Thursday, June 13, 2013

A light shines in the darkness

I do not know how you view Western civilization but I see it rushing like a certain herd in a gospel story over a cliff into the deep sea. Somehow our political leadership has become a bunch of people with no leadership skills of the kind that lead nations and the world into a better future.

The European Union is a mess with no one having the courage to do the obvious thing and deconstruct the Euro.

Is there any US politician capable of seeing the forest and not the trees? In Australia, Julia Gillard is leading the Labour Party to electoral oblivion but the alternative includes a politician who recently descended to such awful misogynistic depths re Ms Gillard that I refuse to publish a link to the story. (Or did he? In a comment below there is a link to a refutation of the story. But does the refutation stack up? Either way, Oz politics includes some shameless characters. Bit like the Oz cricket team).

Here in NZ we have an opposition Labour Party that includes hypocrisy the depths of which cannot be plumbed: excoriating Sky City (a gambling conglomerate) one moment, nek minit accepting their hospitality at a rugby match. In another saga, over one politician doing what (apparently) nearly all of them do, leaking stuff to the media, the depths of triviality also cannot be plumbed as they turn on one another.

If we head back to Britain we have the absurd spectacle of a nation which gave us the intellectual powerhouses of Oxford and Cambridge proposing that 2014 be a Year of Pretence in which no one will mention that Germany was responsible for the beginning of World War 1. Perhaps this is a practice run for 2033, the centenary of the rise of Hitler to power and thus the beginnings of the Holocaust, and for 2039, the centenary of ... oh, let's see, Poland causing the start of World War 2 because it had insufficiently armed itself as a deterrent against German aggression territorial ambition. Cue John Cleese's famous Fawlty Tower scene about not mentioning the war.

Meanwhile parts of the world are slowly being taken over by a rising tide of extreme Islamism. Not all Islamic societies are a worry, but some are notably troublesome. Here is Hamas intent on strangling the remnant of Arab Christianity which remains in Palestine. Syrian rebels executed a child the other day for alleged blasphemy. Daily the situation grows worse for Christians in Egypt and Iraq. Yet many Western politicians view Palestinian aspirations as uniformly good and beyond critique, while others want to arm the Syrian rebels and refrain from comment on other situations. There is something worrying about the manner in which Islamic loyalties can trump loyalties to countries that provide a new home for people, as in this example from Australia in which the beheading of Lee Rigby is justified because his actions affronted the Islam nation.

We face the prospect of a world in which beheading could be the normative response in many places to affronts to ruling authorities. But don't worry, our politicians have it all sorted ... once they can work out how to tell the truth, stop denigrating at each other, and acquire greater leadership skills than how to leak to the media without getting caught.

Where does light shine in the darkness enveloping us?

Hopefully it shines in and through the churches. In many ways it does, and for that I give thanks to God. If 2014 is the centenary of the lights going out over Europe, it might be the year in which the lights go on for Western Christianity and we really wake up to the fact that we live in a Post-Christendom world. In that world, the gospel is now just another story competing for attention. And little attention is being paid to it. For NZers, 2014 is the bicentenary of the first preaching of the gospel. Samuel Marsden spoke in English at Oihi on Christmas Day 2014. Ruatara translated for him.

English was then the language of Christendom. Maori was the language of those for whom the gospel was new news. In a Post Christendom world we need to translate the gospel for those for whom it is new news. Who is our Ruatara?

The next post will explore one important contributor to the role of translator of the gospel for today's world.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

What is interesting is that recently the case has been made that Marsden delivered most, if not all, of his message in Maori. It's based on what we know about Marsden's knowledge of the language and a better fit of the description of the events by Marsden and Nicholas. I find the argument fairly convincing.

If that's the case, not only do we need a Ruatara, but we also need to learn the new language in which to communicate the eternal message of the Gospel afresh.


Bryden Black said...

Nice track Peter! I do hope however you focus some attention on Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Orbis) by Lamin Sanneh, first published in 1989 and revised 2009. It is absolutely seminal to my mind!

Janice said...

a politician who recently descended to such awful misogynistic depths re Ms Gillard

Apparently he didn't. Mal Brough is a decent bloke. I, for one, am looking forward to September 14th and the ALP being consigned to the electoral oblivion they so richly deserve.

Now if we could just get their fellow travellers out of our schools, universities, broadcast media, judiciary, NGOs and, especially, out of churches and theological colleges, things should start to look up.

Apart from that, English speakers make up a vast number of those for whom the gospel is now new news. I blame the church, or rather, its leaders, not for failing to translate the gospel for the times but for not believing it and therefore translating it into something other than the gospel.

Eric said...

Marsden did a much better job in NZ than he did in NSW. The Church in both our countries carries his legacy.

The ALP is indeed a mess and the worst offender sadly is the only Christian I know of among the "main characters", Kevin Rudd. Six years ago he looked good. The top job was not good for him and he ended up looking a lot more like a pollie than a little Christ, in fact worse than the other pollies.

Anonymous said...

Pleased, if somewhat surprised, to see that you read His Grace

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Ever read Timothy Keller's book 'The Reason For God'?

It.translates a perfectly orthodox Evangelicalism for liberal New Yorkers without sacrificing the essentials. And he's a little centre left on social justice.

If you haven't I have a copy. I think you would find it a useful contribution to the issue of being both orthodox and missional in the post-Chritian West.

Anonymous said...

Ok, that was weird!

The word code I had to use to prove I'm not a robot on my last post was "Schismatic ovitalys"


Any clues?

Andrew Reid said...

Dear Peter,
A little side note - you might like to read my comment over at Archbishop Cranmer's blog on his piece, which I felt was unhelpfully one-sided and out of date (one source was a 2005 report!). It's about #6 on the list under name "spicksandspecks".

You're right to note the very strange week in Aus politics. Annabelle Crabb has written a very helpful post on it here.

Careful about the shameless blokes in our cricket team. I might start mentioning some All Blacks I know...By the way, is there a law that the Lions must be coached by a Kiwi when they play the Wallabies?


Peter Carrell said...

As the t-shirt says, Andrew, I support New Zealand and any team playing against Australia. I guess Gatland must have one of those!