Constants in Context: ways of perceiving culture in mission gives a glimpse of the contents in the book. I’ve found Steven Bevans’ book Models of Contextual Theology to be very helpful – I tend to get linked through authors not just the topics. It’s a personal thing 🙂
Anway, building on some of the directions sparked by Mangoes and Bananas in my adventures in theology and missiology, I was also drawn to the desire to see how the “constants” and “”context” interact and inform each other. Previous ways of framing the question could be what’s absolute? what’s relative? What’s unchanging? and what’s changing? , etc. So, first of all I felt these two words (i.e. Constants & Context), help to take some emotional charged temptations aside (at least for now *grin*) and help me work through some of the issues. The “inner movement” for me personally is always, “ok? now what’s next? how can we move forward?” (I’m indebted much to my teacher Rev. Dr. Hwa Yung for springing me free into this direction and recognizing the need to be aware of the presuppositions I’m working with … the seeds of all this goes back to those classes in seminary and personal conversations).
This collaborative effort in this particular book is a rich resource – consider the opening words in p.7,
“One of the most important things Christians need to now about the church is that the church is not the ultimate importance. To say this is not to deny the church’s divine origin or to believe one whit less of it that is “the people mad eone with the unity of the Father , Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (LG4). The church is indeed, the “universal sacrament of salvation” (LG 48; AG1), “imbued with the hidden presence of God.” Nevertheless, the point of the church is not the church itself. The church’s foundation and continued existence are not to provide refuge from a sinful world or to provide a warm and supportive community of lonely souls, or even less to be a plank of salvation on a tempestous sea that threatens damnation. The point of the church is rather to point beyond itself, to be a community that preaches, serves, and witnesses to the reign of God. In doing this the church shares in and continues, throught the power of God’s Spirit, the work of its Lord, Jesus Christ. so completely does the church live for God’s reign that, when finally is fully established, the church will be subsumed into is all-encompassing reality. “Only the Kingdom … is absolute and it makes everything else relative” (EN 8.)
I’m freewheeling the idea of working on matters relating to church for my Masters programme – so here’s some words that puts some perspective on the endeavour 🙂
In my eavesdropping the emerging church (especially the UK, USA and a little bit with NZ and Australia) as well as emergent conversation there is sometimes the tendency to be drawn into the philosophically framed discussions on for example Foundationalism (which I think is an important and valid one) or sociologically framed discussions such as the changing cultural shifts and be tempted to miss out the possibilities that missiologically framed discussions could provide (which I think allows the conversation to widen including non-westen immediate concerns).
For me it’s not either/or … it;s definately both/and to sound little more cliche but it’s mainly accepting different starting points while seeking to see how we’re heading to the future working out how the Gospel touches our various contexts. And I think there is a climate in the present conversations for acceptance of a variety of starting points which I see as encouraging.
So for emergent malaysia as a network that opens up space for grassroot (i.e. local church) conversations and constructive work to emerge *grin* while connecting with others globally – fellow “reflective practioners”. The accent is less on philosophical loaded catergories or terminology in the Malaysian context (though some of us would have fun doing it) but if what I sense is correct based on our last few conversations, it seems to have started more a more missiological starting point (I think that’s what moves our hearts). Then again those of us seriously engaged in this effort know it’s a fascinating webs of interactions between sociology, philosophy, theology, missiology, cultural anthropology, Biblical exegesis, etc isn’t it?
It’s a long journey ahead … starts with small steps!