Paul writes – Len Hjalmarson’s reflection is ‘scratching’ where I’m itching “Speaking Christianly in Babel” – part 1 and 2. The paper he’s referring to is one that he kindly e-mailed to me recently. Interestingly it appeared in a NZ journal (Stimulus), an issue which somehow I missed. You can read a brief bio of Dan here (scroll down) – he’s workshopping at a conference in March 09 alongside some of my theological heroes: Stanley Hauerwas, Walter Wink, Brian Walsh, and Sylvia Keesmaat. If I lived closer to Oakville, Ontario I’d be there with bells on. Those there will be exploring some important missiological themes.
You’ll find the paper, referred to above, via Len’s first post. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
“Within the contemporary western Church talk about mission is often dominated by strategising. The Church, driven by a pragmatism that is itself definitive of western culture, searches for the strategy that will cause mass conversion. If the right strategy, if the right words, can be found then revival will occur. The good news must be translated into the language of the culture so that it can be accessible, and so that the ranks of a dying Church can be swelled.
“This article will argue that missional strategies that present the Christian gospel in language that is understandable to western culture are bound to fail. When the Church uses the language of western culture to proclaim the gospel, cultural definitions co-opt the Christian meaning and the only result can be cultural Christianity. Moreover, within the contemporary society, language has been significantly devalued and Christian attempts to speak culturally are merely surrendering to, and participating within, the structures of Babel.
“Therefore, if the western Church hopes to be missional, it must learn to speak Christianly in the midst of Babel. Instead of changing the gospel message the Church must proclaim the gospel in its original form and allow the way it lives to interpret that message. The Christian message cannot simply be employed to provide Christian living with cultural approval. Instead Christian living, coupled with faith in the Holy Spirit, ought to provide the content and meaning of the Christian message. When Christianity is proclaimed in this way then the Church will be equipped to reveal a radical new way of being human in the midst of a western culture dominated by the idols of free-market capitalism…
“It is the indwelling and embodiment of the Christian story that makes it comprehensible (and perhaps even appealing) to society. It is the actions of the Christian community that exegete the Christian message.”