Well I’ve always been scared of being considered moderate so heres to saying good bye to the chances of that happening!
It is time to cut the froth, the coffee and candles, turn off the Apple Macs, and grasp the serious theological vision of thinkers such as Lesslie Newbigin and Stanley Hauerwas. We are living in an alien culture and social order, and we have given in to worshipping the false god of technological, capitalist, democratic government. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the lie that to be ‘in the world’ means we must participate fully in a western democratic society, in its technological developments, in its financial structures (and the often dubious benefits of those structures), and in its politics.
In Christendom, we entered into a pact with secular society (a kin to buying horses from Egypt or yoking oneself with the unbeliever) and we are living with that legacy. It was a bit like a suzerainty treaty and the state was our suzerain, meaning the state always had the upper hand (and led us around by the nose). For a long time this compromise worked for the church, we established schools, built hospitals, we were highly thought of in society, our bishops represented us in the House of Lords and the common man was expected to attend ‘worship’. The problem is that after 1500 years, the Local Education Authority no longer feels the need for our input education, the Local Health Authority manages our hospitals, and people don’t want or have to attend church. It is clear now that our social order is governed by principles opposed to those of Jesus Christ.
It is so distressing to see that the church has lost so much influence in society and yet I am glad that the compromises we made are out in the open. I am pleased because we now have the opportunity to build a church that is more faithful to its Lord. However, we may have to start from scratch because the established ‘church’ or ‘churches’ remain fatally compromised both financially, legally, and politically. I also think that this time is going to be far more difficult than it was the last time because we have to compete against the schools and hospitals the secular state annexed and corrupted. However, we were part of the glue that held society together and without the religious sponsorship social order will continue to decline and the government will get increasingly prescriptive.
In contrast to this approach, the Christian community will not be ruled by force but by commitment to participation within a common life together. It is from this closer communion that we will establish hospitals and schools that will compete with secular institutions. In a Christian hospital, you will not be offered an abortion but alternative support and care, not that people have to accept this they are welcome to go elsewhere. In a Christian hospital, you will not be offered the right to assisted euthanasia but better palliative care to enable you to die with dignity (nor will it be necessary to prolong your life using technology when you feel it is your time to go home). In Christian schools, we will not give spiritual development apart from practical disciplines and education, instead we will teach that although science suggests that the world is evolving due to the ‘survival of the fittest’ our faith teaches us to care for the poor and the weak.
In short, we will provide hospitals that minister holistically to whole people rather than distinguishing falsely between the body and the spirit. The emerging church will provide schools that teach children about the material and spiritual world in which we live (the future church will not be deceived by dualistic notions). It will no longer be said that the ‘emperor rules in time and Christ in eternity’ because the Christ’s kingdom will be now and not yet.
One last comment, as I sit back and reflect upon this manifesto for the emerging church it occurs to me that the state will not like the church of the future, we should expect persecution but worse than persecution we should expect to meet our Constantine… we must be clear we have learnt our lesson- the only suzerain we need is our Lord Jesus Christ. So let us renew our covenant with God and never make the same mistake again.