Lets Just Call it a Paradigm Shift

Tony Sig
I think that the idea of another “Reformation” suffers from the same historically confused amnesia as the idea of “Crusades for Christ.” Can there be a more inappropriate name for a missional group than one which recalls the slaughter of Muslims, Jews and Christians? And should the current struggles in Christianity be likened to the Reformation?

The Reformation is idealized and made pure when in fact it was tragic. While it is certainly true that God used the Reformation to correct some of the many errors of the Church at the time, and this blessing has continued on to this day in the rejection of many sub-Christian doctrines, the fact that the people of God were split yet again should be a matter of lamentation. Indeed, the subsequent multiplication of denominations bears testimony to what was the biggest failure of the Reformation: the absolute independence of the autonomous individual. “If I don’t like you, I’m gonna split and do my own thing.” As Reed likes to say: “And 24,000 denominations later…”

I feel that there are better ways to describe what is now happening and what needs to happen other than deeming it a “New Reformation.” In his famous and incredibly influential book, Thomas Kuhn describes shifts in thought across disciplines (in this case the Christian worldview) as “Paradigm Shifts.” A particular pattern of thought carries with it certain assumptions and all new information is interpreted through these assumptions. What inevitably happens is that some new information which seems to contradict the dominant paradigm begins to become too obvious to ignore. What follows is a period of transition where an “old guard” proclaims a pox on the new paradigm, while others begin to explore new avenues of thought and follow the new information as it leads, until a new and enhanced, and also radically different, paradigm emerges. Eventually this repeats itself.

This is where our Christianity seems to be. In a period of transition. But what will emerge and how is only foggy ahead of us. I noticed that that (Re)formation page and event was mostly done by Free Church Protestants, almost all white westerners, and NO women. The (Re)formation of the Church, is gonna have to be more representative than that if it wants to really affect Christianity!

I agree with Paul (Stewart), the Church always needs to reform. But we have got to learn to do it together. Another thing I think is important to notice. The Church is growing in other parts of the world.

I think that one of the biggest reasons that the Church in the West is shrinking has nothing to do with church planting strategy, or even theology, both of which are important; but I think it might have something to do with the fact that God is the God of the poor and oppressed. We are neither, and I thank God for being there with those who are.

You propose an ambitious project Reed. Let’s see how much of it we can actually do!

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4 Comments

  1. I would be inclined to agree with you, Tony. I feel that “paradigm shift” is a much more appropriate name.

    I think the common identification with Luther reveals a underlying desire to see drastic, radical change in the church and in the world. However, as you described, I believe this change is more likely to come from the “common” people–the oppressed and poor. Just as much of the 16th century reformation was ennacted by rebelious peasants (much to Luther’s chagrin) so we’ll see the two-thirds world becoming more of a player in the Global Church. (a Latino or African Pope perhaps?)

    The challenge for us first-world churchers isn’t going to be ennacting this change, but hanging on once the pendulum finally swings.

    More on this in my next post.

    Reply

  2. I think we also have to realize that this paradigm change is not simply happening in Christianity. It is happening in Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In fact one could argue it is happening universally to all faiths. Including if not also in part because of humanism. The world is becoming aware of the value of the oppressed and more importantly the equality of God’s creatures. I look forward to tackling this subject. My intent is to post on it as soon as I get some time.

    Reply

  3. “I think that one of the biggest reasons that the Church in the West is shrinking has nothing to do with church planting strategy, or even theology, both of which are important; but I think it might have something to do with the fact that God is the God of the poor and oppressed. We are neither, and I thank God for being there with those who are.”

    I thought I had moved completely away from my pentecostal/charasmatic tendencies, but when I read this paragraph I felt like getting up and doing the Holy Ghost Hop.

    As we listen to the trends of the Global church, and are more and more willing to learn from and be spiritually ministered to by African and Latino Christians I think we will see Amos 5:24 be fulfilled, justice will roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream. The lion will lie down with the lamb; we’ll turn our weapons into gardent ools! Glory! I feel the need to go wave a hanky in the air. Great post!

    Reply

  4. Indeed.

    I was recently surprised to see that a new leading theologian writing about “Liturgical” and “Missional” Theology is the Singaporean theologian Simon Chan…An Assemblies of God theologian!

    I can’t wait to get some of his stuff.

    Reply

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