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PROMISES MUCH MORE ABOUND

Yes, "Peril abounds . . . but promises much more abound."1 Out of the ashes of the past emerge the greatest opportunities in the history of Christianity. For the first time in centuries, the church will operate in its own realm. No longer will it have to compete with the world on the world’s own terms.

Like the early Christians, we are seeing "a rare and momentous alignment of forces."2 This Spirit-birthed age is birthing spirit! The very dynamics that define the digital age also define the first century Church: a new community . . . a new communication . . . a new reconciliation . . . a new creativity . . . and a new power.

The future belongs to the faithful who seize this moment.

A New Community

Suddenly, "community" has turned into an entirely different fellowship. Overnight, "neighbors," have acquired an extremely unusual nearness. In the past, we trusted Scripture, Spirit, time, and space. And we loved to gaze on the familiar face. Scripture and Spirit, of course, remain eternally the same, but now we see a new time and space . . . and a new kind of face . . .

. . . for the future church will reach anyone, anywhere, anytime, and anyway. In other words, it will reach "different" souls, in "different" places, at "different" times, and in "different" ways.

After all, the church is becoming less and less a "place." Cyberspace, for example, functions free of time and space. Churches will look beyond the old problems of distance and delivery. They will see beyond the old borders of "here" and "there."

They will be more "nonterritorial," more "nonlocal."

In other words, they will move wildly across national and ethnic boundaries and easily ignore religious barriers. They will explore the cross-cultural and move with the multicultural. They will even risk the counter-cultural—leaping the chasm between sacred and secular, religious and nonreligious, pious and profane, clergy and laity, church and world, familiar and foreign, "us" and "them". . . .

In the same way, the church will break free from the absurd sameness of clock time. The "Word," for example, will become a random-access medium. Immediate and flexible, it will no longer depend on the hour or day demanded for delivery. Its "real-time" reality will resemble a "present eternity" where the recorded reality of the past and the virtual reality of the future flood every moment.

And, in this new community, instant interaction and digital democracy will empower the powerless. And, with this gift, an even bigger barrier will fall—the "hierarchical" barrier.

For the first time in centuries, church leaders will be more mentors and less manipulators, more role-models and less regulators, more facilitators and less enforcers. The survival of these clergy will depend on their being more "horizontal" in style and less "vertical" in style, more humble and less career driven, more a servant and less the one being served. And the church will benefit from their becoming more a guide of experience and less a deliverer of facts, more focused on "being" and less on "doing," more a poet or prophet and less a CEO.

Technology is building this new community at warp speed. And the endless World Wide Web is building this endless World Wide Neighborhood in "no-place" space. And, wherever these events happen—"in spirit and truth"—we will discover the Church.

A New Communication

We are also discovering a new communication . . . actually, rediscovering a first century communication. For we are returning to an oral culture—or, in our case, an electronic oral culture.

After all, "modern" words and "oral" words differ:

While modern words expect logic, oral "words" love things larger than logic. While literate minds legislate abstract reasons, knowing hearts long for abstract arts. While modern theologians market processed truth, "oral" elders model pristine truth.

In recent years, people empowered a "proper" language. Now, oral language will empower prophetic people. Correct words have meant precise "verbal" words. Now, meaning will spring even from "nonverbal" words. And, while modern words presume little intrinsic value, oral words will assume life-sustaining value.

We see the import for the church: Oral "words" have more in common with the origin of our faith than with the language of our culture!

Unlike modern words—known mostly by the brain—Hebrew "words" emerged first from the body, from visceral feelings rather than the logic of the mind. To the Hebrews, the "Word" was a living, aesthetic experience, an open-ended reflection, a meditative dialogue with multiple meanings. It was incarnational language in its purest form.

It was as simple—yet dynamic—as Jesus "breaking bread" or "mixing clay with spit."

Today, we see a return to an oral culture in the visual ads, virtual reality, and multimedia of film, video, and TV. We see our best theologians exploring the meanings in images, novels, dances, music, drama, and movies. And we see our leading clergy risking the truth in beauty, the meaning in emotion . . .

. . . the apologetics in aesthetics.

