Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Questions (and answers?)

I've been mulling over the relationship between the Church and the world when it comes to questions and answers.  I think I see two models which dominate our thinking.

In the first model, the world is thought of as having questions, whilst the Church has answers.  The job of the Church, then, is to supply the answers to the questions the world is asking.  This assumes a few things.  Firstly, it assumes that the world is asking questions, and indeed not just any questions but the right questions.  Secondly, it assumes that the Church is in a position of superiority vis a vis the world, as the possessor of answers.  Thirdly, it assumes that the world, when seeking answers to its questions, is likely to come to the Church, or at least that the world will be willing to listen to the answers the Church provides.  I think this model may have been useful, at some point in the past, when the big questions being asked in the world were in fact largely shaped by the Church, and therefore the Church genuinely was seen as the place to go for answers.  I'm not at all sure it is very useful today.

In the second model, the world is thought of as having answers, while the Church has questions.  The job of the Church on this model is to question the assumptions of the world, and attempt to make the world think more deeply about the genuineness of its answers.  This model is probably more useful to us today, and underlies a lot of our apologetic strategy.  Note, however, that this still puts the Church into a position of definite superiority; our questions come from a place of security and power.

I've been wondering what an ecclesiology that is deeply shaped by the cross looks like.  I wonder whether in this instance it means not taking a position of authority.  I've been wondering whether the role of the Church in the world might be to ask questions of God and of itself, and to be asked questions by God, so that the Church is able to stand in solidarity with a confused world and encourage the world to ask the questions it hardly dares to ask for fear of a lack of answers.

I wonder whether we in the Church could be a community of comforted questioners, and the comforted questioned.  Might we not be able to say to the world: we too have questions and doubts, we too would like to ask God a thing or two, we too are confused and baffled by existence and terrified by non-existence, but we are comforted in the face of our questions and our fears by Jesus Christ, who asks the question with us - "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  And then we might be able to say to the world: like you, we find our very existence thrown in doubt, we are forced to question whether anything means anything, and indeed we find ourselves standing under the great question of whether our being can possibly be justified, but we are comforted in these questions by Jesus Christ, who asks us a bigger question which leads us to hope - "who do you say I am?"

Anyway, I was just wondering what that might be like.

1 comment:

  1. i think I love this..

    it's something I'm keen to encourage that I've been calling "sympathetic apologetics" (NB loving and understanding does not mean endorsing), essentially about what it means to share our different unions with Adam (father) & Christ (brother) with the world - "we too like the rest" from Eph 2-4.

    It's almost violent to rip it out of context, so if you get a chance to read the Prologue, do so...in fact, if you don't have it I'll email it to you cos I liked it so much I typed it out), but Vinoth Ramachandra treads a similar line in Subverting Global Myths, and I thought you might be interested to follow it up - see what you think, here's a taster:

    "Christian theology is more than a set of doctrinal beliefs or systematic arguments. It is a way of seeing, of so dwelling in a particular language and doing new things with that language so that its revelatory and transformative power is manifest in the world. That language arose out of specific historical events that both constitute us as the ekklesia of Christ and call forth characteristic social practices such as thanksgiving, forgiving, exposing evil, truth-telling, welcoming the broken and the hopeless, and bearing testimony to grace. Such a theology seeks comprehensiveness, because it seeks to bear prophetic witness to One whose speech-acts heal, renew and transform the world in its entirety, but its own speech is always broken, sharing in the not-yet-redeemed character of the world."