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Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Shaping of Things to Come and HungerTruth


“The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church” by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch is jam packed with information that challenges the traditional way of the church, and more than that, it begins to reinterpret Scripture in a way that is more faithful to the Hebraic roots from which they originated. I will highlight some of my favorite insights and describe how these relate to the HungerTruth community.

Frost and Hirsch mention that churches that feel the need to conform to the same beliefs are immature, and see this as a need to self justify their doctrine (46). Mature adults do not need to have others agree with them in order to feel secure and comfortable. Instead, they suggest that communities should define themselves by a core set of values that people are either closer to or further away from. In this way, it is possible avoid the common pitfall of the ‘you are in,’ ‘you are out’ boundary marker perspective (47,50,74).

I have only recently started to really think about what ultimately binds the HungerTruth community together. It is becoming more and more clear that it is the values that we share, not necessarily a particular doctrine. Those that associate with us are typically people who have changed their beliefs at one time or another and because of this are open to change again. There is a distinct humility that I see characterizing our community. Having a perfectly accurate belief system is seen as untenable at this stage of life, or any stage for that matter.

While throughout the book, Frost and Hirsch try to make it clear that Christian doctrine should not be up for renegotiation; they then describe how the Scriptures have been read through Greek philosophical categories that are foreign to the authors of Scripture. “The problem is that nowhere in Scripture do you find anything that even gets close to an ontological discussion on the notion of God, let alone a discussion of the interpenetration of the three persons of the Godhead.” (119). They admit that, “Jesus has generally been read through dogmatic ontological frames (as in the creeds)…obscuring the primary historical portrait of Jesus as found in the Gospels” (112). Since traditional Christology (two-natures theory) and Trinitarian theology (three persons sharing the one nature of God) is conceived and articulated in ontological terms, how can Christian doctrine not be up for renegotiation? I find Frost and Hirsch at this point inconsistent and think that they should be willing to follow through with their observations, instead of just stating that Christian doctrine is non-negotiable.

The HungerTruth community is composed of some individuals, including myself, who have taken these insights seriously which inevitably do lead to a rejection of some of the philosophical, more specifically, ontological ideas spelled in the creeds. It is safe to say that most of our community would see the creeds as expressions of faith rather than tests of faith. These expressions are acknowledged to be imperfect and even at times, incorrect.

I really was thankful that Frost and Hirsch brought up the idea of befriending in order to convert, versus, befriending people for the sake of befriending (99). This is a real sore spot for the church. Good deeds are often done primarily for reward in heaven, or fear of punishment. Although it is better to do good things, than not do them, doing good because it is good would seem to be a better and more noble approach.

This book has so many ideas that have the ability to unsettle and move around comfortable thoughts that it is worth reading. They provide an incarnational approach to mission, a holistic messianic spirituality and an Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Pastoral, Teaching, leadership model that unlocks many possibilities for an effective team of ministers.

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