Editor’s Note: Reverend Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church gives TIO readers a bird’s eye view of the ideas he is exploring in his PhD thesis. You can use Comments to express your point of view about the questions he poses at the end of his blog.
In my doctoral dissertation I am claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. For the next several posts I will be making my argument for these needed changes.
The spirituality revolution that is widely affecting Western late-modern culture has many of the same characteristics as those I have identified in my own local context. Some segments of the church have responded to that revolution in a similar fashion to modern challenges to classical theology, either withdrawing into a static orthodoxy or insisting on defining the new forms in exclusively Christian terms, often assuming a stance of superiority.
The historical movements which have produced our late-modern worldview, however, found their motivations within the developing Christian worldview of the early modern period. This is one of philosopher Charles Taylor’s main points as he traces the movement from the “Ancient Regime” through the “Age of Mobilization” to the “Age of Authenticity” and exposes the part that developments in Christianity had to play in the cultural experience of disenchantment (see Charles Taylor, “A Secular Age”).
The secularization of late-modern culture is not the result of a total break with the past and the pursuit of some newly revealed ideal, but rather, it has been, as historical shifts always are, a gradual reinterpretation and re-appropriation of past ideas, symbols, values, and motivations carrying the culture forward to meet a new situation. A new focus for theology and mission must involve, then, an appreciation of and conversation with Western culture as it has developed over the last 400 years.
Do you think that a re-visioning of thought and action is needed for the church and other religious communities today? Do you believe that these religious communities can find expressions that are more open, humble, and inclusive? Are religious and other traditions locked into past ways of thinking, or do you think it is possible for them to seriously consider the cultural developments of modernity and post-modernity?