Explorations in Theology

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Beyond constant change

‘Constant change is here to stay’ was a catchphrase from years back. True… but we are stepping beyond the ‘constant change’ right at this time. I wrote a little yesterday from Pope Francis ‘change of era’ statement, and today I received an email… but a little background first.

Two days ago as I was walking the dog, and I know exactly where I was, I was thinking about Bob Mumford. Truth be out, I have not thought of, nor prayed for him in decades. I do not know the last time I heard his name. Bob was well known in many circles connected to the New Church Movement, and was one of the writers in the influential New Wine magazine of the 1970s / 80s. He moved away from the ‘heavy shepherding’ tendency and as far as I know was always seeking to be on the cutting edge. So into my heart comes his name… I hesitated to pray for him as I was not sure if he would still be alive or not (I now know he is 90 and still focused!!) but one aspect of his deposit spoke into my situation. Anyway… today comes an email from Chris Larkin and in a line that said ‘One of these friends in the US yesterday [the day Bob’s name came to me] sent me a booklet by Bob Mumford…’

[Here is a link to the booklet
https://lifechangers.org/teachings/stepping-across-the-threshold/]

I find it interesting that I come across Pope Francis 2015 speech a few days ago (yesterday’s post) and then Bob and his article a few days later. Both are coming from a more conservative end of things than I do but both are saying in their contexts ‘change of era’. Here is an extract from the article I give the link to above:

I am deeply convicted that this present threshold is the transition out of a 500-year season in Church history. Much of what has been embraced as “the Scriptural norm” within the Church is being challenged and modified. In 1994 I locked myself up with sixteen books on Church History with the determination to understand the pattern of its progress from Pentecost to our present day. I discovered that since its birth the Church has gone through a major and often convulsive transition approximately every 500 years. Somewhat surprisingly, I discovered that much of society was often sharing in the same spasms of transition.

It so resonates. I still hold that we will see some tangible relief this year to the current pandemic, with a sigh of relief and proclamations of ‘back to normal’. Next year though will show us clearly that there is no going back, as difficulties bite at a deeper societal level. The era change will become even more visible. As I wrote yesterday I have no idea if into the crises we will witness the (always) soon return of the Lord, or we have thousands of more years. If the latter it becomes clear that it cannot be a thousand more years of exploitation, ‘for in the time you eat from that tree you / we will surely die’. The unsustainability of life-styles that has developed over the past centuries cannot be projected into the future.

Let’s come back to how all this might affect those who have been touched by the Spirit of God (‘they received the Spirit just as we did’ being a major continual criterion) and seek to follow the path of their Saviour (a political term related to the inhabited world). Pope Francis is not suggesting the end of the Roman Catholic church, but for something very different to come out and through it; Mumford is not suggesting the end of charismatic church, but suggesting something very different come out and through it. I do not have any issue with either institution, though am not identified with either. I have no issue because I have no spare energy to work out if I should have an issue – my energies are focused on what I should be involved in, what I should be doing (maybe a little bit of ‘what has that to do with you’ as Jesus said to Peter concerning his colleague John?).

For some years I have been saying that the future is connected to

The multiplicity of the small, and
the richness of diversity.

One size does not fit all. I am very exercised by Paul’s work in the Imperial world, what I consider he thought was filling up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. He understood his global world, the one-world government situation, the engagement of the ekklesia as the means of keeping everything aligned to Rome, so was very busy in seeking to see in every polis another ekklesia, this one being the ekklesia of Jesus Christ. Deeply political, with no alignment to the right nor the left, but to heaven’s values, with a work to be done. A challenging work, without any coercion or top-down legislation, seeking to align each polis to heaven. I consider what we have focused on – church (ekklesia) is not lining up too favourably with Paul’s work, and our focus on individual salvation falls short of the strongly political message of Paul (imagine for a moment what was the content of the daily lectures that lasted two years in Ephesus). So in that sense, uncritically, I suggest we are so pre-Pauline.

