Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Who's the Next C.S. Lewis?

As I sampled some fine Colorado microbrews with my friends earlier this evening, the conversation turned to contemplating great thinkers. We named some deceased geniuses and asked where are these caliber of folks now? From a Christian perspective, this list of most recent innovators would include the likes of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and perhaps Tolkien.

At first blush, I was tempted to say that there are none. Folks of this intellectual caliber and insight just don't exist anymore... But I'm rethinking that. Let's suppose that type of individual exists right now - would we know it? I doubt it. There is something about the visionary that makes his/her thought process incompatible with present thinking.

Suffice to say, I do not believe the great innovator of spiritual thought currently is Tim LaHayne or Rick Warren. The type of thinker to which I'm referring is revolutionary. And revolutionaries, by their very nature, are not going to be easily received into mainsteam culture. If there is a modern day C. S. Lewis in our midst, I would not be surprised if that person is either being widely deemed a heretic or drawing reactions of complete bewilderment.

Therefore, my curiosity rises when I hear of someone who is causing a bit of a stir amongst the flock. So this leads me to a natural interest in the "Emergent Conversation". Some of its prominent leaders are certainly saying some things that are making people uncomfortable. A spirituality that is predicated upon thousands of years of tradition should be expected to be uncomfortable with new/different/hard questions being asked. And it should be skeptical.

Am I equating leaders of the Emergent Church with Lewis? No. Actually, I have no idea who may fill the enormous shoes of such a great thinker in the future. Rather, I'm merely contemplating the characteristics that may be found in such an innovator. It is probably someone who is pushing the boundaries of Christian thought and encouraging us to engage the culture in new and different ways.

The problem is that it could become difficult to some of us less educated spiritual thinkers to delineate between a true revolutionary of Christian thought and a false prophet. There clearly needs to be a mutually agreed upon foundation. It is crucial to start by considering what comprises the components of a Christian worldview.

Phil at The Spirit Formed Life explained from personal experience how losing a foundation can be detrimental. But if we are able to identify a clear set of foundational principles, then true heresy will be easier to identify (and we will be less obsessed with disagreement among peripheral issues as well). Along these lines, John at Locusts and Honey brings up some valid reasons for caution regarding McLaren's New Kind of Christian.

Unfortunately, I am still a neophyte when it comes to this whole emergent conversation. However, it does seem as if the hysteria and the negative stereotyping of the entire movement is a bit overdone and oversimplified. Go ahead and call McLaren out on some relativist tendencies, but don't rush to condemn the entire Emergent Church as heretical.

Now if we put the responsibility on ourselves to revolutionize our own thinking, we should consider the following. How can we ask difficult questions, think in new ways, but still maintain the foundations of our faith?

I am sure that Christians in Southeast Asia and Africa have some very different perspectives on our shared religion than those of us in the United States and Western Europe. When we can begin to integrate some of the best ideas and are able to acknowledge the shortcomings of our own cultural filters, we will be on our way to truely maturing spiritually.

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