Friday, November 13, 2009

Enculturalization and the Gospel in Our Own Land

Andrew Jones the Tall Skinny Kiwi posted today about Brother Flack, a 100 year old missionary who Tall Skinny suggests ought to be the Patron Saint of the Emerging Church. It is a great post.

The quotes from Brother Flack highlight adaptation to culture in which one is ministering, and this is what Tall Skinny identifies as an emerging church dynamic having been around for a lot longer than the Emerging Church Movement.

"Go as a learner. Be prepared to learn from the national people and from the culture of the country. Do not try to make the churches like the one in your own country. Do everything you can to develop indigenous growth. Do not be masters; be servants. Identify in every way you can with the people God puts you among." says Brother Flack.

Having aggressively attempted this style of evangelism for a couple decades now, and having been acknowledged by missionaries as doing a missions model within the United States I have discovered something a bit disconcerting.

It has become popular enough to talk about adaptation to new cultures if someone moves to a far away place to preach the Gospel. There is an expectation that there will be a season of enculturalization for the new missionary. This is accepted as a necessary adaption for the growth of the Gospel.

In our own land new cultures are developing all the time. Adaptation, and learning from these developing cultures is not nearly as acceptable to the ecclesiastical powers that be as adaptation to foreign cultures. One can get themselves into some pretty sticky situations. I agree Brother Flack ought to be the Patron Saint of the Emerging Church, but if you practice his ways - oh, Brother are you gonna take some Flack! Sorry, bad joke, but still a good point.

Love God or Get Squished?

Reading the first book of the Confessions of Augustine yesterday I was stopped to contemplation (now that's good thing - usually) by this phrase: "Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest grievous woes?"

Now first off, I must admit that I am not a fan of Augustine. This is because he was instrumental in pushing for the eventual excommunication of Pelagius, whose story reads like a classic frame job. Aside from this I am enjoying the reading. There are some fantastic declarations of praise in Augustine's Confessions.

This quote stopped me, because I considered it from the perspective of someone who struggles with the idea that an angry god might also be a capricious and cruel god. This concept that the Christian God is demanding love, and is angry to the point of destruction and killing if He does not get it certainly makes Him appear wildly capricious at best, and a cruel murdering megalomaniac at the worst.

So, these questions comes to mind:

Is God really declaring woes on those who do not love Him simply because they are suppose to love Him, and when they don't He gets really ticked?

OR is there something intrinsically insidious, and potentially dangerous in the heart of those who do not love God?

OR is this quote altogether problematic for Christian doctrine, and instrumental in establishing a bad way of viewing God?

OR is there altogether another way of looking at this?

OR, maybe you have some thoughts?