The situation has shifted. One might say we are in a global scenario, heading toward a one-world government. But that would be to miss some huge elements. The Bible teaches there has always been since the Garden a one-world government system. It simply calls it the ‘world’, controlled by ‘the devil’. No need, and hugely blinding, to shout about the ‘deep state’. It is also to miss the point that we are not only being globalised but also tribalised at the same time. This means we cannot do what Paul did (where is the ekklesia and polis today? things have changed since the first century) but we must work for the same apostolic vision, and with the same apostolic element of ‘with great patience’.

Diversity. It is here. The stranglehold of Reformed theology is coming to an end. The use of the Bible to limit us within fictional boundaries is coming to an end. The mess of reducing the clarity of in / out based on belief systems is here. The growing importance of ortho-praxy as being an element in the Gospel being Pauline or just ‘another gospel’ is here. New monastic movements that develop rhythms, some with common purses, connecting into the oppressed situations that they find in their contexts, many with wonderful testimonies of healing will arise (reminds of numerous times I prophesied this during the ‘Sowing seeds’ era!). Believers who are more connected to those without faith than those with faith will arise, yet deeply connected to a few believers… moving away from the weekly synagogue rhythm (an exilic development to protect faith) and more to the three-times a year connection is here. And if it is going to move us forward and not simply side-ways a deep feminisation, for as I suggest in one of the books (go on you will have to buy it now!!) ‘if anyone is in Christ there is a [feminised] new creation. This we really have to discover what that will entail, and some of the keys will be discovered in hearing what is rising in the town square, for that is where wisdom is crying out.

What will arise in the Catholic world? What will arise in the Charismatic institutional world? What will come through from the Orthodox or Coptic traditions? I don’t know.

2 thoughts on “Beyond constant change

  1. ‘I don’t know.’ Maybe there’s something of the church coming to the end of knowledge. From knowing to wondering – from knowledge to Wonder – we’ve Trusted theology and have the western pride of thinking we know it all. Maybe the Lord is opening up a journey for us to begin to explore wonder and His mystery. The mystics talked about the ineffable. ‘Where there is knowledge it will pass away but These three remain – Faith, hope and love’.

  2. Resonate with so much in this post!

    @Phil – As you mention, ‘from knowledge to Wonder’, the ineffable, as the mystics wrote so much about – love this, and completely agree.

    @Martin – I think in terms of an awakening, to our union with God, no longer I but Christ, fully intoxicated by Love. I have for many years felt deeply connected with the contemplative path, spoken of by mystics such as John of the Cross and others, so my perspective is definitely heavily influenced by this journey; and much remains a mystery to me, none more so than my own journey, if indeed it is the journey I think it is at all, knowing nothing for certain!

    How the future looks in terms of the above (none more so than my own personal journey), I do not know, but I have also found myself wondering, what if what’s ahead really is nothing like that which has gone before, particularly at the personal, spiritual, identity level.

    I see a real need for a life full of wonder, a life truly free, from all limitations, from everything that holds us back, often our very ‘selves’. I dream of communities of people, full of diversity, awakening to their union with God (and each other), fully satisfied, turning things upside down and inside out, knowing Him, who is beyond all knowledge and concepts we may have constructed, which could only take us so far.

    The challenges we face globally, of which you have regularly mentioned in your posts over the years are of course massive and dramatic change is needed.

    I suppose my thoughts are that (and this is where my contemplative ‘journey’ no doubt heavily influences) many of these challenges have at their root the issue of lost identity (where as a result, we cannot truly love ourselves, let alone our neighbour, in a detached, free from self way), so I see many current challenges finding resolution, through individual identities being restored, at the personal/community level at least.

    As we awaken to who we have always been, in union with God, at the very core of our being, while simultaneously also our oneness with each other and creation. a life full of love, peace, joy, true freedom and most definitely wonder.

    Just my thoughts and much is of course unknown, but what a time to be alive.

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