Christian History Home > 2005 > Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor
Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor
#1: Emergents, Meet Saints!
Now it seems that all of Walls's historic cultures and a thousand more, and every imaginable "sub-culture" to boot, are swirling, clashing, and mixing in the new American generation—a most disorienting sensation for everyone, but especially for those with no rootage in Christ.
The Emergents seem to me to have it right: No single program or rulebook can possibly speak to the hearts of this diversely gifted, diversely perceptive, and diversely wounded young generation who yearn for spiritual fulfillment yet deeply distrust "organized religion." We need to reassess—to find new models of creative ministries.
What to do in such a time?
This is a time for stories. Maybe stories from history, "straight up"—carefully researched and narrated by the scholars who have given their lives to unearthing and interpreting historical evidence and shaping the clearest, most accurate and unbiased story they can out of the shards and shadows of the past. Maybe edifying allegories, plays, and tales of various kinds.
And maybe, too, the life stories of those "dead Christians" who translated the Gospel for their own generations—forcing the church in their times to shake itself out of deep ruts and see the world in new, challenging lights. Maybe these lives can teach us something about how to translate the Gospel for the lost of our own new patchwork, post-Christian generation.
Since a one-size-fits-all approach won't work—there are no "ten steps to saving the post-Christian generation," whatever the megachurch pundits tell us—why not dive into the lives of Christians past and see how they engaged their own cultures?
This is not just some nostalgic sentiment of a crusading historian. OK, I am a crusading historian. But I'm not engaged in some antiquarian pursuit—trying to get people to read history because it is vaguely "inspiring" or because we ought to treat our ancestors as squeaky-clean heroes.
Rather, we need to encounter the people from our own Christian "family history"—wounded, crotchety, and wrongheaded though they sometimes are—because our Christian faith is a historical faith. Jesus was once incarnated in history, as a first-century Jew from Nazareth. Ever since, he has been incarnated again—through his body, the always culturally located (and always sin-tainted) church. The Apostle Paul talked about the hand not saying to the eye, "I don't need you." Well, most of our "body parts" lived long before we were born. We ignore them at our own risk.
Grace and peace to the Tender Twigs and Budding Tips of the Christian family tree—who draw strength from the Root, and now need also to draw strength from the Branches.
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