I have for long leaned toward what is termed ‘Open Theology’, and perhaps Thomas Jay Oord’s book ‘Uncontrolling Love’ is one of the best presentations of it, presenting some fresh perspectives even beyond those of Pinnock et al. Of course there are always Scriptures that can be quoted with a loud voice that will denounce any opposing theology. This post is not to defend Open Theology as a theology but to suggest that we are at least to live as if we can shape the future.
Narratives (beliefs) shape the world we live in. I have no doubt that the Western world is going through a major shift, and the one who can predict what it will look like in 15 years time either has some incredible insights or are rather naïve. I have many times written about the predominant spin of the fear narrative as something we must reject. We see this so strong at this point in time: create a fear scenario which then allows / legitimises an authoritarian response which leads to the ‘state of exception’. The political realm is awash with this, in some places so visible, but in other places just under the surface. And sadly the extremes are pulling what was once more moderate increasingly in that direction.
At a time of crisis (the 30s) the oft-repeated phrase of ‘We have nothing to fear except fear itself’ was spoken in the inaugural speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am suggesting (as I write as a believer) that maybe now we need to say:
We have nothing to fear except a church that has bought into the fear narrative.
There are those who draw on the research of, for example, The Fourth Turning, which suggests a cycle of 80-100 years, the final stage being that of crisis which opens the door to war and then a rebirth. This writing is apparently fuelling the ideas being fed into the current administration in the USA. War – inevitable in this stage? Dayesh (ISIS) holds to the eschatology of a Middle Eastern Armageddon so the drawing of the major powers into that arena is not something to be avoided as eventually once that takes place this will precipitate the return of Jesus… and not on the side of the ‘Christians’. Others of the Christian faith also hold to such an eschatology, so the idea of working for peace is to be avoided also. Interestingly ‘Woe to those who say peace, peace’ would have been a reference to the Pax Romana, the false peace that was offered to all who complied and was implemented and sustained by war. No different to the current peace and safety being offered in the West.
There are myths that abound, and narratives that sustain the myths. We have been instructed to be armed! I was once told in no uncertain terms that ‘Pacificism will not cut it these days!’ (BTW pacificism is not the correct term for a non-violent position.)
We have to live from a different narrative. Here is where at least the outcome of an Open position should help us. We do not have to adopt that view theologically. Even if we are of the most hard line ‘all things have been predestined’ we are still to live from faith in God and live out our lives trusting God and living as though we can affect the future.
I believe we are responsible for the politics, but we are never to put our faith in the political system or those elected. We are responsible for the world we live in – the buck stops here!
So back to where I started. The fear narrative is linked to a fatalistic one. It is pessimistic in the extreme but with a twist – there is a human / political saviour who will steer us through this. Believe the narrative, let increasing authority and therefore power flow to the top and we will get through this. Such a narrative is sadly antiChristian.
The crisis in the West is secondarily a political crisis. It is primarily a crisis of faith. This season will polarise things increasingly with respect to what it means to follow Jesus. Either the cross will be emblazoned on the sword or we will recognise it as the symbol of a life laid down. ‘As often as you do this do this in remembrance of me.’ Amidst all the narratives we cannot afford to forget him.