This summer has been an interesting one for me in terms of theological reflection. When we are young we sometimes think we know all that there is to know and we can see so clearly where we think others have gone wrong. As we grow older with a little more of life under our belts we begin to see that things are not always as crystal clear as we imagined in our younger days and we are more aware of the agendas that color and influence what people, including ourselves, do and say.
The same kind of dynamic can be seen in parenting. Parents who take their responsibilities seriously are often much harder on their first child then on subsequent children. With the first child they are so concerned to do things right and to make sure they keep the child from all of the things they regret about their own upbringing. But the passage of time has a way of calming parents down and experience enables them to see that each child is an individual and must be treated as such. What worked for one will not necessarily work for another. Children cannot be sheltered from all that is wrong with the "big, bad world" and must be allowed to make mistakes and make their own decisions as they are able. Children cannot be forced into a narrow mold without doing lasting harm that may not show up until years later. Time and experience have a way of helping us to see the broader picture and to realize that there is often more than one way to live a life which is acceptable to God.
Working as I do in theological education I am forced, more than most, to think about the world and the state of the church. Such reflection is a mixed blessing. On the one hand there are many wonderful things going on, there are books, conferences, churches, outreach, humanitarian endeavors and much more. But at the same time there is a party spirit, an old boys club kind of mentality, a them-versus-us attitude that is often counterproductive because it enshrines outdated positions and prejudices that need to be examined afresh in the light of scripture. Because, regretfully, I do not know enough about other branches of Christianity, I will restrict my comments to what is commonly called 'evangelicalism.' Here, we are more divided than ever. There are competing visions of 'what should be' and 'how church should be done.' There are no end of programs but at the end of the day it is difficult to determine if they are about true Christianity or personal kingdom building and having the bragging rights as 'one of the largest churches in wherever!' Things seem stagnant, preaching is predictable and visionary leadership lacking.
The real question is where do we go from here? That is something I want to explore in future posts.