Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Tethered to what?

In this increasingly post-modern era, there has been a lot of talk about "post-evangelical" and "emerging" theology. Several people have even suggested that I do some writing on "post-charismatic theology" (which I am planning to do, but only after much more research from a wide variety of sources).

Some people are horrified that postmodern, emergent people (or "pomergent" as Mitch has suggested -- which is a tongue-in-cheek label that I rather enjoy) are even thinking of deconstructing theology. As Justin pointed out in several conversations and over 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 exactly the risk that we face. How do we communicate to an emerging (and yet undefined) culture, without watering down the Message?

Charles Kraft offers a helpful suggestion in his classic missiological work, "Christianity in Culture: that we need to approach any cross-cultural contextualization of theology using the analogy of a "tether" -- a stake that is driven into the ground, which provides us with an anchor.

We are free to roam around the perimeter of area that the tether allows, but at some point, we reach the end of our theological chain which is a "thus far and no farther" marker, preventing us from falling into what Justin warns about.

So, not unlike the original fundamentalists, we have to nail down what constitutes the tether. Fundamentalists became known as such because of their insistence on "The Fundamentals" of the Christian faith. Whatever their cultural expression may have devolved into, their original intent was to define what was truly orthodox, historically in line with the traditions and teachings of the church, and would therefore represent the "thus far and no farther" of Christian theology.

So, keeping in mind from my last two posts that I'm not advocating Fundamentalism as we see it today, the question I am advancing for discussion is:
  1. What are the 'fundamentals' today that will constitute the tether that will keep any postmodern deconstruction from wandering into error, irrelevance, or even rank heresy?

  2. What are the absolute essentials of our faith, which transcend both modern and postmodern thinking (since neither is actually a friend of faith)?

  3. What is the tether that allows us to re-imagine how we communicate beliefs that we hold as timeless in our current cultural milieu?

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