Explorations in Theology

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Just how catastrophic?

Or what if?

In the last post I used the term ‘anthropecene age’ (big word… no expert here with keyboard I assure you!). The suggestion with the use of this term is that since the ice age we have lived with a reasonably consistent climate, but that there has been a huge shift due to our behaviour and that the next era will not be settled in the same way. Add to that the increase in pandemics in the 20th and now the 21st centuries and it seems likely that we have to think of the future as markedly, as opposed to marginally, different to the past. [A while back someone sent me a very helpful paper on the church and the pandemic, suggesting that there were three analogies that might help us think through a response. If it is a storm, it will pass, so just shut down until it is over; if winter then think a little longer term, make sure the supplies are in place etc., but again it will be over, just the time till things are back to normal will be longer. But if it is akin to an ice age we should not be thinking this will be over, and we will not be able to predict too accurately what will come out the other side. I consider this is not a storm, and it is something more sever and longer lasting than a winter….]

It gets me thinking… and, although I understand the hope that everything will get back to normal I am really not convinced that is the case. What if this coincides with a couple of awesome scenarios? What if we really will see something along a ‘third phase’ outpouring of the Spirit. From Pentecost of 2012 I have been declaring that that is what we are entering into. Let me explain… I see a pattern in Peter’s prophecy in Acts 2: this [outpouring] is for you, your children and for those afar off. What does ‘afar off’ mean? Does it simply mean they get pulled into ‘us’… or as per Peter / Cornelius is the discovery that God is already present in and among ‘the afar off’ for ‘us’ to find out?

Then what if…

Come on there has to be a lot of ‘what if’s?’ if we are going to get our heads to no longer determine what is and what is not.

What if Paul was very smart but only had revelation to a point? Sure revelation way beyond the likes of you and me, that I don’t think is to be disputed. After all you have to have serious revelation to go about planting (right word?) an ekklesia where there was already an ekklesia, planting / initiating the true body of people who would make sure that their polis (city / city-state) was transformed. The ekklesia of Jesus was where he pinned his hopes, not the one that was sanctioned by Rome that already existed. So given he had incredible revelation; but what if he saw the first step on the process. What would he consider today? Would he think primarily geographically, because I am sure he was shaped by discipling ‘all nations’ (ta ethne: I know we like to think of ethnic language when we consider this, but it was simply an overarching term for all those that are not seeking to live from a covenant relationship with God… now that opens up whole communities that we need to think about, and arguments about sovereignty being restored to nations when the nation -state of today is NOT the nation of the Bible is likely to cause us to miss this moment… Blah de blah…)

But beyond the blah blah, maybe we need to think again about the first step in our context, and as we enter this so named ‘anthropocene’ age. And maybe we need to be already thinking about steps 2 and 3… steps that Paul perhaps did not have sight of; after all he was keen to get to Spain so that the whole of the Imperial land could be impregnated with the first step. Until the first step is complete maybe there wasn’t revelation for the steps beyond?

What if…?

3 thoughts on “Just how catastrophic?

  1. Martin, Martin, so radical! You mean revelation is incomplete and we actually do have to figure out/listen/learn in terms of present and future contexts? And as you note in your designation of the anthropocene the future context could be quite different from the present. Sigh.

    I teach two courses this term to undergrads. One is on the ecology of urban planning and of course it is about resilience as all planning now must account for ongoing,ever shifting climate disasters from wildfires to floods. And the other to undergrads is a multi-disciplinary approach to the topic of climate change resilience. While a lot of programs are represented, half of the students are in some sort of business program. We are rocking!

    Young people are creating the theology of tomorrow. They are the ones who must seriously consider a future that challenges everything we know. They will have to continuously learn in a shifting landscape – literally. And they have to figure out how to eat, transport goods, manage education and business and all the rest of life in the midst of that. It is daunting. But I am awed at them. They are fun, quirky, up on things, at times anxious but also eager to learn and tackle issues. I simply point them in the right direction.

    So revelation coming on next steps? The youth are already there. They are already asking hard questions – today we went from transport systems to globalization and its problems which I had not planned for. They led. I merely follow along. They are already thinking through how to address the issues. They have the revelation. It is theirs as they will have to live it.

  2. “The ekklesia of Jesus was where he pinned his hopes, not the one that was sanctioned by Rome that already existed”

    I wonder where is that alternative, separatist spirit in the modern church that seems happy to get behind so much of the current secular worldview as evidenced by the ‘anthropocene age’ paradigm.

    It may be of course that the voice of the Spirit today is telling us to line ourselves up with the secular prophets (Gore, Thunberg, Attenborough) but I am sceptical.

    just a perspective. blessings all

    1. Nigel – always appreciate the authentic push back and questions…

      You (for me) put the issue right on with the question of the Spirit’s voice – is it in and among ‘secular’ prophets such as the ones you mention?

      The significant issue that seems to follow – if the ‘secular’ voices are reflecting the Spirit’s voice – where is the ekklesia positioned? Also – and mulling a future post here – I think we are pre-Pauline ekklesia-wise (or bluntly and over-stated we are not ekklesia); yet we must not try to copy the Pauline model (biblical shape of church not the goal!) but something adapted by the culture to be what Paul would plant / encourage in our very complex global / diversified as opposed to his predominantly global world. Paul’s ekklesia was tied to city-state… what would be our connection point / points? Then beyond that it would be how to be post-Pauline. Paul never got there as he had not fully seeded the Imperial context with the first step – the city-state Jesus’ ekklesia in each locality. I (oh the old anabaptist part kicks in now) consider that it all gets de-railed very early on so we do not get much of an insight into what post-Pauline might look like.

      If anthropocene is not embraced that issue of ekklesia remains… if anthropocene is embraced maybe that for some would be the main context to consider the pre- and post-Pauline scenario.

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