Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cape Town – Day 3 – Warrick

Today was the best day so far.  Great emphasis this morning on preaching the gospel in the midst of suffering and persecution.  There were some short videos shown on contextualization that I thought were really helpful and appropriate as well. 

Piper did an awesome job with Ephesians 3.  He brought up the tension we were all feeling between evangelism and social justice (yesterday was a focus on our broken world and the many problems humanity faces-- to some here it felt like evangelism was being sidelined) and offered this reconciling sentence:

For Christ’s sake we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.

Basically, Piper says if the suffering in this world doesn’t move you to action, then you have a defective heart.  But if you don’t care about eternal suffering, you have a defective view of hell. 

I ran into Chuck Van Engen and had a 20 minute talk about it (totally a really cool guy!).  He says this issue is a tension that can’t be solve in theory.  He believes a covenant relationship with God in Christ is foundational, but he wouldn’t put a “priority” on evangelism over social action.  Since he was game to spend a little time with a dork like me, I offered this illustration for his appraisal:

Evangelism and social action are distinct but inseparable activities, while evangelism is central.  Which is more foundational for human existence, air or water?  Both are necessary and you’ll die without either, but breathing is more principal than drinking.  This is how evangelism relates to social action; one should not exist without the other, but evangelism is focal.

I’m trying not to “bifurcate” (HT: JR) the issue.  Anyways, Van Engen said he liked my illustration, but that we don’t really have any good models right now.

Next up were several hours of identity issues for MBBs with Joseph Cumming.  I will only offer a couple notes here.  Basically he says (we all agree) that the issue is extremely complicated.  But because it is extremely complicated, therefore we should recognize that there is not just one answer for everywhere in the world. Cumming was very adamant that MBBs themselves should sort out the issue, and any advice we offer should be done as equals and not superiors.

One thing Cumming mentioned also is that he doesn’t want to use the world “insider” or “insider movement” anymore.  It is an unfortunate and unhelpful term because we all agree (even C3 and C4) that new believers should remain inside their communities.  Interesting.

We discussed points of controversy in respect to C5:

  1. The comparison of Islam to Judaism, i.e. Messianic Muslims
  2. The fact that syncretism is clearly condemned in the Bible
  3. The meaning of the Prophethood of Mohammed
  4. The charge of deceit
  5. The charge of avoiding persecution
  6. The legalistic nature of Islam
  7. The attitude some “Muslim followers of Jesus” have toward the the worldwide body of Christ
  8. The charge of a low Christology

Cumming gave both C3/4 answers to those questions as well as defended it from the C5 perspective.  I still think the hermeneutical hinge is one’s view of Islam.  And I don’t think we could define Islam for every context and for every believer.  Thus the complication.

Anyways, Keller rounded out the day with his case for urban mission.  (I saw him earlier in the day and I wanted to shake his hand, but he was too tall.)  Keller’s church seems like the best model we have that joins together evangelism and social action?


Marti said...

Warrick - sure seems like if the contextualization idea means anything at all, it means you can't come up with one standard for all contexts. What you'd pray and work toward in one place may not be the same things you'd pray and work toward in another. Even as the scriptures lay out plenty of foundations that are universal. Unity and diversity are in tension here?

A couple weeks ago I went to a conference where one of the C5-ish guys from Pasadena, focused on Hindus, tried to deconstruct the whole idea of religion as a category of life. Said Hinduism doesn't exist. (oooh, all is illusion!) What he meant was that until rationalism began its ascent, we didn't have "religion" as a category, we had life, and the sooner we move back in the direction the better it will be for seeing people find life in Christ. The "invention" of religion is a bad thing, he said, because it erects false barriers in life, as if most life wasn't part of religion. I was scribbling like mad in order to go investigate more of this stuff later, and then I lost my notebook! So, I may not be representing this well. But as a sociologist I have found it helpful in various situations to step away from "what Muslims believe" at least to "what Muslims =here= belief," but more likely to "beliefs and belief systems here."

So as to the hermeneutical hinge, I think one of the things people are struggling with is feeling like it's OK or good to contextualize to culture, but maybe not to religion. But that means taking a close look at what we consider inside and outside the religion "box," doesn't it? Is the religion box a meaningful one?

Karen said...

Warrick, thanks for your summary of day 3, including the C-scale debate. Nice summary of some of the issues.

Quick correction: You've got Piper's quote wrong. It should be

For Christ’s sake we Christians care about all suffering, especially ETERNAL suffering.

May the Lord continue to encourage and strengthen you here in Cape Town.

Bruce G. said...

I like what Richard Twiss said about

Syncretism can be described as a way of thinking
that says by performing or participating
in a particular religious ceremony or practice,
you can alter the essential human spiritual condition
in the same way that Jesus does, through His death
on a cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead,
because they are parallel truths and both equally acceptable
in the eyes of God; thus can be considered the same thing
and combined together.

Theologically, syncretism states or implies a Native ceremony
can cleanse the soul from sin in the same way the work
of Jesus Christ does; or that performing Native ceremonies
can heal sickness, perform miracles and bridge the sin barrier
separating sinful human beings from a holy God,
because they are parallel truths from the same source.

Theological syncretism is in direct contradiction of biblical truth,
while the blending of cultural forms is a normal fact
of everyday life.

Though the risk of syncretism is always present as
we attempt to inculturate Christianity, it is a risk
that needs to be taken…

We must counsel, pray and dialogue with those of different
persuasions from our own to prevent syncretism from becoming
an emotionally defined standard that will only lead to more
confusion and division among us.

Warrick Farah said...

Guys, I misquoted Piper and corrected this post. The actual quote was, "For Christ’s sake we Christians care about all suffering, especially ETERNAL suffering."