пятница, 26 июня 2015 г.

We are all Anabaptists now

In recent days I have been pondering and reading up on a subject entitled, Christ and Culture.

The title is derived from a set of lectures by Niebuhr, who offered five paradigms for the relationship between Christ and Culture, that is to say the gospel/church and the surrounding world. Besides this 20th century seminal text there are earlier works by the likes of Augustine and Luther and more recent books such as that by Donald Carson.

As I have thought and researched on this subject it is clear that whether in Russia, where I serve as pastor, or in Scotland, where we have our 'home church' and many Christian friends, the Christian church is now a tiny minority - certainly less that 5% of the general population. This is a far cry from Holy Russia or indeed Protestant Scotland.

In this context our theology of the church (ecclesiology) needs to match the reality in which we live. We need a theology of the church which acknowledges that we the church exists as a minority within the broader society.

In the 16th century as Zwingli and others were reforming the church and the Roman Catholics were resisting such reforms there was a 'third way' - the radicals or Anabaptists. A lot has been written and said about the isolationism of the Anabaptists and the Amish (an Anabaptist group) have proverbial renown as an anti-example of Christian commitment. However Anabaptists were the ones who, far ahead of their time, recognised that the church is a voluntary society, gathered from society and not co-extensive with it. Facing secularization across the globe we are all Anabaptists now.

The question is how can we exist as a community within society without becoming inward looking and without losing our vision to reach out and draw in "whosoever will". Niebuhr's fivefold thesis was
  1. Christ against culture,
  2. Christ of culture,
  3. Christ above culture,
  4. Christ and culture in paradox and
  5. Christ Transformer of culture.
What relationship matches our setting: Christ in but not of culture? Christ into culture?   

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