Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Post-modern life

I’ve had a rather bizarre 24 hours. I’ve been feeling rough because of a cold, so maybe that’s added to the experience. But I’ve gone through one of those days that stun me into realising how naïve I am, and how weird the world is.

It started with a Trinity College seminar. Trinity College is the ‘metaphysical’ gathering of Church of Scotland student ministers at Glasgow University. I’ve gained much from it – it’s through Trinity College that I will spend next academic year at Princeton Seminary. The seminar was good. We discussed our experience of preparing for Christian ministry through studying theology at university. We talked about the issues we will have to think about as ministers in churches. One thing hit me during the seminar: do I have anything in common with these other people? Does anything unite us in our desire to be Christian ministers?

These two questions were in the context of recent reading about the nature of current Christian worship. I am slowly beginning to realise how important worship (what we do as church) is for church unity and Christian togetherness. But this is actually a very complicated issue. Peter Ward’s book, Selling Worship, discusses the rise of (charismatic?) evangelical worship music in the UK in particular. Slowly, but surely, we are all singing from the same over head projection screens. There is a PhD in that last sentence for anyone with the ability and energy.

The theme of what churches do underlies John Drane’s The MacDonaldization of the Church. It’s an intriguing book, full of cutting critique of current church culture. I finished reading it last night, and I realised that I had nothing in common with my fellow ministry candidates that mattered – I had never worshipped with them – we, Trinity College, have never done church, we have never been a church gathering according to Drane’s understanding.

Of course, I have lots in common with all the candidates. I even like some of them (that’s meant to be a light-hearted aside). But no confessional or organisational unity can provide the Christian unity that we all long for. And in religious, spiritual, or Christian contexts I think we are beyond the possibility of effective confessional or organisational unity among Christian ministers. Unity can only be found through Christians doing church – as fellowships and as friends – on an ongoing basis. Action becomes all-important. Belief and practice cannot be separated.

Yesterday evening I attended an evangelistic event in Glasgow Uni Union. It took the form of a dialogue evening, with two speakers, video presentations, discussion over refreshments at the end. The current problems of the world were raised, and attempts by different religions to solve these problems were dismissed. The two main speakers were a Muslim academic from the University of Durham, and the Scottish representative of an international sect. I didn’t understand anything I heard, I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond, and I didn’t get the impression that anyone at the event cared for me in any way. I have often felt these things at Christian events too.

So, this morning I was amazed to stumble across this website www.bibledesk.com. I would warn against looking at this site unless you really understand the wacky side of Christianity in the 21stC. I only came across this site because I typed www.itothehills.blogpsot.com instead of www.itothehills.blogspot.com. Please be assured that I do not endorse any of the contents on bibledesk.com. They appear to be Christian. But, I suspect that I would be unable to worship with them. Belief and practice cannot be separated. Christian unity must come through Christian practice. Lex orandi lex credendi indeed.

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