American culture challenges the church at its deepest levels. In the church the authority is God in Christ through the Spirit but in culture authority resides in the individual and in the will of “we the people.”
• Scot McKnight
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Read Scot McKnight’s article, “How Our Culture Challenges Church.”
Scot has written a good overview of western political culture with its “we the people” ontology, and how that challenges the very ontology of the Church, which is that of christocracy. You can read the details of his argument at Jesus Creed. Today, I would like to simply list the points he makes and have us discuss them.
First, Western culture increasingly believes the fundamental problems of life are systemic and social, and are to be resolved through social progress and most especially through social engineering in public education.
Second, Western culture tends to believe in the inherent goodness of humans and that society and systems corrupt that original goodness.
Third, Western culture believes its laws are created by the people, they are for the people, and when the people shift the laws will need to shift with them.
Fourth, Western culture then increasingly locates authority in the people, in fact, all the way down to the individual person.
Fifth, one’s commitment to society, to state, to the authorities, to the institutions, or to the establishment is voluntary and the moral authority of the laws of that society is good only so long as the individual person can believe in and commit themselves to those institutions.
Sixth, the leaders of Western societies are the will of the people and need to change if the will of the people changes.
Here is how he summarizes:
The Western history of politics, if I may make a sweeping statement about the biggest drift of all, is a movement from monarchies to aristocracies (or oligarchies) to democracies. The church got its ontology in a world of monarchies and emperors and kings (ancient Israel, 1st Century Rome) and found expression in that context. The church’s very ontology is monarchy or, better yet, christocracy. Western culture is the drive to a more and more radical form of democracy as a form of resistance to monarchy, which makes the church ambivalent and culturally at least countercultural if not irrelevant if it wants to be Western.
Scot leaves it there as something for us to think about.
I’m left thinking, if this is an accurate assessment, what do we do about it?
Or is it as simple as that? Do these historical developments really represent a movement away from an ontology which must be maintained if the Church is to be the Church? Or might they, in some way, actually represent the growth and influence of Christ’s reign in the Western world?