Abductive Columns

Monday, July 25, 2005

In the World, But Not of it.

Have you ever stood on a rock in the middle of a river, hearing, seeing, and feeling the power of the water rushing all around you? Imaging deciding to take a bucket and dip it quickly into the river to fill it not with water but the rapid itself. You would have an endless stream of rushing water from which to draw. Yet every time you would attempt to capture this amazing dynamic, no matter how quickly you dipped or how determined you were, when you looked inside your container, all you would find is still water. Your failure would be maddening, and all who observed your efforts would consider you mad.

Is it any different when we speak of ourselves as outside of culture or of the church apart from culture? Is it possible what we are attempting to capture is the river’s movement but what we actually gather is just still water? In generations past the river moved slowly. What we saw in our bucket looked a lot like what we found in the river. But though they were similar they were never really the same. The rapid pace of cultural change, the new fluidity in which we live, and the emergence of new strains and endless variations of human understanding make the distinction between the church and the cultural difficult to ignore.

Our inability to distinguish between the water in the bucket and the rapids is perhaps one reason we are often so inept at impacting the culture we seek to engage. Erwin Raphael McManus


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