As I indicated on my Facebook page, I’m participating in Ken Howard’s blog tour for his book “Paradoxy: Creating a Christian Community Beyond Us and Them.” There are other blogs that have covered this and I encourage you to read their reviews in addition to my own.
My review is going to be split into two parts. Because I wanted to be as fair as I could in doing this review (since the author was kind enough to ask me to do this review after he and I disagreed on some things), I have split my review into two parts. The first part is a bare-boned review that covers the chapter as it is. No commentary is given, no evaluations, no judgments. This is done to encourage the reader to go read the book themselves. The second part is a critical review, giving commentary, praise, and critiques. Even there I seek to be as fair as possible, for those looking for a ‘hit piece’ against what will undoubtedly be labeled an “Emergent Book” are in for a disappointment. While I certainly do disagree with portions of the chapter (and the book), it is still a worthy read and there is a lot to gain from reading it. I fully intend to do an entire book review after the blog tour is over. But for now, the chapter will suffice.
REVIEW OF CHAPTER SIX: “THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME”
Sometimes there is simply no getting around it – the Church, as a whole, feels like it’s failing or has failed. After all, we’ve moved from what was once considered a “Christian society” to what is now being called a “post-Christian era.” What is the Church to do in the shifting sands of modern culture? That is the question Ken Howard attempts to answer in his book Paradoxy: Creating a Christian Culture Beyond Us and Them.
In the chapters leading up to Chapter Six, Howard proposes that we are enduring a paradigm shift in the Church and that the Church is in a culture that is moving away (and becoming hostile to) Christendom and absolutism, the two staples of Church theology for the past 2,000 years. In light of this, we must look to Christianities that could have been and extrapolate what made them successful in their time and place, and then make the move toward applying such principles to the modern church. Chapter Six is Howard’s attempt at giving a brief overview of how a modern church would function.
The thesis of the chapter is quite simple – all churches need to live in the love of Christ (the Incarnational Christ from the Trinitarian God) as the center of their community. Everything else is peripheral. Anticipating that both conservatives and liberals would find difficulty in such a way of thinking, he implores Liberals to see that such a shift in thinking is a progressive paradigm while explaining to Conservatives that what they see as “God’s Truth” that needs to be defended doesn’t in fact need to be defended. That is, if they fear putting Christ as the center of their church community because it would abdicate progressive ideas or conservative apologetics, neither side should be afraid; Christ is progressive and capable of defending His doctrines without our help.
The most challenging aspect of the chapter is attempting to imagine a church where disagreement is not only acknowledged, but is also welcomed and encouraged. He uses his own congregation as an example of a church attempting to live with Christ’s love as the centerpiece. He shares multiple examples of how this has worked (and sometimes failed), such as pointing out that a former CIA member who’s political view is self-described as, “To the right of Genghis Khan” has befriended and works with a disabled homosexual man. He points to a husband and wife, one conservative and the other liberal, who haven’t been able to worship together for quite some time until they discovered Howard’s’ church. Such examples serve to aid in silencing the critics who say that such an idea could never work; of course it can work because it’s working right now. Continue reading