At the Pentecostal BFP movement’s 112th general council for the moment, I’m one of the lucky few with an internet connection, thanks to my hotspot flat rate. I hope to be sharing some reflections from an inspiring event with my readers, so, stay tuned. Just a few minutes ago, I had submitted a rather lengthy article to begin with, but my blogging software somehow killed it and I don’t have the time right now to type it again.Â
In a couple of minutes, I’m off to today’s business session, dealing, among other topics, with "hot" topic of the movement’s relationship to the ACK, Germany’s largest ecumenical council — which (and that’s the problem) contains among other members the Roman Catholic church. So, it’s going to be an interesting afternoon and I hope to be back with some updates.
Yesterday evening, I led a prayer meeting linked to the "30 days of prayer for Islam" campaign sponsored by the Evangelical Alliance in Germany. The growth of Islam in Europe is a hot topic in Germany right now, especially after the recent arrest of three would-be terrorists, two of which turned out to be German converts to the Muslim faith.
How do we react to the fact that another truth system is gaining ground? Looking at it in a purely postmodern/relativistic way, it shouldn’t matter too much. Someone has another idea of truth — so what? As long as I am allowed to keep my own version, I shouldn’t be concerned too much. But of course, I am not buying into that …
First of all, I think there might be some real danger in a large-scale Islamization of Europe, at least in the long run: If one day, Islamic political interest became dominant in our country, I fear that the choice of your own truth and your own religion would be done away with rather fast. Fortunately, this frightening perspective does not seem to be realistic any time in the near future. Still, Islam is growing in Germany.
The second, and much more important reason why I think we cannot sit back and do nothing is because we do have a metanarrative to defend. I’ve argued before that I don’t think we can live without one, and that we have the best metanarrative there is — and a non-violent one, at that. The question then is, how do we face the growth of a new belief system in a non-violent way?
I tried to illustrate the proper approach at church yesterday evening by imagining what we would do if the local Islamist union (yes, we do have that in Freudenstadt) set out to build a large mosque in our city. I proposed two possible responses:
- We could gather all believers from our city and go for a large protest march, leading from the building city right to the mayor’s office. We could carry signs saying "We don’t need no mosque here!" and "Let them build their mosques in Turkey!" (and while we’re at it, the logical next step would be something like "All Muslims are terrorists, anyway" and "Send all foreigners home". The result? Well, the non-believers all around would be confirmed in their view that all religious folks are completely insane, anyway. And we would have resorted to the very violence that caused the total rejection of metanarratives in postmodern thinking. Not good, then.
- We could let them build their mosque. Why not, actually? They have the right to do it under our constitution (with it’s guaranteed freedom of religion, which is a great treasure we don’t want to lose), anyway. At the same time, we will go back to our church and pray for the Holy Spirit to act through us in a new, mighty way. We would then devote all of our energies to proclaiming and living our own (better, even best) metanarrative in a positive way — and see to it, that God’s work is so clearly expressed in our private and church lives, that nobody even cares to go to the new mosque, because they’re all coming to us to see what God is doing. How about that for a non-violent defense of a metanarrative?Of course, having said that, it becomes apparent that the ideal approach would be to implement solution (2) even right now, without waiting for a specific "threat" to arise. Why not push the metanarrative just today — but in a positive, non-violent way. We’ve got the best message there is, so why hide it?
Tonight, we’ve been invited to a late (about one year late) housewarming party for one of our neighbour’s, the regional superintendent for the Lutheran church. To fully understand the situation, you need to know that, in Germany, the Lutheran church is the largest Protestant denomination, to which about half of the German population belong at least nominally. Here in Freudenstadt, we have a great working relationship with our Lutheran friends, since both of us belong to the local Evangelical Alliance.
Being there tonight, and getting to know another great couple of devoted ministers, made me appreciate again the wonderful place that God has put us in for the moment. Let me show you our street by help of Google’s satellite imagery …
The numbers on the map point to the following places:
- Stadtkirche („City chapel“): the major Lutheran church in Freudenstadt
- Pfarrhaus West (western
parsonage): Rev. and Mrs. Thomas and Ulla StrohÃ¤cker. Thomas is one of
the pastors of the Stadtkirche. His wife Ulla is the president and
driving force behind the local chapter of the Evangelical Alliance.
(office and home of the regional superintendent): Rev. and Mrs. Harald
and Annette Stumpf. In his position, Harald oversees a district of more
than fifty Lutheran churches.
- Kirchenpflege und Diakonie (administrative offices of the Lutheran church): Deacon Siegfried Mayer.
- Buchhandlung Rudert: a large, Protestant bookstore
- Schulstr. 43: our own humble abode.
you see, God has placed us in the midst of colleagues and friends, who
share the burden and the joys of ministry in our city. Could you
imagine a better place to live?
Mainstream Evangelicalism is basically a modernistic movement — there’s no doubt about it. In many places, Evangelicals have become synonymous with Evangelical Fundamentalism. Along with liberalism, its eternal foe, fundamentalism is deeply entrenched in the modern way of reasoning coming directly out of the European Enlightenment. But where does Evangelicalism go when its underlying modernistic epistemology is disappearing? Most interestingly, large parts of the wider Evangelical movement seem to cling to modernism with all their might — steering themselves ever wider into a neo-fundamentalist trap of irrelevance to the new, postmodern culture.
While I firmly believe that Pentecostalism is and always has been part of the Evangelical movement, this is a good moment to note a decisive distinction: Pentecostalism never really was modern. Label it however you want, I for one prefer the term "para-modern" that Ken Archer argued for in his 2001 book A Pentecostal Hermeneutics for the Twenty First Century. Now, this would seem like good news and an open road ahead for Pentecostalism, where it not for many Pentecostals‘ strive to become "more Evangelical", which often brings us dangerously close to the neo-fundamentalist Evangelical. Do we really want to go there? Or might the "way out" for Evangelicalism’s current cul-de-sac be in the very Pentecostal part of its fold? Certainly, the early twenty-first century does seem like a bad time to finally jump on the modernist bandwaggon and adopt what we’ve been spared so far.