No matter our modern triumphs, the oral tradition "is still the most powerful code . . . and will remain the principal one for the foreseeable future." It is "something profoundly deep and mysterious."3 And it will prove a more powerful mode of salvation than the Greek rhetoric we’ve used for years.

A New Reconciliation

The postmodern world also promises a new evangelism—a new reconciliation with God, ourself, and others.

Future evangelism will be more personal, and less institutional . . . more intuitive, and less propositional . . . more sensuous, and less doctrinal. Future salvations will be more relational, and less rhetorical . . . more Jesus, and less jargon . . . more feelings, and less formulas. And, future clergy will be more artists, and less intellects . . . more moved by love, and less by creed . . . more validated by experience, and less by programs.

For empowered passions will become the basis for belief rather than the basis for unbelief. The church will finally discern between the knee-jerk, garden-variety emotions of the natural world and the "felt-meanings" of the spiritual world. That’s because felt-meanings will yield light with their heat, revelation with their warmth, insight with their inspiration.

They will "see" as well as feel.

For a while, though, we may set aside the label "evangelism," for evangelists will discover a new "salvation." The spiritual leaders of the future will disciple more and manipulate less . . . they will measure their success more by quality and less by quantity . . . they will more frankly share the cross and less blatantly a bait-and-switch benefits package.

As a result, reconciliation will be more a triumph of the Spirit, and less a triumph of man . . . more uniquely inspired, and less cookie-cuttered . . . more the results of "planting and watering," and less limited to premature "harvesting."4 Discipleship will involve more listening, and less talking . . . more modeling, and less teaching . . . more caring, and less hit-and-run evangelism.

Then, newfound faith will be more a maturing journey, and less a one-time conversion . . . more the result of concern, and less the result of "scoring" . . . more reliant on lasting relations, and less a "means to an end." True rebirths will be more grace-filled, and less sin-dominated . . . more motivated by joy, and less by fear . . . more honest, and less deceiving.

Even science will offer new insights into these age-old problems of alienation and reconciliation. Chaos theory, for example, will prove the first scientific witness to the "Christ Event." More to the point, it will explore the dynamics of Christ’s death and resurrection in our own death and resurrection in this lifetime.

Chaos theory goes like this:

Any "system"—biological, natural, social, even spiritual—will often struggle with internal conflicts. And, as these conflicts intensify, they threaten the system itself. Then, suddenly, everything shifts to a higher level of harmony, only to start the cycle over again.

That’s life! With all of us, the same dying to internal hell brings the only hope for internal healing. And we travel this road over and over. . . .

We find examples of chaos theory in traffic patterns, weather predictions, and dangerous epidemics. Indeed, this theory is the only way scientists can deal with the more troubling of these events. So, in a future secular world, personal crises may be viewed as the next level of God’s grace—not helpless destructions or an imminent disgrace.

We are truly entering a new era of reconciliation, and this "wisdom (will be) vindicated . . . by her children."5 (Luke 7:35)

A New Creativity

Inspired vision—or creativity—is also a major postmodern reality. For "intuition," "spontaneity," and "metaphor"—the cornerstones of creativity—will propel our new world. We will no longer "think" in the usual sense of the word. We will "perceive," instead, with inspired insight. This means rafting the many tributaries on which the human spirit flows from the Holy Spirit.

"Spontaneity," for example, actually defines the future. Fast-moving, quickly-changing data will supersede yesterday’s coherent, orderly ideas. Fluid, unfixed images will negate earlier immobile methods. And, open-ended journeys will leave behind outdated static realities.

"Metaphor," though, will prove the mother of all creativity. Metaphor has always been basic to life. Now, however, as we return to an oral culture, we will also "think" like a metaphor—surfing endless "multitudes of similitudes." And, since metaphor has proven a perfect model of creativity,6 it will now become the very "kernel of creative thought."7

Of course, metaphor is not possible without emotion. So our pell-mell rush toward "felt-meanings" will only increase the flood waters of creativity.

