Quite fitting it was to finish reading a Leslie Newbigin work on the flight over to Barcelona. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship proved a great introduction to the thoughts if the late Michael Polanyi. Missionaries offer keen insight, especially when trying to get one’s mind around the discontinuous cultural changes we face here in North America. We do well to listen and discover the ways in which we have accommodated to a certain ethos, pathos and logos of a bygone era.
Newbigin asserts we may have built religous/spiritual infrastructure around Cartesian methodologies that undermine the move toward faith. Hoping to rival the indubitable certainties proffered by science, religious figures mounted a campaign to compete in an arena where neither discipline could possibly fare well. Achievements of objective knowing have been greatly exaggerated. When the Church hitched its proverbial wagon to the Enlightenment,
It was almost inevitable that the collapse of confidence in the great project of the Enlightenment should carry with it a collapse of confidence in the validity of the church’s worldwide missionary enterprise.
From Newbigin’s experience he witnessed sudden collapses. An entire continent once thought its mission was to bring civilization to the rest of the world now seemed to come to the place where religion once a vehicle of enculturation was pressed to the edges, marginalized. He notes the disconnect between the world of the individual and the “real” world in which people live and move. The dualism created by these two places of living sent people spiraling toward a nihilism void of real purpose. Exploring the real world placed a distant second to, “Who am I?”
Listening to missionaries in Western Europe seemed to evidence Newbigin’s description. Missing from Western Europe are the stories of widespread evangelization. Rather than a vibrant house church movement or the existence of a strengthening Christian movement noted in the global south, these missionaries face the difficult task of offering a voice from the margins. We pastors who spent the week in Barcelona sense the setting here in the States is not dissimilar.
Speaking from the margins reminds me of Father Richard Rohr’s article that forms the title of this blog, “The Edge of the Inside.” It may well be time to explicate just why I chose this for a title.
To my new friends, let’s learn together how to live the way of Jesus from the margins for the glory of God and the blessing of the world. I will be looking to learn from you.