I thought I’ll just dwell in a little “interlude” before more reports & reflections of the recent events. Resonating what the new Bishop Philip Lok of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia said in his speech last sunday, I too am still in a stage to allow the implications of our corporate decisions to settle in. More importantly, I find myself opening up space for imaginations to emerge. What are the dangers and opportunities before us?
*side story: before the convention the frame for my glasses snapped and broke, and I needed to dig out my old pair from years ago to get through the convention and this week – that’s why I look strange if you notice – but this little incident made to “redeem” the discomfort as a sign that before “looking forward” with new pairs of glasses (I got two pairs made – perhaps signifying multi=perspectives) I want to understand our denomination backwards before living forward together (Thanks to Kierkergaard for this insight)*
When Gareth and I were having breakfast yesterday, he enjoying bread and cereal while I was having my coffee. These words from Miroslav Volf caught my attention in his pieace “Theology, Meaning and Power” in the Future of theology (it”s quite a long quote but worth it – which I also see has relevance for ecclesiology in our context):
“A theology appropriate to multilingual people living in a functionally differentiated and culturally pluralistic societies should be conceived primarily a nonsystemic and critical intellectual endeavor … In a time of “increasing interdependence cultural diversity and historic change, Stephen Toulmin argued, the intellectual task before natural and social sciences is “not to build new, more comprehensive systems of theory with universal and timeless relevance, but to limit the scope of even the best-framed theories, and fight the intellectual reductionism that became entrenched during the ascendency of rationalism.” We shoulld “pay less attention to stability and system, more attention to function and adaptability“. The same, I would argue holds true for theology. The more systemically rigorous and timeless our theologies are, the less useful they will be in the diverse situations of our fast-changing cultures (which by no means entails the claim that the least systemically rigorous theology –a haphazard conglomeration of theological assertions — will be the most useful). Does theology so conceived forfeit its universal claim? To the contrary: It is because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever,” it is because Christian faith is for all times and all places, that our theologies need to be nonsystemic, contextual and flexible.”
I’m chewing on this for a while especially when in our context where faith often is less reflective and to some extend we are rationally not so rigorous, the temptation is to move towards becoming over rigid in order to gain an illusory or even utopian stability in the life of the church assuming this is a higer order compared to a so called “baby faith” or even “blind faith”. And yet, I do not propose we become “irrational” or “haphazard”.
What I sense is a better way forward is to recognize the role of “reason” or more linear kinds of rationality its rightful place without over accenting it (often unknowingly downplaying the experiential and what I call “different kinds of rationality” that’s non-linear). What is true for theological construction in our context would also be true IMHO for ecclesiological construction (or reconstruction or renovation) where we give up an illusory and not-realistic expectation or even obsession with thinking framed by words like “stability” and “systems” (but not ignoring it’s role as well as limitations and contribution) and get on with dealing with what’s before us with more attentions on “function” and “adaptability”
(note: it’s a matter of what gets more attention while keeping a keen awareness of the other aspects in mind).