Further Thoughts on Mike Breen’s “The Missional Conversation Must Change”
Yesterday I summarized Mike Breen’s that the rampant individualism of western culture has theologically diluted the Christian idea of God as triune to effectively a Unitarian deity. This god cannot generate a community of faith because he himself knows no community. This view of God has effectively whittled the retrieval of the “Missio Dei” (Mission of God) movement of recent years down to individualized “missional Christians” rather a missional church. Breen pleads for a theological renewal of Trinitarian theology and a deeper experience or participating in the triune life of God in Christ by the power of the Spirit.
An academic renewal of Trinitarian theology has been going on but it has not effectively reached the good folks in the pews (or, likely, a fair number of pastors either). Clearly work remains to be done at this point.
Breen’s identification of individualism is right but too narrow in my judgment. I suspect its one element of a mutually reinforcing web of convictions that generate the plausibility structure for the many versions of “the American Dream.” This “Dream” has lost contact with the communitarian aspects ingredient to its earlier expressions and dwindled to a contract to stay out of each other’s ways in our individual pursuits of happiness up to the point of harm or injury.
I suggest that today’s version of “the American Dream” is but a version of the I.C.E. age which is engulfing the planet in our globalizing and ever-shrinking world. Individualism, Consumerism, and Experientialism constitute the convictions of the western (and increasingly worldwide) plausibility structure.
-Individualism leaves us naked in the world by shaped and formed into the consumers the “Market” needs us to be.
-Consumerism orders and explains life and what it is meant to be.
-Experientialism, a desire for a never-ending supply of new “feeling-generators,” pushes us to live lives “a mile wide and an inch deep,” dwelling in a department store world where some gremlin has snuck in at night and switched all the price tags and condemns us to “know the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
What is needed, it seems to me, is more thoroughgoing than what Breen suggests, though challenging any elements of the I.C.E. Age will entail challenging all of it eventually. We ought to be clear about this as we welcome, catechize, instruct and reflect with our people on what God calls them to be and do.
In sum, I suggest we must become what the early Christians and their churches were accused of by their opponents. That is, “atheists”! Their contemporaries could clearly see that these “Christians” did not accept or live by the dictates their societal gods. The church nurtured and formed cultural atheists – and apparently they did!
To nurture and form such atheists in our word, to grow what we might call “Atheists for Jesus” is the larger challenge in which the one Breen writes about nests.