Posted by: rogermitchell | August 5, 2012

The Fall of the Church

In the previous post I explained that I am currently working on two books which aim to undergird the proposed Kenarchy Course by presenting my research and the theology and practice of kenarchy in a popular and accessible way. By popular and accessible, I’m not talking of the UK Sun, Mail or Mirror readership but the Independent, Telegraph or Guardian. In the attempt to make sure the books reach this target, which my experience suggests is the main constituency of this blog, I will be posting some of my work on these books here, and ask all of you clickers and surfers to comment in particular on the core content and language. I am beginning with part of the draft introduction to the first book, the working title of which is The Fall of the Church, part of which reads as follows:

“This book has six objectives:

Firstly, it aims to separate out two conflicting streams in Christianity: the love stream which the stories of Jesus portray, and the sovereignty based hierarchy-law-temple system which much of the theology, ecclesiology and mission history of the church represents.

Secondly, it attempts to explain briefly and succinctly how these two streams arose in the course of history.

Thirdly, its purpose is to demonstrate that far from being two partly complementary, or at least alternative expressions of Christianity, the sovereignty stream embodies and carries the very system of governance that the love stream depicted in the gospel story shows Jesus opposing and bringing to an end.

Fourthly, the intention is to make clear from the story of Jesus in its context, both of its Hebrew history and its Gentile Greco-Roman present, that rather than confronting the empire system in its own violent, dominating spirit, Jesus and therefore the Father and Holy Spirit, have remained with the church and with the empire. That in the same way that God stayed with Israel and its neighbouring imperial powers during the fall of the Jews, in order to empty out the domination system from within, this is what has continued with the fall of the church and is coming to a head, right now, in our contemporary Western world.

Fifthly, it aims to show how the story of the partnership between church and empire that I call the fall of the church, accounts for a particularly complex feature of the contemporary Western mindset. I refer to the mistaken insistence that a total break has occurred between the modern world of certainty and moral absolutes and the postmodern world of relativism and pluralism. A condition which strengthens the normal sense of generational separation and reinforces it into an almost unbridgeable gap. A resistance to argument rooted in the association of a sovereign Christian God with oppression by hierarchy, law and temple but which also results in the displacement of the radically loving Jesus of the gospel story. A situation which accounts for a raft of paradoxes in the contemporary Western culture: such as the persistent hidden belief that the current economic crisis will correct itself despite the increasing disgust with the banks, a similar belief in representative democracy despite an increasing distrust in politicians, and a continuing expectation that the Western way of life really is the best hope for peace on the planet despite the genocidal carnage of the twentieth century wars of empire and the current ‘war on terror.’ All of which comes together in the ongoing persistence of the cult of celebrity, the rejection of universal meaning, the preference for issues based morality, and the promotion of individual autonomy and human rights.

Finally, the purpose of the book is to prepare the ground for the emergence and practice of kenarchy: the humanity-loving, world-embracing, inclusive approach to life and the universe introduced and explored in the companion volume [Discovering/ Exploring] Kenarchy.”

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Responses

  1. Love the idea of a book that presents the case in a clear and readable form. Like the outline as described. Not too sure about the idea of making it two books though. I think some people may be put off by the idea of two books rather than one. To be honest, I’m a little put off by the idea of two books rather than one. I’ve a huge reading list and I’m needing to cut back, but also, if it takes two books to describe it feels as though things are becoming too complicated. If people want complicated, presumably they can go to your thesis. Can I just have the main arguments that take me on a journey with you and land me in the right place?

    • Thanks for this. I’ve veered between two books and one several times, and it’s a decision that can yet go in either direction. But at the moment the thinking is two quite brief books, not more than 120-150 pages max. A longer book is offputting to some, but the subject warrants more than just a cursory overview. But we’ll see. Please keep the comments coming!

  2. Can’t wait for the 5th one. It seems like quite a large chunk to chew on. I look forward to your analysis and insights. c.

  3. I’ve not managed to comment on the blog for a while but have tried to keep up with things. I have been keen on the idea of the course since it was first mooted, but have wondered whether there is yet the momentum, ie level of dialogue, for it to come together through the blog – acknowledging my own sparse contributions! I think time aside for those we are able might still help accelerate the formation of the course, but there will be a right time for that. So while I’m still very ‘up’ for a course – and hope that hasn’t gone off the radar – I suspect there is more groundwork to be done first. I was always keen on your initial intention to write a more ‘popular’ version of the teaching, Roger, and was mildly disappointed this wasn’t mentioned so much recently.

    So I’m delighted about the book/s. As far as one book or two, I think I am liking the idea of two, if it is clear how they ‘sit’ together. I am imagining the two volumes, if that’s the way it develops, as having enough overlap to stand alone for those who are still just nibbling at the idea. Would it be right to infer that you see the first as more of a contextualized overview, framed by the idea of lapsis (The Fall of the Church), while the companion volume opens up some of the specific, thorny questions and implications? It would seem to me that there needs to be some repetition in the books to emphasise and particularise points – perhaps looking at the same ‘room’ but through different ‘windows’, with the particular perspectives and priorities each view brings.

