Sunday, November 19, 2017

Church Needs to Challenge The Culture

Human consciousness depends on education, tradition, culture and belief system but it is not fixed, changes take place, we have growth and integration. A seminary professor begins his article in View from the Ark with these words on the Church's place in society.

Change produces resistance. A human being is biologically programmed to avoid pain and rest comfortably. Emotional stability is necessary to resolve both physical and inner conflicts to adapt to changes in an environment. If these changes match the views of the individual, pain is accepted, if not persons are disturbed, and problems with depression and suicides often follow.

The church is no exception. Looking at the 2000 year history of the church it has been on a journey of cultural adaptation and indigenization. In the spirit and culture of the times, it tries to understand its beliefs and make known what it has received and finds its identity.

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the early church was waiting for the return of Jesus and the end, testifying to their faith by martyrdom. After becoming the State Church of Rome with its freedom and power it began to preach the Gospel to the pagans and with its power build the earthly kingdom. People were subdued in the name of Jesus with violence and wrong judgments made.

However, the Church has undergone many changes, renewed and reformed. According to the promise of Jesus, the Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit to defeat the power of evil and proclaim the Gospel throughout the world. The Catholic Church dressed in the robes of Western civilization settled in Korea but was resented by the nation. It gave the hope of the Resurrection to the people. Believers found a new family in the church and shared hope and comfort and often witnessed to hope by a martyr's death.

There is a saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, At first we think that the sum of the parts make up the whole but when the individuals are gathered and form a community they are affected by the surrounding environment that influences the community in ways that were not present in the beginning. This is called the 'emergent property' principle also experienced by the Church. The gift of the Spirit that each individual receives is small but the spirit in the community would be greater than that of the individuals. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the level of guidance we believe is at a higher level than the social organizations of society.   

Often the mass media, the spirit of the age, the bias in society gives the citizens false and distorted values and brings harm into society. In the Church, however, believers receive the fellowship of other believers through the teaching of the faith and when the community becomes one they help defend the church and grow beyond their personal gifts and to the universal good.

Many criticize the church for not being any different from any other organizations in society and rightly so for the church is meant to be different. Gerhard Lohfink a German theologian makes clear that what is needed today is a church that is a contrast to the society we have. We are not a church to be successful in the ways of the world using the ways of the world with authoritarian power but with the teachings of Jesus. The moment authority becomes power we are no different than the world. If we lose the cross we lose everything. Is this not the lesson we  learned from history?

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