I had Ethics class today at Uni. A quick spin through feminist and postmodern ethics. It was hard work but fascinating. One of the many thoughts that struck me was that these ethical theories explain clearly the differences in Traditional Church and Emerging Church. I’ll try to explain. For me the main differences in the two forms of church would seem to be something like this:
Meta narrative, justice, generalisation, rules, preaching, structure, right and wrong, telling, creeds, liturgy
personalisation, discovery, engagement, how does that work for me?, collective decisions, creative.
I wondered if it was about taste, preference, what you are used to. People say that old people like church as it is because they are comfortable with it. I don’t disagree, but why do they engage more easily with traditional church and why are there exceptions?
I think it’s all about ethics. Traditional church was born out of the Enlightenment. It is big on Reason and Knowledge. On experts and rules that apply to everyone (10 commandments and stuff). It is all based on the ethics of Kant. His ethics of Justice that apparently us men like. Rules, fair play and justice.
The thing is our postmodern society with its feminist critique would suggest that we have moved away from Kant’s rigid ethical framework to a world which is much more willing to say that knowledge is contextual, rules are not universal but depend on the place and circumstances of their application. There are no experts, at least none that know more than me about my life. Perhaps an Ethic of Care is where we find ourselves with more consideration given to how our decissions and actions affect people around us and around the world.
So, back to where I started this ramble, the church. Is the church for telling us how it is? Enforcing the rules? Telling us what to believe and how to believe it? Or is it about giving us the tools to make good decisions? To share our stories, our experiences of God in our lives and to make a difference to the lives of others? I know which I’m more comfortable with, but I think I maybe understand a little better why other people might want the other kind of church, and that’s ok.
For another illustration of what I’m talking about click HERE to read Jonny Baker’s comparison of traditional church concerns and his emergent community.