Paul writes – A couple of years ago I was speaking to a group of Anglican clergy, sharing my take on the UK alt-worship, ‘emerging’ church scene. Trying to highlight hope – creative signs of life, of Gospel and culture engagement along the edges of a largely declining mainstream Anglicanism. I was trying to highlight the parallels between our two contexts, and the hopeful possibilities that might be able to be explored in our own kiwi context(s).
Toward the end of the ‘conversation’ a priest asked me about the place of “truth” in these “alt,” “emerging” expressions of church. I responded with reference to the incarnation and to truth embodied; truth embodied and lived out in a person – Jesus! I talked about us needing to show truth. I felt we were too wedded to notions of “truth” and the “rational”; truth and words (or truths). Truth was more right doctrine and mental assent to supposed “truth” statements.
I kept coming back to Jesus – to truth embodied, embodied as love, peace, joy etc. People are looking to the church for embodiment, to our ‘acting out’ the truth we profess with our mouths. Sadly that search isn’t an easy one. Somehow, so many churches have become much less, and work for much less than an embodied and enacted bearing of the transformative “good news” of life, freedom, love and hope centered on Jesus Christ.
This was a memory that came back to me as I started to read the opening pages of Pete Rollins’ book, How (Not) to Speak for God.
Anyway, I want to capture something of those early pages by way of quotes from them; quotes that for me anyway, take me back to that night a couple of years ago:
Pete has a great expression, which I suspect is a neat summary of a central theme that the book unpacks and supports “…Heretical Orthodoxy: From right belief to believing in the right way.”
The emerging community “is a significant part of a wider religious movement that rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous…”
“…The Orthodox Christian is one who believes in the right way – that is, believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christlike manner…”
“…Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than [solely] a means of believing things about the world…”
I’ve added “solely” (above) because I believe that in living into and out of the biblical narrative we do have a view (we do “believe” something) about the world, i.e. a worldview. We need both. Ways of being in the world are in an ongoing conversation with what we believe about the world. I think the world “rather” in the quote sets up an unhelpful polarity – “either / or”!
“Orthodoxy as right belief will cost us little; indeed it will allow is to sit back with our Pharisaic doctrines, guarding the ‘truth’ with the purity [and single-mindedness] of our interpretations. But orthodoxy, as believing the right way, as bringing love to the world around us [i.e. embodying love] and within us…that will cost us everything…”