Thursday, October 05, 2006
Lausanne Reflections: It Depends On How You Look At It
It is Thursday here in Hong Kong and our Lausanne issue group just finished another day of discussion. Today's activities included presentations in the morning on phenomenology by Philip Johnson, and contextualization by Michael Cooper. Both presentations were helpful and contributed toward lively discussions and follow up questions in the afternoon after lunch.
I found the following items helpful in Philip's phenomenology discussion.
1. The need for empathy or sympathetic understanding of other spiritual pathways that seeks to understand them as an adherent would understand them.
2. The need to check our predjudices as we seek to understand alternative spiritualities.
3. The need to avoid reification, that is, the our abstract (often flawed) understanding of a new spirituality that we then project as reality rather than the reality itself.
4. The need to recognize that many of the alternative spiritualities have a praxis and ritual orientation rather than doctrinal, and that they need to be understood from their perspective and not the Western Christian framework which emphasizes doctrine.
From Michael's presentation on contextualization, or a missiological method of engagement, I took away the following insights:
1. Conceptualizing contextualization in terms of a multi-stranded spiral of interlocking perspectives and activities, the process begins with the missio Dei, the centrality of the missional activity of God in the world. The missio Dei thus becomes a focal point for theological reflection.
2. We then move to missiological exegesis of other cultures and spiritualities which includes dialogue and observation.
3. After collecting observational data we move to missiological reflection on what we have seen and learned.
4. From our missiological reflection we move to the development of missional praxis.
5. Much as in ethnography, this process is cyclical and involves a constant need to engage in ongoing exegesis, reflection, and praxis development.
6. Finally, Michael shared examples from Paul's missiological engagement which he described as passive engagement in culture that came as a result of his presence and interaction with it, and Paul's refusal to develop "a method" for mission. When this happens we tend to McDonaldize a method.
The consensus among our international group is that we need to build momentum for a new paradigm for new religions. Our discussion today and earlier in the week provides helpful considerations for the development of this new paradigm and an ability to look at our understandings and activities in differing ways than many have seen before. Much like the image accompanying this blog post which provides the viewer with the image of a young woman when viewed from one perspective, and yet from another perspective the image of an old woman, reflection on alternative spiritualities from diverse perspectives provides an image for engagement that moves beyond heresy-rationalist approaches in America.