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Find a new, better way between theory and practice. Paradigm shifts are the work of a century. We're in the middle of it. Unfortunately? Exciting!

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The important theory-practice circle and where it leads (us).

Of the “new perspective” on “missional practice”: Exploring the areas of tension
Fri, March 25th 2011 | Andrew Perriman

With the following article from 2011 (!), A. Perriman names exactly the neuralgic points that are up for debate between ideological presuppositions and consistent practical conclusions for "church" or "mission" between the "Christian" and (as we call it ) “trans-Christian” paradigm. I comment on his contribution today, 12 years later, from our German discussion on our way to trans-Christianity.

Mission and Evangelicalism

Recently there have been a number of people who, in different ways but together, agreed with the thesis that the future of the evangelical movement would ideally lie in the convergence of the so-called new perspectives and emergent-missional forms of church (e.g. also Fresh X).
This gave me the question of whether such convergence has any chance of coming to fruition, given the strong centrifugal forces that are pushing the great ship of modern Protestantism in very different directions.
With the following diagram I try to work out what needs to occur in the process in addition to the two main tensions or key questions in order to achieve a viable, more biblical and for postmodernism still credible alternative to the old one Christianity model to establish.
The diagram below won't provide a solution, but it may provide a bit more clarity.

The change in theological perspectives.
There are two directions of movement or dynamics in the diagram that correspond to the two key questions. The first movement direction or dynamic is from left to right, from an old (Christian) theologically revised ("re-formed") perspective, which most people at the moment are more comfortable with modern Protestantism or neo-reformed evangelicals world of thought is associated. On the other hand, it tends towards a newly contextualized theological perspective (new perspective on Paul), which has its roots in EP Sanders' rediscovery of the so-called 2nd Temple Judaism had and most of it through the work of NT Wright got known.
The old perspective.
From the “old perspective,” the New Testament is viewed retrospectively through the narrow lens of a theological one abstraction read - this is a belief system that has abstracted itself from the texts under the particular cultural and intellectual circumstances of Western Christianity and has thereby taken over de facto control over all further readings of the text. The traditional practice of the church, in turn, is deeply rooted in this theological perspective, but the new one ultimately also has this foundation missional-incarnational Reading, thinking of the church, produced - unfortunately! — unfortunately because the missional-incarnational model was developed, before the first question was solved cleanly. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little.


The new perspective.
The intention of the “new perspective” is to read as far as possible from within the text's logic, looking ahead and following what is being observed narratively necessary Doing justice to narratives and thought arcs that are constructed through the historical context.
What is extremely interesting is that this process leads to a new loyalty to the biblical, Christian origins. I suspect that the motivation behind this reading is at least partly (more or less for some) to recognize the strong controlling influence of the Christianityparadigm to overcome.

Theological teaching education: The second development or dynamic is a top-down movement from university theology mediated through an educational process (formation) to the concrete practice of the church. Although this logic looks theoretically correct, in reality the movement often goes in the opposite direction: (Spirit-led) practice then shapes theology. So I should say more precisely that with “theology“ denotes the level of all theological questions that claims to be directly related to the Bible reading to be involved and in addition above all with that of New Testament.

Emergent and missional practice: Praxis now comes in two different colors in this diagram. A significant development in recent years has certainly been the rather radical reassessment of the relationship between church and mission. Traditionally, church was seen as the safe place to gather, away from the world, for a very limited number.more spiritualEffects to create.
mission was then either as Invitation understood – through personal evangelism – with the aim of Part of the church community or as the sending of missionaries to establish similar institutions in distant places.
In response, missiological theologians - Frost and Hirsch immediately come to mind - have argued for one centrifugal incarnational Access to mission is promoted, according to which the church by definition represents a community sent into the world to represent the presence of Christ.
These movements have sometimes seemed so centrifugal or incarnational that David Fitch expressed concern about the "de-ecclesiologizing" that "Self-destruction of church doctrine“has feared in the relationship between church and society. But that's another story.

