Outlook not so bad for God after all?

Fascinating interview from Lateline’s Tony Jones with secular economist John Micklethwait, author of “God is Back” (Hat Tip to Steve Addison).

One reason is the Government has cleverly hit on the one formula to make religion grow. It’s something the ancient Romans did to Christianity, and it was a brilliant way inadvertently to cause religion to grow. The Chinese have set a limit on the number of people that can meet in a place, basically 25. Once you reach 25 people meeting in one of these house churches, which take place in somebody’s home, once it’s at that level the church has to split and start again. Automatically it’s almost a formula for amoeba-like growth.

What’s interesting though is as Christianity spreads throughout China, really incredibly quickly. I think China will certainly become the world’s biggest Christian country and probably become the world’s biggest Muslim country. It’s already more Muslims there than there are in Saudi Arabia.

via Lateline – 30/06/2009: John Micklethwait discusses global faith revival.

It’s interesting to see a fairly neutral observer professing the same theories that Hirsch and Frost have been putting out there for some time – in terms of the “amoeba-like growth” of the church in China. This is a fascinating interview, and you should read it all, but I wanted to highlight one more quote:

Our guess, which is against the experience of the 20th century, is that Islam will have a tougher 21st century than Christianity, and one reason why is that we think evangelical Christianity, and Christianity in general, have had more the acids of modernity, if you want to call it that, it’s been tempered by that, it’s easier to get on with it. And Islam faces some limitations in terms of being able to spread around the world, not least the fact that you can’t translate the Koran in the same way that you can translate the Bible, and it doesn’t have the same degree of flexibility. Obviously it’s dangerous to predict anything about religion, but it would seem from our perspective at least that Christianity is the one which is forging ahead.

That’s a fascinating thought: that the process of Christianity being able to “get on with” modernity means that it is ideally placed to push forward in the 21st century. I’m not sure how much I agree with that: in one sense I feel that it is often the ways in which Christianity has allowed gospel to become compromised by the modernist culture that has seen our decline, but equally I think that there is an element to which the contextualisation of Christian theology in the past leaves us in a good position to continue to contextualise the message of Jesus into the next century and beyond.

As I say – fascinating interview and you should read (or watch) all of it.

Coffeehouse Theology – An Enticing Introduction

Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski
Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski

When theology blogger and author, Ed Cyzewski was about to release his book “Coffeehouse Theology”, he sent out copies of aforementioned book to a heap of christian bloggers, if they would participate in a “blog tour” (meaning people review the book, each posting on a different day). Due to Rebecca having a really well written and widely read blog, Ed asked if my beloved would mind joining the tour.

Unfortunately, a combination of a really slow postal system, and Rebecca being flat-chat with assignments in the lead up to the end of semester, she has not (yet) read “Coffehouse Theology”, and being the inquisitive, literate person that I am, I pinched the free copy myself (which becomes legal now that we’re married), and had a read. So there’s your disclaimers – I didn’t pay for this book.

Despite a title that a friend called a little bit “touchy-feely-emergenty”, this book is a really worthwhile read. Up until now I’d have described Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind Of Christian” series as the best introduction to post-modernism and the ramifications for the church, but (with a completely different approach), Ed Cyzewski provides a very gentle, very thorough and balanced understanding of what post-modernism really is and how it effects how we think about God. Ed has a way of writing that makes him almost impossible to disagree with: you feel like he’s articulating the way you already felt, even as he takes you to places you’ve never been before.

“Coffeehouse Theology” provides a compelling case for contextual theology, and a clear and conscise methodology for theological contemplation. Ed doesn’t turn theological thinking into an academic exercise, but instead invites his readers to think about their Christianity, and to recognise that we follow Jesus in a time and place. “Coffehouse Theology” was great to read for myself, but in many ways it feels like I’ve only got about a quarter of the value out of this book, because this is a book that I will, without doubt, hand to someone else to have a read (and if you’re reading Ed, I’ll then encourage them to get out there and buy a copy themself! :)).

Coffeehouse Theology is the sort of bridge-building book that provides a real chance for the mainstream church to see that in so many ways, they are on the same side as “emerging” type thinkers. Because the road to syncretism and heresy doesn’t come from looking seriously at the culture we find ourselves immersed in, and recognise the benefits as well as the dangers of our culture, but rather it starts when we pretend that culture does not and has not effected us. Ed (it’s much easier to type than “Cyzewski”) is certainly pushing the church in a direction it needs to go, and is doing with an approach that doesn’t throw away the wider church tradition as we consider the words of Scripture.

Basically guys, it’s a really good book. If you get a chance – pick it up!

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Meaning Making – A Model For Contextual Theology

This post is the second that have been adapted from my notes from a lecture with Wynand de Kock. It is likely to be a little disjointed, although I’ll try and expand this one out a little bit more and provide a little more personal opinion so that it has more of a natural flow. The ideas here are probably less difficult than in the narrative theology post, but it will probably go longer. It’s quite a long post, so you’ll have to click on the link to read the whole thing

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