google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html The Normal Christian Journey of Faith - Part 10


The normal (Christian) journey of faith

Chapter 10: In A Time Of Great Changes - Part 2

As we saw in the last study we live in a time of great cultural change all round the world, which doesn’t make Christian life any easier for us! We have already thought a bit about what the first of those changes, which I labeled ‘philosophical’ is and some of the implications for the Christian.

The second major change is technological. Only 20 years ago when we lived in Pakistan we could only communicate with my mother in the UK by letter, except very occasionally and at great expense and difficulty by phone. Now if we were there we would be able to do so easily by mobile phone or over the Internet. Then we could only talk to someone if they were within speaking range unless we were both holding a phone anchored to a cord. Now we can talk at almost any separation if we both have mobile phones at our ears. Then if we wanted to know something new we needed to have access to a set of perhaps 30 large books constituting an encyclopedia; now, by computer, tablet or phone, we can ask across the Internet and get the information we want – and a great deal more information than the very best of encyclopedias could ever provide. Because I am over 80 years old I am not very good at these very new things in spite of the fact that I have been using computers for 45 years! My grandsons and granddaughters are exceedingly good at using these things. The world has divided into those who are good at the latest technology and those, like me, who tag along behind. And this too is causing an enormous change in the whole culture in which we live.

The obvious change is in the physical things like phones that we actually use. But the implications are far wider. Our whole manner and expectation about how we communicate with someone else has changed enormously. Not so very long ago (sorry – I am an old man!) communication was either face to face, over the phone, or by carefully written letters. In a work environment someone wrote or dictated to someone else writing the letter in shorthand and that someone else would type it out, get it checked and send it off. A great deal of time and care and consideration would go into the whole process. Now the person who wants to communicate sends an email, rapidly dashed off, perhaps without much care and consideration, and it joins the list of sometimes 50 to 100 emails the poor recipient gets in one day. He or she reads it and possibly forgets what it said or deliberately dumps it. So what was long, reasonably well considered and lasted for a time has become short, little considered and often does not last very long. The whole business of communicating has become so easy and so quick it is easy to regard it as of much less significance than it used to be. All this has changed, or is changing, the way we communicate with people and thus the way we think.

Television has taught us all to see things as much in picture form as possible and to hear only very short statements rather than considered arguments. Arguments do still exist on some TV programs, but how many of us actually follow them through as our chief method of learning?
No, we are all into short snappy stories. We do not actually realize how much we are now learning through stories. Of course, it has always been that way even when we did not realize what was happening. If a girl meets a fellow and thinks she would like to get to know him better (at least in the societies which allow such meetings!) she will often say to him something like “tell me about yourself”. By that she does not mean a list of all the things he has done such as he might put in front of someone he wants to work for.
No, she expects a lot of stories about his home life, things that happened in his family, episodes he was involved in at school and so on. How from this ragbag of odd incidents she will be able to form an opinion about him is very difficult to say, but that is the way we work.
Strangely and wonderfully that is what God has done in the Bible. That too is a very mixed collection of stories about all sorts of people telling us how and when people related to God. From those stories we learn about God though it is sometimes hard to see how our minds work and how exactly we build up a picture of God and his doings that way but we do. Until recently, we, in the West have tended to learn from scripture by analysing it under our own headings in a way that somewhat mimics how the scientist works and have rather ignored the story aspect of scripture.

So what?

As I said last time, without doubt we are living, and have to live out our faith, in a time of enormous cultural change occurring with a rapidity seldom if ever matched in recorded history. How should we react? Strangely, I think, in 2 opposite ways: we have to be negative about the philosophical changes and positive about the technological ones. We must resist the tendency to an extreme individuality, as I indicated in the last study, and accept the implications of the technological changes that are occurring. Let me explain.

1. Personally. We, particularly young people in the developed world, are starting to think differently. It is no good telling them they must think like us older people when their whole youth culture tells them otherwise. Not so very long ago someone in their early teens would dress like their father or mother. Now, since the development of a distinct youth culture, they no longer do so. Part of that change comes from the way we think, some of it from the new devices we now have: mobile phones, computers, tablets, mobile music devices etc. We, old and young, need to learn to be comfortable the way we are. If you are old it is no use wearing jeans, or doing your hair in the latest youth style. You will just look a bit silly. If you are young, you have to be young and not try to be something that you are not.

Our culture in the UK has been seized by a tidal wave of secularism (that is: deciding to not let any talk of God enter into any decisions at a personal, local or national level), much of it coming from the Marxist thinking that grabbed the university sector 50 years ago. There is a high probability that the same thing will happen in the USA – if it has not already happened in many areas. We have to conclude that the churches have failed to teach the Christian faith in any coherent way. Nice little homilies of pre-digested material in short sermons have not worked. Now the ‘in thing’ is user-friendly services. Services should be friendly but that must not be at the expense of a basis in good solid content.

2. In the fellowship. Here it is the older people who need to be very careful. It is all too easy to think that the way we ‘have always done it’ is the only right way. One researcher in the USA has recently suggested that the new generation will not listen or learn from traditional hour-long university lectures. The new structure is going to have to be 10 minute videos or talks followed by a period of discussion for 10 minutes or so before proceeding to the next video, and so on. If that is true where do traditional sermons fit in?

The trouble is that if a church tries to move to that style of presentation there will be howls of wrath from many of the older folk who much prefer to sleep comfortably through a traditional sermon! It will be hard to convince them that there is no Biblical warrant for their style of sermon (unless it be Paul’s over long talk at Troas which led to the death of Eutychus (Acts 20: 7 – 12) – but then we don’t want to die, do we?).

3. In the wider world. The culture I grew up in, and quite possibly you grew up in, has died and has been buried. Churches seem to attract people who do not want the church to keep up with the culture of their surrounding society. This is probably, at least partly, a defense mechanism. If their work situation forces someone to keep up with all the latest thinking they may find an old-fashioned church environment a welcome relief. If they do they will be totally ineffective in reaching the world round about them.

In summary then: it seems to me that we need to do a lot of hard thinking and praying about how we operate as the people of God. We need to think out what we should do as our culture changes with great swiftness, then we need to change, if necessary radically and perhaps to the hurt of many older people.

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