    May I offer a few questions? Could the first book include some sort of study guide or key questions, or might you leave that approach to you the second, if used at all? Is there any way of the books interacting with the blog, or some fresh blog/site, so that further investigation is encouraged sand support made available – which might be somewhat innovative?!

    One last thought for now, which I’ve meant to mention before. It has struck me very much in following along on this journey that since we are dealing with substantial content, likely to ‘blow the mind’ for the average 21st Century Christian, the question of how we process this revelation is also important, with consideration of the emotional and, indeed, social impact of such fundamental shifts in worldview and “God view’ that the idea of kenarchy brings about. Whether through the book or the web, or indeed the course, I think there needs to be room to engage on the level of personal journey, challenges, obstacles, that pursuing this radical reconfiguration entails for all of us, I’m sure. On reflection, I suspect the course needs to have a shape that gives space for different intellectual entry points, different speeds of engagement and understanding, but also offers a degree of relational support to help folk work through hard questions and personal/practical/political implications!…

    Sorry, Roger, I started out intending to address your objectives, but got onto another tack! I think they are great, though the ‘fifth’ one doesn’t read too well, in my opinion, but I will get back to you shortly on that, hopefully!

  4. Hi again, as promised. The fifth objective seems to me to not quite get where I think you are meaning it to go, if you don’t mind me saying, since the six objectives relate to the fall of the Church and this one seems on the face of it not to do so. Should not your first sentence relate the modern/postmodern break you cite to the effect of Sovereignty subsumed into modern thinking via Christendom somehow, giving the ‘church fall’ link? Or have I missed your point altogether?! Also, while I understand ‘modern’ as relating to ‘modernity,’ I’m not sure that is self-evident, making me re-read a couple times to get the sense of what you are saying here (again, maybe that’s just me!). And now the primary teacher in me comes out when I read your unconnected clause about the unbridgeable gap, neither a sentence nor connected to one! Sorry if that’s a bit pedantic! There on in is fine, I just found myself slightly marooned (- can you be ‘slightly’ marooned?!!- ) from the fall of the Church context in this one objective. If all this is just me and my lack of understanding, be warned – there will be many more like me to come!!! Bless!

  5. Thanks Phil. I have changed the first sentence of the fifth point to make the connection a bit clearer. But you picked up the importance of this fifth aim, as did Cheryl. In many ways it’s the core reason for the book, and will be the subject of the probable first chapter, the outline of which I’m working on right now and will post soon. Issues like the use of modern to refer to the past, will be dealt with there. Your general use of English points are noted!

  6. Hi Rog, first comment on here after spending some time catching up and digesting. I don’t feel I’m quite on the theological ‘level’ to comment too much at this stage (two years out of the ‘game’ and studying business instead!!) but feel a deep sense of urgency in all you are seeking to encourage others to comprehend.

    As someone who spends a lot of time with The Sun, Daily Mail and Mirror readers of this world (seeking to translate complex thoughts and processes allowing them to be applied into everyday life) I do think that at some point down the road, explaining what is an imperative for Christian understanding in this coming century in a manner that can be accessed by all will be so important. This may be the role of the course that is being discussed but I question how this can be achieved without some form of hierarchical structure?

    Academia and even the writing in the style of The Guardian, Times, Telegraph etc can be understood as a form of domination and hierarchy as it segregates between those who can and cannot access such writing; making this new theology accessible to ‘the masses’ as (I understand) Kenarchy would seek to achieve without it becoming just another academic football, or course that must be completed in a certain way, following a certain structure (because the author is correct) will be a the biggest challenge as hierarchy is so steeped in our culture.

    I do not wish to be someone who points out problems and have no solutions so I will continue to ponder…possible options at present just mean more work and are probably 2/3/4/or even 5 years off and I’m sure you’ve thought of all this already and feel that we need to start somewhere!

    Will continue to read and comment where it seems appropriate!

    Malc

    • Great to have you here Malc! Just a couple of responses to your helpful points. On the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph in contrast to Mirror, Mail, Sun levels of communication I am uneasy about seeing these hierarchically and would want to avoid that. I see the former as a midway between two points of communication, complex and simple, and given that my research was necessarily in the academic language of the complex, hitting the inbetween level will hopefully facilitate those communicators whose main orientation is the simpler level. I hope it will also help those who want to achieve a broad grasp of my academic work and head off into further complex areas.

      On the subject of the role of hierarchy, my work is not rejecting hierarchy altogether, but questioning its role in determining ultimate order. So I am happy for the pilot of a plane I’m travelling in to hold the highest rank in the business of flying the aircraft, but not for him or her to determine what the crew or passengers should and shouldn’t do
      once off the plane. It is because the core of Western thinking about transcendence and governance has been invaded by mistaken ideas of hierarchical rank that we now have to be so careful to examine our use of hierarchy in all circumstances. So thanks for drawing attention to this here. Please keep up the comments!


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