What African Theologians can teach the Emerging Church: Part Three

Indigenous postmodern Faith- Now, back to our initial question: How can we replace the project of relevance with the project of identity. What is the religious past and cultural present of Western Christians?

a.Religious Past– coming to terms w/ our religious past, or who are we by examining both:

i.De-westernizing: living beyond the encroachments of Enlightenment rationality and practices which evacuates the Faith of it power. (Resourses: in this aspect, our global siblings are paving the way).

ii. Post-Constantinian: living beyond the abdication of the Church to the State as the agent of salvation in its various manifestations through history (Constintine, State Church, Privatized Faith), esp. the current form of Evangelicalism underwriting the liberal-democratic project. Yet, this is not merely overcoming the form, but living with the specter of that very history, which is not a history imported from another as in the African case, but our own history. (Resources: Parents and Siblings can’t inform our dis/continuous appropriation of history, but projects such as Radical Orthodox and The Ekklesia Project are supplying tools.)

b. Cultural Present: (post-/high-/late-modernity)- coming to terms w/ our cultural present, or where are we.

i. For Westerners, we are not dealing with current pagan religions (which African, Asian, Indian theologian must contend with). Rather we live in a secular and post-secular culture.

1. Secular in the sense of living: after the Industrial Revolution where everything sacred turns to vapor through manufacturing and science; living after/in Capitalism where all relationships are transformed into producer and consumer.

2. Post-secular in the sense that religion and the spiritual have been reintroduced into society/culture as a commodity exchanged and changed like any other material and semiotic product. The sacred is not a special-effect disconnected from a way of life.

ii. In addition to this material revolution there is the Intellectual Revolution of the Enlighten which defines the cultural horizon of the West. But just as a pagan religion that Bediako might investigate in Africa, the Enlightenment has its own myths, stories, hopes, fears, and ways of life which giving meaning to the human project, just like any religion, and its called liberal-democratic-capitalism.

c. Fulfillment culture-

i. As discussed in Part 2, we should take the perspective of the Church as the fulfillment of any particular culture, rather than merely an antagonistic counter-culture. It is not a we will change for you (relevance), but we accomplish (in identity) what you desire to be. Instead of appropriating postmodern elements/forms, we look to where they point and show that in Christ (in his body the church) they are fulfilled. -This is exactly what postmodern /theologians should be doing, and I think what Radical Orthodoxy is trying to do. Philosophy, w/o theology, has failed in the Western world, just as Greek philosophy failed when it tried to appropriate Moses and the Scriptures. While couched in religious terms rather than intellectual, Justin celebrated that efforts of certain Greek before Christ and calls them Christians even though they might be considered atheists, b/c of their willingness to denounce idolatry and misguided religion. This is similar to calling Derrida, Foucault, etc. allies because they critique that idolatrous nature of Modernity.

ii. However, this task is complicated because our culture has no clearly articulate vision of the Good toward which it is aiming. The only Good for the West is Freedom which has ended up hanging itself on the leash they tied religion to (religion which always thwarted Freedom in their opinion.) So how do we fulfill the aspirations of a culture which has non besides consumer choice? Unlike the ancient Fathers and African brothers, we must first take the negative route of articulating the void, exposing the lacks and false leads of Western culture. (this is where the real work begins, and where I’m just begin so I don’t have must to offer here.)

As we negotiate b/w our religious past and our cultural present we will find our identity Christians within postmodernity (rather than merely receiving it from modern missionaries to the postmodern generation), and through this we will seek the fulfill of the culture we are immersed in, rather than a superficial relevancy.

5. So the questions i’m still working on

a. What are the contours or intersections of our identity- global, urban, postmodern?

b. What are barriers to expressing our identity?

c. How do we link this identity to the universal Church?

d. Who are the missionaries? Who are the natives?