The Twenty-First Century

The twenty-first century is characterized by the ubiquitous nature of information, the mastery of sophisticated technology by large portions of the population, the awareness of the contextual nature of knowing and reasoning and a shift in the basic understanding of the nature of the scientific endeavor away from the Enlightenment paradigm that dominated earlier centuries. Christianity in the Twenty-First Century is a project to develop a theology in this context.

The Challenge

The emphasis on rationality within the Enlightenment framework has dominated theology for the last centuries. Scientific explanations, with an inherent materialist worldview, were seen to be able to explain all the mysteries of life. However in the twentieth century the boundaries of the Enlightenment framework became evident in many areas of science. Since most of the dominant theological thought in major denominations in the twentieth century was build using Enlightenment frameworks of thinking, a rearticulation of major concepts of Christianity is necessary in the twenty-first century for an effective communication of the word of Christ in view of these new developments.

Today, Enlightenment forms of reasoning still dominate large portions of the church. As a result the church became ineffective in the latter part of the twentieth century and now large parts of society have become secularized. Major parts of the population are either unfamiliar with basic Christian concepts or are only familiar with a particular view of Christianity that typically is not an accurate reflection of the historic Christian faith. Society at large is characterized by longing for spirituality that the churches are frequently unable to satisfy. Denominations rapidly become obsolete due to the adherence to beliefs originating in the last centuries. There is an obvious fragmentation of Christianity into various groups that use Enlightenment style rationality to make claims that they are the only ones with the correct™ understanding of the Christian faith being unaware of the recent origin of their ideas as well as their forms of reasoning. Other groups have endorsed various goals of a charitable nature resigning from making any religious claims whatsoever. The need exists to clarify the basic of the faith again through a reflection in view of contemporary knowledge of human nature, the history of the world, the history of religious communities as well as the experiences of the Holy Sprit and other extraordinary events. Faith cannot only be based on rational thought but must also include an experimental dimension and a respect for the mysteries of the world and of the Christian faith. This invariably will also mean an reappraisal of what the writers of the Bible have said given an awareness of our own contemporary biases.

The Authority of Scripture
The affirmation of the authority and the validity of Scripture is based in the terms of the nature of Scripture itself as it was given in its cultural and historic context. Not being aware of one's own context as well as the context of Scripture frequently leads to a questionable exegesis. The understanding of Scripture is limited by our reasoning capabilities and our knowledge about the time in which the texts were written. The use of imagination to fill in the blanks needs to be limited and instead the ambiguous nature of some of our readings of the text needs to be accepted. Scripture was given in the context of a community of faith and therefore a proper understanding of Scripture requires a presence in the community of faith and an exercise of what is communicated to us by Scripture.
Divine Action
Divine action cannot just be an illusion as implied by a deterministic worldview nor simply the divine intervention in a "mechanism." The implication of quantum theory is that nature is interactive allowing for both true personal choice, and therefore also for personal responsibility, as well as for divine acts, such as healing or other extraordinary events. The experience of divine action is at the center of faith both in terms of individual experience of the guiding of the Holy Spirit as well as the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit.
God is as God is
The implication of the I AM in Exodus 3:16 and other passages implies that God wants to be accepted as God is. God needs to be experienced. Rich imaginative theological frameworks exist that explain the nature of the divine and result in the danger of loosing all transcendental awareness. Characteristics such as goodness and perfection have been attributed to God in the past but these terms typically turned about to be laden with baggage projecting what we want God to be rather than respecting of who God is.
Contextual revelation
The word of God has been revealed in different historical and cultural settings and is therefore evidently fine-tuned for the respective context. This implies the necessity to develop moral frameworks that are adapted to the corresponding culture as needed in particular in missionary situations. However while religious practices and customs may vary, the core of the faith is unchanging. This implies the concept of a Christian relative relativism.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit
The presence of the Holy Spirit is essential for the proper interpretation of Scripture as well as the understanding of God's will for today. It needs to be a day-to-day experience in order to develop our full potential in Christ.
Redemption through Jesus
The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the core of the Gospel implying our need to acknowledge our sin and take responsibility for our actions. His Resurrection is a foreshadowing of our own.
Practice and Experience
The full experience of the presence of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is only possible through the practice of what we were commanded to do in Scripture. Following Jesus demands actions and not only intellectual assent to dogmas of biblical truth or a specific interpretation of Scripture.
Exclusiveness of the Christian Faith
Believers are a selected few having received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The distinction between non-believer and a believer is an essential element of our faith and cannot be surrendered. The offensiveness of the ultimate condemnation of the non-believer is evident in particular in our current contemporary world that values inclusivity highly.