Emergent theology:
Above I left out an important theological option raised by people like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell are represented and which fly under the flag of the emergent movement (2011!) is running.

  • In some cases it is a throwback to classic liberalism,
  • in others in Hybrid forms between the old and the new perspective;
  • often it is simply a well-intentioned, more eclectic, but in its justification a not so convincing attempt to restore the full social and political orientation of the biblical testimonies.

In my opinion it is None of this is a sufficiently good theological starting point (always keeping in mind that theology is often where we end rather than begin), but at best it offers* lots of good questions* because helpful Answer.
In any case, Jim Hoag quoted a comment somewhere concerning the perceived excommunication of the emergent movement by David Fitch's coalition that "the Neo-Anabaptist" or "Radical Orthodoxy" guys just don't want to understand "that our hesitation to give firm answers and “locating ourselves in a specific theological tradition is in itself a conscious theological reaction.”
I don’t want to add to this perceived exclusion.My main concern as a New Testament exegete is to ground Protestant doctrine and practice in a reliable reading of the New Testament. In my opinion, over time, the “new perspective” offers the best methodological framework to achieve this goal. But I don't care about this particular prioritization of New Testament interpretations in one way or another positivist way the postmodern, intuitive Perceptions to exclude the emergent movement.
My suggestion is therefore to use the diagram above to show how emergent theology can be more usefully inserted between new theological perspectives and emergent-missional practice in order to creatively advance the doctrinal foundations in congregations.

Question 1 (Question 1):

A first question or a first indication of tension and ambiguity has to do with the development from the old perspective to the new perspective. Should the Protestant Church - I deliberately use the broad term here - move towards the new perspective as a whole? Should she abandon the old perspective altogether? Should we ensure some kind of compromise, a mix of old/new perspectives?
My personal opinion is that we have not yet really understood the comprehensive consequences of the paradigm shift that are being discussed here. Therefore, a much larger gap could open up between these two perspectives — to the point thatthat an “evangelical theology for the coming age” may be something entirely different from anything we have been used to. My point here is simply that we have barely begun to understand all the hidden implications of this theological shift.

2nd question (Question 2):

The second question or the second tension or uncertainty follows directly from the consequences of the first. Because we cannot yet be sure what this new theological foundation looks like, or even more precisely, where exactly it needs to be constructed — how far, for example, do we need to move away from the old theological foundations in order to find solid ground?
That is why we are naturally hesitant to implement the task of a new route description or systematic theological teaching.
This is what establishes it current practice the church, unfortunately, on a very shaky and experimental basis. Given this and the other various constraints that churches and mission organizations face in producing measurable and "orthodox" results for their members, it is not surprising that we sometimes see a strong movement back to the old perspective and the more traditional forms of ministry Experience the practice indicated by the blue arrow in the middle.

Perriman's contribution to our path to trans-Christianity

With its graphic above and the order to

  • Clarification of the basic theological assumptions (ideology) and
  • Clarification of the missional-practical implementation (practice),
    I think Perriman is referring to that classic theory-practice circular process which has always been necessary and is still necessary now in order to further develop the church and its “mission” in a way that is plausible for postmodern situations and mindsets.
    These two directions of view - once on the theory and then back to the Practice and back again - also inspired us (in our various fields of work), to face the adventurous challenge and to discovery of Trans-Christianity to break up.

Perriman is rightly hesitant to “prescribe” his historical-narrative approach to others.

Because knowledge cannot be achieved dictate, but only through convincing arguments (free)willing assume. In my opinion, Perriman has had this plausibility in his blogging practice since 2011 until today 2023 (an acronym for: “Post-open source theology network”) advanced a long way. Here is his learning experience:
Back around 2008, his decision to abandon a co-creative open source theology with many thinkers from the emergent movement was certainly a painful realization. It was based on the need to consistently pursue a theological paradigm shift that not everyone could agree to by consensus until it was born.

...that an “evangelical theology for the coming age” may be something entirely different from anything we have been used to.

