Christianity meets the world

I was reading an article the other day in Christian Ethics Today, and I came away surprised by two different things.  First: The article was about Baptists and an idea called “Christian Realism.”  The author believes that each generation of Christians must reinvent Christianity for themselves because the ideas and cultures they face are different than the previous generation(s).  For that reason, we must each of us find out how Christianity interacts with the world in which we live.
     As you may have read in an earlier post, I have been reading Frederica Matthewes-Green’s book On the Corner of East and Now.  Matthewes-Green is an Eastern Orthodox, her husband is a priest at a church south of Baltimore.  She talks glowingly about the tradition, and one of the things about the Orthodox tradition that has engaged me most deeply is their insistence that they worship the same way as every Christian that has ever worshipped.  That got me to thinking, do we really have to reinvent ourselves?  Does Christianity have be made new every generation?  Is what we face really all that different than what those who came before us faced?  At first blush, I don’t think so.  I think the author’s assumption is wrong.
     Second: the author also claims, based on Christian Realism, that there is no hope for good in this world.  Sin has completely won over.  The best we can hope for is an approximation of justice, an approximation of love, an approximation of healing.  But we can never really achieve these things because of our sinful world.  I must say that I disagree with that assumption, as well.  Not that I would say that it is wrong, I just disagree with it as a basic assumption.  The author did not even mention that he was assuming it to be true.
     Is our pursuit of justice and peace really entirely futile?  I do not necessarily believe that we can achieve perfection, but without the hope that we can improve and get ever closer to it, we fall into a pattern of resignation and hopelessness where all we have to look forward to is the streets of gold in heaven.  Something else that Matthewes-Green points out about the Orthodox is that they strive to see the good and the beauty in all things – a new leaf in spring, a flower, the flight of a bird, a well written verse – it is all God’s creation, and it is not all totally lost.  There is good to be had in the world.  However dark it often is.
     Anyway, I’d appreciate any comments.

One thought on “Christianity meets the world

  1. I think it’s true (to some extent) that Christianity must adapt to the culture in which it finds itself. That’s the current struggle of missions – to find how the Gospel interacts with cultures, rather than Westernizing people so they can become Christian. The balance – and this is the big challenge – is what is acculturation and what is simply accomodation? What is the balance between “they have to become like us” and “just let them stay exactly like they are?” Fortunately, the most basic arts of the Gospel are universal.

    By the way, most folks I know (myself included) who call themselves “realists” are jokingly getting out of being called what they really are: pessimists.

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