Doing Good Church Theology in the crucible of a morally relative culture
1. It means returning to a public theology of biblical solidarity. And why do I say return? It becomes clearer upon the reflection of the life of God’s people that his promises have been uttered only within the church walls. We believe in the whole bible we just don’t demonstrate it in the public arena. There is a tendency in a morally relative culture is to trim down the nature of the good news to its epistemological core. Boil down God’s story to the lowest common denominator means losing the details of the story. Part of the problem is a tendency to think that the deeper the theology is the further out of the mainstream it should be. Then the depth of the text is relegated farthest from the public square. It makes the world think we are incredibly shallow when we are trying to accommodate. The end result is a less attractive desire toward discipleship or apprenticeship. I’m convinced that people want to be mentored and discipled. They crave it. They are crying out for it and so the answer to moral relativity isn’t simplification for a wider base of affinity. The answer to relativity is rational and experiential realism.
What are the implications for rational and experiential realism. First it means that orthopraxy must flow from orthodoxy. Here I will post the question: What is more important for a person to live righteously or to believe correct doctrine? If the conclusion is reached with orthopraxy being penultimate, I ask how is it possible to live rightly without a proper understanding of grace. One cannot for it would mean a works-righteousness. If the conclusion is reached that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy, I ask how can one truly believe without experiencing the actions of ones belief. To truly believe means to act. This is certainly a biblical notion of belief. You’re watching the man on a wire cross Niagara Falls with someone else he is pushing in wheel barrel. And when he asks if you believe he can do it again there is a real difference between being in the crowd and saying yes and actually climbing in the wheel barrel. Truly, its one thing to watch on the sidelines but something completely different to actually experience a wire between you and certain doom.
The reality is the orthodoxy and orthopraxy are two sides of the same coin. Belief dictates behavior and behavior is governed by our beliefs. Our convictions and our experiences flow throughout us as our minds and body unfold through time. Here I refer again to the concept that we do not have souls we are souls we have bodies. That’s the very idea of metanarrative holism.
2. Doing good church theology in a crucible of a morally relative culture means that we recognize good theology rejects the concept of sacred/ secular split. The real issue with doing theology in a morally relative culture is that it is the secular culture is one of anonymity, personalization and compartmentalization. Here I will lean on E. Gibbs for his contributions to my thoughts. We need to ignore parts of popular culture that attempt to say this is the time and the place for sacred culture and this is the time and space for secular culture. The first amendment itself written by Thomas Jefferson was a wall erected one directional as a way to protect the church from the state. The point of it according to Jefferson’s own understanding coming from Roger Williams – a Baptist minister – was to keep the church from the corruption of the state. Therefore we need to think of ways to transform “secular space.” To look for those redemptive parts of culture as well as look for opportunity to critique our own church culture. This sends the message that the church maintains its prophetic voice beyond any walls or imaginary boundary, that’s open to justice critique but also when it speaks it is a public voice. The result of these activities is a more robust public personification of the church. It becomes less institutional and more personal. Since there is no spatial issue the church is intermingled into the world. This is a more realistic way of Christian living. Simple community is a fluid movement. Instead of using the word fellowship think of it as spiritual friendships. Friends are constantly influencing and connecting with one another. Good friends share not only conversation but resources and time. Friendship participation within the public square isn’t something that attempts to draw attention since it is done out of a heart of generosity. Still, it is felt. Demonstrating fairness or ethicality in the public square really helps the next portion of my thoughts here.
Collective and consistence fairness toward other seems to break down walls of defensive so called morally relative. Giving the morally relative honor goes a long way toward gaining respect. I have found that while many moral relative individuals that argue there is no right and no wrong, you may find these same individuals going back on it a moments later when they experience another individual who breaks their perceived justice. Most of us if we are really honest have some perceived sense of fairness toward one another. Whether one is studying the works of Aristotle or Fredrich Nietzsche, there is a moralizing force one must come to grips with. Now I am constructing this work in a response to the general populace. Be assured there are those whose view of the world is so anarchistic they don’t care. They have become numb to their own pain. But generally if people are pushed logically they will agree that there are more convergences of the world cultures than divergences.