box theology

27 May

Havering on the Way_5


Joost: This town is so short of water that the locals store it up in winter for its use in summer. I don’t see anything about bars.
Tom: There’s an albergue called La Casa Santa Barbara.
Joost: Oh yeah. It’s the only one. But it has five stars.
Jack: I don’t care how many stars it has as long as it has a toilet.

I’m really not anti-box.

Boxes have some wonderful things going for them. Like a roof. And toilets.

God even told his people to build a box within a box within yet another box – a bit like those Russian dolls. “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In the first room were the lampstand, the table and the sacred bread. This room was called The Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was another room called The Most Holy Place. This room contained the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of glory – but we can’t speak of these things in detail now.” So said the Hebrews author.

Regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. Another head-smacking moment for me some years ago. Regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary – so what’s the big change? What’s the “new order”? Because that’s pretty much what we sill have in what some have referred to as “Church 2.0.”

In his book, Church 3.0, “Church 2.0” is what Neil Cole calls the “earthly sanctuary with its regulations for worship” that we automatically think of when we say or hear the word “church.” Church 1.0 was the ekklesia during the first two or three centuries in its various permutations. Church 2.0 is the church from Constantine until now – which is why I also call the religious box we call the “church” the “Constantian Box.” As Cole summarizes it:

Whether you are talking about high church or low, Pentecostal or Reformed, the church has remained in the 2.0 range of upgrades. From Baptist to Brethren, from Mennonite to Methodist, the changes in the system are relatively untouched over the centuries. . .You have the priests or pastors, the Sunday service with singing and a sermon, the weekly offering, the pulpit with pews, and the church building. These have been constants since the fourth century. Even if you move the whole show into a house instead of a church building, if the system hasn’t changed you have only shrunk the church, not transformed it.

God has certainly used – and continues to work through – Church 2.0. It has been especially effective in cultures such as that in which it originated: cultures in which Christianity is the dominant religious cultural influence. In poly-religious cultures such as we increasingly face, even as the fledgling ekklesia faced it in the early centuries of Christianity, not so much. The boxes tend to compete with other boxes to attract the ever shrinking segment of the population interested in attending religious boxes while the rest of the culture by and large yawns and heads off to Circus Maximus or to the theater.

Then along comes the Way.

Deep down, every human soul longs for a meaningful journey with meaningful friends who know your name. And the Way isn’t just any journey. It is journeying with the One who doesn’t just point to the Way or who has the Truth or offers the path to life; it’s journeying with the One who is the Way, who is the Truth, who is the Life, and who is everywhere. Who cannot be contained in nor is primarily delineated by any one’s physical or mental boxes or constructs, no matter how ancient the formulation or how much Scripture adorns it from foundation to capstone. As He said to the Samaritan woman as she sought to draw him into a debate over the religious boxes of her day, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

Cultural and religious boxes emptied by the score. Religious tradesmen rioted. Magistrates panicked. Priests conspired. The world was turned upside down – until we tried to box up the Way Himself.

But still the Way calls. The Road beckons.

Buen camino.

1 Comment

Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Church, musings


Tags: , ,

One response to “box theology

  1. Eric D

    May 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I love this.


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