Towards a More Liberating Imagination

In talking with a number of people about the possibility of lasting social change, I mostly encounter pessimism. People often shake their heads, shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what can we do? Jesus does say that the poor and oppressed will always be with us.” Thankfully, there is a growing movement of Christians who are imagining a brighter future for the world.


I’ve nearly finished Brian McLaren’s new book, Everything Must Change and so far have found it to be a very good read. Later I hope to present a more complete review but for now I would like to share some quotes from the 29th chapter of the book, entitled A New Kind of Question. These are not McLaren’s thoughts but those of others who have influenced Brian’s writing.

McLaren quotes John Stott, who the fairly conservative journal Christianity Today has called the ‘Guardian of God’s Word’ saying that he has been ” preeminently a steward of God’s truth and a herald of the biblical message”. (September, 1996)

“What will posterity see as the chief Christian blind spot of the last quarter of the twentieth century? I do not know. But I suspect it will have something to do with the economic oppression of the Third World and the readiness with which Western Christians tolerate it, and even acquiesce in it. Only slowly is our Christian conscience being aroused to the gross economic inequalities between the countries of the North Atlantic and the southern world of Latin America, Africa and most parts of Asia. Total egalitarianism may not be a biblical ideal. But must we not roundly declare that luxury and extravagance are indefensible evils, while much of the world is undernourished and underprivileged?”

“Many more Christians should gain the economic and political qualifications to join in the quest for justice in the world community. And meanwhile, the development of a less affluent lifestyle, in whatever terms we may define it, is surely an obligation that Scripture lays on us in compassionate solidarity with the poor. Of course we can resist these things and even use (misuse) the Bible to defend our resistance. The horror of the situation is that our affluent culture has drugged us; we no longer feel the pain of other people’s deprivations. Yet the first step toward the recovery of our Christian integrity is to be aware that our culture blinds, deafens and dopes us. Then we shall begin to cry to God to open our eyes, unstop our ears and stab our dull consciences awake, until we see, hear and feel what through his Word he has been saying to us all the time. Then we shall take action. “

Lord, forgive me when I whine

He also quotes Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton from their book “Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be”:

“It is only when we can imagine the world to be different than the way it is that we can be empowered to embody this alternative reality which is God’s kingdom and resist this present nightmare of brokenness, disorientation and confusion…..A liberated imagination is a prerequisite for facing the future…If we cannot have such a liberated imagination and cannot countenance such radical dreams then the story remains closed for us and we have no hope.”

It’s about being pro-active versus re-active, isn’t it? Not a call for more charitable giving, but a call for changing systems that create these problems. Blaming the flaws (even when they are real) in the systems of other cultures tends to take our focus off of the systemic flaws of our own culture. We need to ask ourselves the hard question of how we personally are benefiting from the suffering of others. Just asking these types of questions is a start and worth the little effort it takes. At least more worthy than throwing up our hands over the world’s despair. I am glad that people like Brian McLaren , John Stott and others are encouraging me to think about my complicity as well as offering me a vision of hope for the future.

How will future generations look back on the Christians of this age?


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  1. #1 by Christian on November 14, 2007 - 7:18 am

    True. Two points; I agree completely with your analysis of the possible pitfalls of home church. I am not personally feel led to home church for preciisely the reasons you give.

    Next; I didn’t mean to come across sounding that critical of the Reformation. I just meant that it was not a ‘complete’ picture of what church could be like and that it needed to evolve, which it has resisted, and what appears to be taking place now.

  2. #2 by BuddyO on November 14, 2007 - 9:59 am

    Satan is always looking for the weak spot and if it is the house church’s inablility to maintain orthodoxy what then there is no hope for it.

    Who’s Orthodoxy? Orthodoxy requires some governing body. It could be argued that orthodoxy in many cases has trumped the Word and that is the problem with the current way of doing church.

    If, however, the ‘governing body’ is the Word itself then a smaller group would have an easier time mantaining this purest form of orthodoxy.

    Don’t knock it till you try it….

