The whole premise of the book Deep Church is that the church will benefit from finding a middle ground between the traditional (which seems to be used to represent both liturgical and fundamental) and emerging churches. To be honest, I couldn’t agree more! For a long time I have felt like there are many good things going on in the emerging church movement, but I am not ready to redefine my theology in order to fully embrace the movement. After doing much analysis of both of these movements, author Jim Belcher proposes four ways that Deep Church is different. In essence it takes the best of the traditional and emerging church and combines them to make Deep Church. As I work with college students, wholeheartedly agree with all three of his declarations – and I’ll look at al four of them over the next few days.
Declaration 1: deep church must be postfoundational. In order to fully appreciate what Belcher is saying, one much first define “foundationalism.” He defines it as, “the view that knowledge can be based on self-evident truths that don’t need to any backing from religion or any other external authority, that is, knowledge that has ‘invincible certainty.’” (78) Belcher claims that it is this view of metaphysics that leads to the arrogant smugness that is often found in evangelical fundamental churches. While I’m not sure that the way we are viewed is a reason to reevaluate beliefs, but I do agree with him in that this theory of metaphysics is dead.
The logical follow up question that many in the fundamental church ask is, “Can we know anything for sure?” This has always been the question that has bothered me and indeed it has been one of the main reasons that I have held the emerging church at an arms distance. Belcher answers this question by stating, “Even though we realize that language always stands between us and reality, that beliefs always shape how we interpret the world, we still believe that there is an objective reality outside of us, that we can have some knowledge of it and transcend our culture. But we don’t do it by going back to the Enlightenment and individually or corporately creating our own reality. We do it by living in the biblical story, which teaches and transforms us.” (84)
After thinking about this statement for a while, I got to thinking that this was the same way that Jesus taught. He did just simply give objective truths. He invited people to live in the story of God and see that they were true. This is no more evident than in his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. In it he invites people to life in the Kingdom of God. He invites them to live in and be transformed by the biblical story. It seems to me that Jesus embraced this “third way.” After working with college students for years now, I am convinced that they are hungry for this invitation as well.
So, the question becomes, do we invite people simply believe a set of statements… or do we invite them to live the life that Jesus taught and modeled. I think that is an important distinction that we need to wrestle with. Maybe the answer is both… I’m still wrestling with that myself.