, May 7, 2004

Tethered to What?

There’s been a lot of talk recently, in our increasingly postmodern era, about “post-evangelical” and “emerging/missional” theology. A few fellow bloggers have also suggested that I write about “post-charismatic theology.” For the records, I’m planning to … after a ton of deeper research.

Some people are horrified by the idea that postmodern/emergent people (or “pomergent,” as has been facetiously suggested) are even thinking about deconstructing theology. As Justin says, over coffee and on his blog: “If a religion/church is to evolve and adapt offering furthering interpretations of doctrine, wouldn’t that just dilute their doctrine?”

That’s the risk we face. How do we communicate to an emerging (and yet undefined) culture, without watering down the Message?

Charles Kraft’s Christianity in Culture offers a brilliant analogy: the “tether.” Kraft suggests that, when attempting cross-cultural theological contextualization, we “tether” ourselves to a stake driven into the ground – orthodox theology – as an anchor.

We’ll be able to roam freely around the perimeter, but at some point, we’ll reach the tether’s end – the “thus far and no farther” limit of orthodoxy.

I like Kraft’s tether analogy. In a sense, we’ve always been tethered to orthodoxy, whenever we wrestled through debates over rock music in church, social drinking, hair and fashion styles, body piercing/tattoos, or – long before my time – bowling alleys, Coca-Cola, and singing harmony during worship.

We’ll need to do some carefully thinking about the absolute essentials of our faith – doctrinal non-negotiables that transcend both modernity and postmodernity, since neither is ultimately a friend of faith.

I propose studying the Creeds – Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedonian – to nail down the core beliefs that define Christianity. I suspect they’d constitute a sturdy, dependable, “thus far and no farther” tether.