In this, we return again to the inspired visions of the ancient Hebrews. For creativity pervades the entire Bible. Scripture does not describe "what is," it describes "what is coming to be!" Jesus even built His church on creative or inspired visions.8

In other words, faith and creativity are essential synonyms. They always were. And now, their unity will become what it was meant to be.

Today, technology and creativity propel each other. The power of the future is neither money nor manpower. It’s innovation! Creativity impels all high-tech progress and drives all global economies. And the profit motive only deepens these bonds.

As example, today’s entertainment industry immerses us in sensual, emotional, multimedia fantasies more real than reality itself. Or, consider the World Wide Web where individual, spirit-inspired visions run unhindered, where a new legitimacy gives free rein to the notion of "play." Of course, "virtual reality" trumpets the very spirit of creativity when it portrays absent things as though they were present.

We find another creative presence in the computer "interface design" where give-and-take, to-and-fro dialogues create never-known worlds in real-time replies to instant sensory feedbacks. Hypertext "links," for example, allow readers to create their own stories and even shape the outcomes. And, online, role-playing games give new meaning to the word, "interaction."

(Already, "the computer games industry is considerably more valuable than the movie industry."9)

As we learn the origin of our faith and see the future of our thought, a long lost theology of creativity will re-enter the pages of history.

A New Power

But believers will find the most astounding news in the "power" of an oral culture:

Unlike today’s words which merely "supervene" in life—that is, they only "add to" life—oral words "intervene" in life—they actually "change" life. They speak "of nonexistent things . . . as if they [already] existed." They declare "the end and the result from the beginning."10 Then, they go forth and do things . . . "with signs following."11

This power lies at the very heart of the Church. Again, Scripture doesn’t claim "what is," it demands our part in "what is coming to be." Further, it declares this vision more real than the world in which we now live, which "is passing away!"12 The "actual" universe, in other words, is the universe that is coming to be.

So a future faith is pregnant with the future, with the not-yet inside the already.13 We anticipate the time to come in the midst of the here-and-now. We claim the culmination of our promises within God’s promises.

God’s world, in short, is not so much a "creation" as a "creating." And the universe is not so much "an existing entity that has a history; rather, it is a history."14 In other words, God wills a future reality, a non-present reality.15 Or, we can say He wills an evolving reality, an ongoing, world-constructing reality.

After all, He is the Lord of History!

And, amazingly, we have a role to play. As our believing and speaking become one, we interact creatively—prophetically—in what the Spirit is bringing to pass. Our boldness comes not from creaturely destinies, but from the One who destines . . . not from the goal of our existence, but from the goal of His existence. We point, in other words, only out of the power to which we point.

Then—with vivid expectancy—things happen. What we envision becomes real. Our inspiration becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It derives its meaning from the evidence we proclaim, even as we proclaim it. It creates a new reality from the new world we announce, even as we announce it.

So get ready! A new language will decide a new reality. A new way of speaking will confirm a new actuality. And this utterance will prove a powerful incarnation, for power always incarnates power. And, once again, the Word will become flesh as we call "those things that be not as though they were."16

Does this require risk? Yes! But, not since the first century has the church been so empowered.

A Quantum Leap

Again, a new science confirms this power:

Quantum theory, a miraculous physics discovery, now turns old realities upside-down. As scientists gradually lose faith in a material existence, they more and more mirror a world changed by the very act of observing it. We are finding, in other words, that "more matters than matter." And this discovery will empower the church.

"What else but quantum mechanics," ask the thinkers, "explains the miraculous event of creativity?"17 In the same sense, "What else could explain the intrinsic power in inspired faith, meditation, prayer, and prophecy?"

