Culture

Flesh & Blood: The Incarnation of Enculturation

CommunionI have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) Jesus words echo through the cosmos of space and time as the church lifts bread and cup in the liturgy of communion again and again. Jesus embraced both the communion of Jewish culture in the Passover with the embodied call of the missio Dei in suffering and the cross. Both place and time found transcendence in everliving Christ and the Word of God. As a boy I remember growing up in the Anglican Church. I practically knew the liturgy by heart and could walk through the alter boy routine with a blindfold. By my early teens though, it had lost its meaning. What was the spiritual significance, the enfleshing truth to reciting such words from a book? It would be years later that in a Church of Christ, communion would become a significance of faith and relevant again through the practice of shared meditation!

I told you this brief story as a reflection for you to see the significance of recognizing the transcendent realities of the missio Dei finding a communion of sorts to the culture and inculturation of contextualized space and time. As Bevans and Schroeder share in articulation to their sixth constant, "culture, for eyes of faith, becomes a way of deepening in a fully human and contextual way, human knowledge of and relation with the Mystery that is ineffable and yet closer to us then we are to ourselves." (Pg. #303)

As I have journeyed through the history of the church in the last few months, I have come to recognize the ever deepening significance of the Word becoming flesh and blood through the communion of the missio Dei and the culture of the people it finds rest in. We cannot be afraid of the creativity in which the gospel finds expression in the everyday lives of its followers. Authority only finds root in what we give authority too and in giving all that authority to Christ in faith, culture ceases to rule and instead becomes a tool under Kingdom authority to express a story greater then itself.

The incarnation of the gospel is a marriage in which all find significance and meaning in the communion which brings strength to our cultures, the enriching of our diversity, and the eternal guidance of our mission as His church. As Francis Bacon said, “It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”[1]

[1] Cole, Neil. Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2009) Pg. #113.

Welcome My Son, Welcome to the Machine: A Response to Kathryn Tanner's Modern and Postmodern Review of Cultures

The MachineModern approach to defining and understanding culture is a linear systematic approach which attempts to generalize a people group according to hard set boundaries and parameters. As Tanner articulates, “The boundaries of a particular culture become in this way the boundaries of a particular society. Where a society breaks off so does its culture. Cultures tend therefore to be discussed as isolatable units in geographical space.” (Pg.#27) In this way, a people find their culture defined for them through national, political, corporate, and geographical localities.

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It is a fashion to which Tanner illustrates through the image of a machine with movable parts hard-lined into a system which operates solely for it's dictated purpose. In other words, “the elements of a culture work interdependently, like gears or bodily organs, for the sake of the whole, in order to sustain its smooth functioning.” (Pg.#34)

Postmodernism dismantles the machine while giving life to the parts which become the seedlings of a new understanding of community and society. The boundaries being less distinguishable allowing culture to develop more organically and relationally. As my friend Daunavan quoted Tanner and bracketed his own thoughts, "Culture is no longer seen as a fixed form or place (with consensus), it is better understood as a whole that can be contradictory or internally fissured (all the parts are not necessarily working for the betterment of the whole)". This meaning that the organic relational developments of social order in the postmodern approach can lead to communal and societal development but, it could also be destructive or detrimental to a societies ability to survive.

Yet the promise of hope for a social order still lies in that, “change is possible because culture and society no longer form, as in the modern understanding of culture, an expressive totality, every aspect reinforcing all the others by virtue of their following the same structures or principles.” (Pg. #52) Hope lies at the centre guiding call of humanity, a meaning found by any and all yet corporately evolved through mutual communal relations.

So what call does the Christ follower have? What mutual relationships does the church foster?