A. Perriman

This is where the challenge for consensual processes emerges, where reinvention or paradigm shifts are involved. Once you have thoroughly changed your reading, you can no longer keep up with it tipping point back and vice versa, the step to one Paradigm shift According to Thomas S. Kuhn, it is often an event of the century that slowly builds up through more and more “outsider observations” that can no longer be classified into the previously self-evidently valid theory. Then it comes to one sudden Tipping point and a new, better theory that better integrates the different individual observations can be created for the first time describe. This is then fought for a while by supporters of the old theory until the majorities and convictions have shifted to the more plausible new theory and the old theory is discarded.

In the development of the “new perspectives on Paul” there were already clear tensions and contradictions in research on the usual German exegesis of Paul at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. century with Albert Schweizer at that time compared to William Wrede and together with others from the religioushistorical school Bousset reported critically. Schweizers et al. Researcher perspectives were the forerunners of a fundamentally new perspective, which then developed with the English-language discussion from the 1950s onwards under the term “new perspective on Paul(NPP) and then in the 1990s continued to focus on the so-called “third quest on Jesus” research, for example "Jesus Seminar" (the first rounds of questions on the Life of Jesus research started in the middle of the 19th century, then from the 1960s in the 20th century and from the 1990s onwards the 3rd round of research in English-speaking countries with NPP researchers).

Building on the specific NPP track that Perriman has consistently followed and carried out on a small scale over the years historical-narrative reading of the holy scriptures, the difference and thus the distance from the Christian set of reasons is becoming increasingly clear to us today.
This means that the tension between the two theological readings indicated above is now much clearer than it was perhaps noticeable in 2011. Himself practical bold Fresh X experiments, which dare to innovate within the church in a very context-sensitive manner, are still based (at least with one foot) in theologicalChristian Justification patterns that I use in this article on Fresh X theology was first suggested by M. Maynagh.

The necessary courage for a paradigm shift in community

A first overview of the Perriman approach, his hermeneutic justification, examples of his interpretations and possible theological consequences for communal or personal spiritualities I have curated here from 15 years of research and collected them translated into German. Perhaps this will be convincing or raise further important questions and encourage a theological paradigm shift.

A. Perriman's remark is correct and important that theological innovations also come from spirit-guided intuitions are fed (from below), often perhaps even more inspired by social scientific findings than by theological theories. There remains one good practice always dependent on one good theory, or a good theory, can guide a practice more consistently in good directions and give conscious courage to allow innovations to develop more consistently.

This circle between practice and theory will never end and influence each other.
At the same time, in an age of socially supported Fake news one thorough and well-founded Interpretation practice is all the more important in the construction of narratives that want to lead a community into a better future. We understand more clearly than ever before how influential such narratives are and how important science (as a rule-governed struggle for truth) must be in this narrative formation. Especially when social networks, through their deliberately constructed algorithms (away from the “social graph”), lead to the formation of emotional “waves of outrage” (click-bate graph), a factually and technically well-founded theory is worth its weight in gold in order to create viable truths from perceived truths to distinguish.
Examples of populist polarization The debates include questions of identity (gender), climate (FFF, “GRÜNE”), Covid19, economic policy (FDP), refugees (AFD), artificial intelligence, etc. They show how important well-founded science (e.g. climate science) is to objectify can, even if mechanisms such as “denial” still act as human defensive reactions, precisely because a revolutionary paradigm shift is required. The associated uncertainty and fears are only too understandable.

Exactly such effects (paradigm changes - fears - denial or other psychological defense mechanisms) are completely normal and to be expected even with such a fundamental theological-existential step towards new readings and thus to new shores (trans-Christianity, for example). With the Omega course We invite you to face these personal reactions (fears, insecurities and longings) in a protected environment. We experienced it ourselves and were comforted by thought leaders from various scientific fields who accompanied us in mastering the strenuous restructuring work in our heads and hearts and later also with our hands (head, heart, hand-compass of pedagogy). Such a path can only be overcome together because it requires a supportive community and a variety of clarifying perspectives.

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