    “not that having a denominational structure has helped the seven major mainlines”

    Uh… yeah… quite an understatement.

  3. #3 by Christian on November 14, 2007 - 10:16 am

    In spite of my earlier comment (hastily made upon a hasty read of Jason’s) I do have to agree with Buddy on this point about orthodoxy. Sorry for being careless.

  4. #4 by Jason on November 14, 2007 - 10:24 am

    “Who’s Orthodoxy? Orthodoxy requires some governing body.”

    When did you convert to Catholicism? Seriously, orthodoxy is by necessity a comprehensive view to the word, and I am certain that you and I agree on that. But orthodoxy, or that which runs parallel or is commensurate with God’s glory is not dependent on people. People may put this label on what they teach, but as I know you know, the label rarely matches the reality. As with, as long as it is there, Catholicism, and its extrabiblical incremental accumulation of other crap, is probably a perfect example of what both you and I are fighting against.

    I am using the label in a way that is in pursuit of the reality, not in a way. I know that is what other people say as well, but that is why the individual pronouncements need to be scutiinized individually, not as a monolith.


    “If, however, the ‘governing body’ is the Word itself then a smaller group would have an easier time mantaining this purest form of orthodoxy.”

    begs your own question regarding who’s orthodoxy. One of the Catholic church’s most often voiced concerns regarding Protestantism is that there will be an endless proliferation of false teaching. If the group is tiny, then there are less who have sufficient base by which to hold the leaders accountable for any midnight visions or puzzling worldly extrapolations to which they are given over. That can be a cult. However, as is easily observable, the bigger the system the more chefs are in the kitchen and it becomes a big sociological experiment in mob or shepherd/cheep mentality.

    If there is a small group, orthodoxy can become non-ortho overnight. In a big group, the tide of public sentiment and invisible leaders are steering a ship, and it becomes almost impossible to turn around. I don’t think I really have to try it, one can look at the number of Protestant denominations, and look closely at what they teach, and figure out that any body of Christ is one or two steps away from being a philosophic, coffee klatch mutual admiration society. The perils of each idea are readily observable. Each system is only as good as it’s teachers and the diligence and steadfastness of its congregants/members/attendees. Neither is superior, I think.

  5. #5 by Jason on November 14, 2007 - 10:39 am

    “I do have to agree with Buddy on this point about orthodoxy. Sorry for being careless.”

    I don’t think it is careless at all. I think you and I going back and forth inspecting every square inch of a passage and desiring that it be in our heart that we would teach it and live it, IS orthodoxy. And I also believe that most passages with significant theological impact can be defended. Though quite often some ancillary details differ, much of the time the core is there.

    Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing and see what the word has to say about it.

  6. #6 by BuddyO on November 14, 2007 - 10:41 am

    Don’t forget prayer… [many often do]

    Neither is superior, I think


    begs your own question regarding who’s orthodoxy

    The Word itself. Everything is contained there. Goes back to my view of a “clear reading” of the text…. I started an article about that, I should finish… No need for interpretation, just read what it says (in prayer and the Spirit).

  7. #7 by Jason on November 14, 2007 - 10:47 am

    Don’t forget prayer… [many often do]

    me, this morning, I need a lot more sleep.

  8. #8 by Christian on November 14, 2007 - 10:51 am

    One of the Catholic church’s most often voiced concerns regarding Protestantism is that there will be an endless proliferation of false teaching.

    It is interesting how this has come to be the case. Which has helped me to see that, in spite of some of the more outrageous additions to their orthodoxy, there is still much of value within their tradition. Just as there is value among most of the protestant traditions. It helps to keep the conversation going among everyone. For example, we have seen the RC make some steps towards a more gradual reformation of their own.

    Don’t forget prayer… [many often do]

    One of those would be me. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. #9 by Jason on November 14, 2007 - 11:01 am

    Just for the fun of it, here is a link to my church.

    It is wonderful.

  10. #10 by Christian on November 14, 2007 - 2:15 pm

    Yes, it looks like you are part of fine community there. Thanks.

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