Monday, June 10, 2013

What will it take? A different hermeneutic

On April 15 my blog on "What Will it Take" I asked the question: What are the three most critical
adjustments we could make that would have the most positive impact among Churches of Christ for the kingdom of God? Here they are as I see them:
1.   Reorient our understanding of God's mission
2.   Change our leadership patterns and expectations
3.   Trust our theological heritage and younger leaders

This blog looks at point #1: Reorient our Understanding of God's Mission
As a Restoration Movement our focus has been firmly on the past. The idea of a perfect New Testament church that serves as model (command), example, and necessary inference became the essence of our biblical hermeneutic. It also locked us down. Our understanding of mission that resulted was that of “purification” where our driving motive was to “do it right” and “make others right.”
Our exegetical framework in Churches of Christ both demonstrated and exacerbated this locked down approach. The shorthand framework I grew up with was:
Thomas B. Warren was the most influential proponent for my generation of this hermeneutic formula. It was an unsettling discovery for me to grasp that this was not a biblically demanded, and perhaps not even a well biblically informed hermeneutic. Worse, the application of this deductive approach created a "fear oriented" mentality where "no" was the primary response. James Nored has a good post on this aspect of our history.

Once I grappled with that idea I had to replace my hermeneutic approach. What I gravitated towards was centering my exegesis/hermeneutic around the character and nature of God, revealed and explained through his storyline in biblical history, and demonstrated in practical life application through the individual and community stories included in scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit. This has been a much more satisfying yet much more complex hermeneutic approach.
This new hermeneutic framework is what allowed me to reorient my sense of the mission of God from restoring what had existed at some golden moment in the past to a future restoration of the world through the coming kingdom of God. This is the future focused understanding of mission. A future focused mission will have transformation has its hallmark rather than purification. Our missional message will be “Repent because the kingdom is coming.” Our missional emphasis will be on God’s transforming work in people and the world. Our missional focus will be to “seek and save the lost.”
So What?
With our 20th century hermeneutic and restoration of the golden moment we were bound to maintain and repeat what someone at sometime had determined to be the correct and biblically sound activities of the church. Once those activities had been determined they were locked into place because to deviate in any way was to err--to sin. Once we determined that we had something right we were forever doomed to practice and repeat that action until Jesus returned.

Our hermeneutic meant we were incapable of changing, adapting, or engaging the challenges of life as it came rushing towards us.

If we are to relevantly engage the challenges of the world it requires us to rethink our hermeneutic and to reorient our sense of God's mission from restoring a golden past to restoring the world to its God intended state through the transforming presence of the coming kingdom of God. This will release us to creatively engage the world of God with the Word of God in order to call people into redemptive relationship of God.

No comments: