Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Into What is Christianity Evolving?"

Many scholars argue that postmodernity has birthed a new "Copernican revolution" in the field of theology. As is the case with all intellectual revolutions, what was once believed to be "true" becomes no longer tenable in light of the new living experience. Throughout history, such revolutions have brought about great change in religion. Because religion is inseparable from the human condition, it changes as the human condition changes. All religion evolves. Christianity is no exception.

The Evolving Christian Faith Network (ECF-Net) exists for those coming from a liberal-mailine tradition who want to engage the challenge of postmodernity. The reason for this focus is the uniqueness of that tradition's questions. For example, many theologians coming from the conservative-evangelical tradition are struggling with the such issues as the place of women in leadership and the validity of "openness" theology (which I have heard described as an evangelical version of process theology). Meanwhile, those coming from the liberal-mainline tradition are used to women pastors, and revisionist theologies (such as liberationist, process, and post-liberal) are commonplace dialogue partners. Differing frameworks lead to differing questions.

Different questions require different approaches to inquiry and often lead to different answers. Because postmodernity is so pervasive, both traditions must face the overarching question "Into what is Christianity evolving?" But, that very question means something different to those sibling traditions. And as a result, their answers will be as different as their journeys.

If we were to try to collaborate in this endeavor while ignoring our differences, then the framework would be a de-valuing one. Our uniqueness would not be able to be fully utilized for the task at hand. Moreover, to do so would bring a degree of conflict that would consume the energy that should be devoted to theological investigation. This approach would prove counter-productive.

But it would be just as counter-productive to segregate ourselves from each other and engage our quests with an air of disregard for our sibling's struggles and accomplishments. Such ego-centricity would dangerously drive us down the path to self-absorbed isolation. Any quest for a relevant theology must accept the diversity of our reality.

When we are open to dialogue with the "other" we are open to both affirmation and challenge. We are able to remain focused on our own quest, while still being able to allow that quest to be informed from the outside. Therefore, ECF-Net is not meant to exist in a theological vacuum.

Rather, ECF-Net is meant to be a place for those coming from a mainline-liberalism to explore the significance of postmodernity for that tradition's understanding of Christianity, to be able to articulate that understanding (which would be a "revisionist" theology), and to bring that voice distinctly into dialogue with our emerging sibling-movement coming from the conservative-evangelical tradition.

Yes, the path ahead will be a rough one. But I believe it will be fruitful. The future is open. Let us see what we can do with it.

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