what’s deeper than generations
September 8, 2008
What determine who will come together in our conversations about church and God? I spent most of last week at the assembly of the Northern Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church (a much more positive experience than I expected, I must add), and we made quite a lot about different generations. They invited about 60 theological students which sat all over the place, and the facilitator stressed that we should listen to everyone. I tookpart in a dialog between me and my one collegue, where we talked about the changes which are happening in society, and stressed that the changes is much more complicated than people generally would like to know, and I linked this to generational differences as well.
But upon reading Attie’s critique on this generational thing, I realised that this is not what I really meant. I myself live in the illusion that a younger generation will neccesarily portray this single vision on the future of church. Reality is that I find more and more that what bind people together is not generational identity. So, here is a few things that I believe run deeper than generations, which will bind people over different generations, or drive people apart, even when from the same generation:
Top-down or Bottom-up theology: From what vantage point do you do theology? Is it theology from the perspective of the powerful, or the powerless? Most trained theologians come from the world of the powerful, from the societies with money, power, with a loud voice, and obviously most do theology from the perspective of this group (the most extreme example being prosperity theology). Some come from a society of powerless, those without money or a voice, and attempt theology from the perspective of this group, and some, although from the first group, attempt to do theology as far as possible from the perspective of this group. Those who attempt to do theology from the bottom-up, and those who do theology top-down, believing that this is the only possible way, might have a struggle to find each other, even if from the same generation.
Those who get it: In The New Christians Tony Jones tell the story of the emergence of emergent in America. Brad Cecil did a presentation on worldviews (find it here), and this basically divided the group into those who “got it”, and those who didn’t. What’s it? Do you get it that our worldview is changing? Some believe it is, others don’t. Some believe this change run very deep, other see it simply as a new way of communicating, or what have you. I don’t mean this arrogantly, as if some ain’t able to understand it, simply want to point out that not everybody like the idea of a change in our worldview. But OK, since most people are by now convinced that something is changing, maybe Doug Pagitt’s three categories of emerging ministry will help us here. First, those who do ministry to postmoderns, I believe will be isolating themselves more and more, since they will be attempting to evangelize or minister to the the third group, maybe even the second. Second, those who do ministry with postmoderns, will be like my Ethics professor who would admit that he ain’t a postmodern, but who listen to those who have made a more natural transition into a differing worldview (may I add that I have a lot more respect for those who admit that they ain’t postmodern, but are open to listen, than towards those who clearly don’t get it, but attempt to make as if they do). And then lastly, those who do ministry as postmoderns… I’m sure you can figure this part out for yourself. So, although this might sound similar to generational differences, it’s not, you’ll find all three these groups in both Gen X and Y, only time will tell how future generations will look.
Denominational differences I believe will become less and less of a determining factor. Many of the very influential conversational partners in my life I don’t even have any idea what denomination they are from, or what theological education they had. What I know it that we agree that we should attempt to do theology bottum-up, and that we have a gutt feel that we might be doing ministry as postmoderns. Many of the books I read I find myself differing on many dogmatic assumptions, and even find myself to be from differing generations, but when we agree on some of the above-mentioned, we tend to find each other.
What other factors would be more important than generation?