Here is how quantum theory works:

In the odd world of quantum, things exist in a multitude of states until tipped toward a definite outcome by our participation. In other words, it is impossible to "measure" or "observe" a quantum event without changing it. And, considering that time and space require each other, any "event" in time (creativity, faith, meditation, prayer, prophecy . . . ) must also show up somewhere in space.18

So what we imagine, then, happens in parallel worlds. There is an unavoidable bond between the observer and the world observed—between our imagination and the created image.19 Once we look, we change what is seen. That’s the reason the imagination—or the creative images—of scientists often foretell their physical findings.20, 21

We are participants, in other words, rather than spectators. We are co-authors. Our "desire reveals design, and (our) design reveals destiny."22 In God’s will, we "make the Holy Spirit offers He can’t refuse." We live in a world of continual creative reflection, a kingdom of "as if." In the words of Wordsworth, we are "affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present."23 And Michael Polanyi agreed, "(We) lose ourselves in the performance of an obligation which we accept, in spite of its appearing on reflection impossible of achievement."24

These convictions invoke the "manifest" presence of God.25

Today, we see early signs of a new "co-authored" world:

The current TV season is littered with so-called reality shows . . . programs that are authored by their participants . . . We no longer think of ourselves as actors working from a script but as co-creators, responsible for the collective development of our world . . . (Further) the experience of democracy, free markets, free speech, and an interactive media space has made us reluctant to live by decree . . . We may be more partnered with the Almighty than we at first presumed. 26

Of course, the significance of quantum theory for the church is enormous. When our actions and God’s will mutually move each other, the role of divine action takes on a miraculous dimension. In short, our inspired creativity has the power to change the world. In the hands of prophetic believers, we will describe those things that don’t exist as though they do . . .

. . . and history will change.

This is the power of incarnational language. The early Hebrews knew all things exist in the invisible realm before they appear in the visible realm. So we find no surprise that under dry skies, Elijah announces, "There is the sound of abundance of rain." Nor is it rare when Jesus declares, "I have overcome the world," when—in reality—His victory became fact when He later died and rose again.

As we learn to see theologically and apply prophetically the alignment of forces confirmed in quantum theory, the doors will open to God’s miraculous presence in history.

"One is no longer simply thinking, one is projecting a world"27

<<<>>>

Future faith will not passively assent to what man’s reason "proves" real or unreal. Instead, it will explore the implied power of Pentecost. And, as a result, a new theology will break forth, and new tests of veracity and authenticity will suddenly appear.

For now, though, the church warms in a new "glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day."28

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

ENDNOTES

1. Romans 5:20 (paraphrased).

2. Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (New York: Basic Books, 1997) p. 10.

3. Derrick de Kerckhove, The Skin of Culture (Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1995) p. 193.

4. I Corinthians 3.

5. Luke 7:35, AMP (my parentheses).

6. Lewis Edwin Hahn, Editor, The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995) p. 267.

7. Jay A. Seitz, "The Development of Metaphoric Understanding: Implications for a Theory of Creativity," Creativity Research Journal 1997, Vol. 10, No. 4, 347-353.

8. A careful reading of the original Greek in Matthew 16:15-18 reveals Jesus founded His church on spiritual revelation.

9. Lance Concannon, "Games," Internet Magazine (www.internet-magazine.com), May 2001.

10. Romans 4:17, Isaiah 46:10; AMP.

11. Mark 16:20, KJ.

12. I Cor. 7:31, AMP.

13. Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

14. Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) p. 46-53.

15. Isaiah 65:17-19; Rev. 21:5 (as examples).

16. Romans 4:17, KJ.

17. John McCrone, "Quantum states of mind," New Scientist, August 20, 1994, pp. 35, 36.

18. Michael Lockwood, Mind, Brain and the Quantum, reviewed by Stuart Sutherland in Nature, Vol 343 Feb. 1, 1990, p. 424.

19. Kimberly A. McCarthy, "Indeterminacy and Consciousness in the Creative Process: What Quantum Physics Has to Offer," Creativity Research Journal Volume 6 (3) 201-219 (1993).

20. Roger Penrose: "Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness," quoted in The New York Times, Monday, October 31, 1994, by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt [Section C, Page 20, Column 3].

21. McCrone, pp. 35, 36.

22. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) p. 48, 219.

23. William Wordsworth, quoted in Brewster Ghiselin, The Creative Process (New York: Mentor Books, 1955) p. 83.

24. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958) p 324.

25. Polanyi.

26. Douglas Rushkoff, "Playing God," Yahoo! December 2001, Vol. 7, No. 12, p. 136.

27. William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996) p. 73.

28. Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, trans. James Leitch (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 16.



Future Church Administrator