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difficulty expressing myself February 8, 2007

Posted by Cobus in Emerging Church, theology.

I wrote this a very long time ago, but was a bit wary of publishing it. But now it’s out… 

I don’t know if you have experienced this, but I’m experiencing it more and more. I get into conversations about theological stuff, usually sort of dogmatic stuff, and usually conversations where concepts like Sin, Hell, Heaven, Redemption etc. are used. And suddenly I get the feeling that I’m at a distinct disadvantage.

This may sound very bad, like it’s some kind of argument, or even worse, some kind of competition. Usually it’s not anything of the sort. It’s just that we have all these concepts that is simply assumed in our church circles. If you are comfortable with these concepts you have a whole system of theological thinking sorted out for yourself. If not, you have very little. I get into these conversations, and simply can’t seem to express myself, because I’m not always comfortable with the traditional ways in which we used these concepts, but I don’t have a nicely worked out alternative yet.

I like the principle of deconstruction, but to deconstruct, and really reconstruct these concepts in a responsible way is not that easy. Especially in this Protestant culture where we have these 500 year old/long tradition of how to understand these concepts. I won’t claim to have it all figured out, maybe you have some ideas on how to understand it. Bottom line. When I look back at these conversations I realise that it must have looked like I really have the worse case. I mean, I didn’t have it all worked out, didn’t have a nice thesis or anything. I only had a hunch that there might be some different way of understanding it.

Scot McKnight quotes Wikipedia saying “The emerging church is concerned with the deconstruction and reconstruction of Protestant Christianity in a postmodern cultural context.” And I guess you don’t start deconstruction because you know what the reconstructed concept would look like. You simply have a hunch that there might be something more, and then start out on this road, and the implication is that your system of thought might not look that perfect all the time.Maybe you understand my experiences, maybe I’m unique in experiancing it this way… 


1. Andrew - February 9, 2007

I think I understand what you are saying. I have had similar struggles – particularly as I have the privilege and challenge of working closely with the “unchurched”. I so often feel like I don’t really know what to say as the traditional spiel seems so inadequate in so many situations, and I am not confident that it is even right anymore – at least not in the same way I perhaps once was (I still accept the notion of absolute truth and that in Christ we do have access to these truths – but I am also aware that many of our traditional methods of applying these truths are no longer terribly relevant or conducive to kingdom building).

I don’t have any real answers but I have tried to steer away from the old chestnuts when they come up and instead paint a picture of Christ. Rather than dealing with what it is gonna be like if “you” don’t choose to follow him, what will it be like if “you” do, and who is he anyway?

So far this approach seems to be helping to gain ground – I find many of the people I deal with (mostly young people as I am youth worker in a drug and alcohol rehab setting) keep coming back and keep wanting to know more and in some cases end up going the whole hog – choosing to follow Christ for themselves in very real and powerful ways. But I do think there should also be a time for the chestnuts – picking it is the hard part. I know one of the things that kept me from Jesus when I was younger was that no one would answer my questions in a direct way. I didn’t really like the idea of a “religion” that didn’t have any answer and/or wouldn’t admit it.

In those situations where conversations are had with other Christians about the things you mention I find that I am often left feeling uncomfortable, inadequate or, after it is all said and done, left replaying the conversation in my head with a hollow feeling in my stomach wishing I had said more or said less or just said different.

Thanks for your post! BTW are you going to Amahoro in Uganda in May?

2. cobus - February 9, 2007

Thanx for the comment. What is Amahoro? I’m far away from Uganda

3. Andrew - February 10, 2007
4. Andrew - February 10, 2007

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