Erosion of Our Identity as Peculiar People

The particulars of a robust ecclesiology seeking a radical reformation; a confrontation with what society says is “the way it is”; a truly “alternative” life, recognizing the unique structures and “culture” it takes to withstand the allure of what everybody is encouraging everybody to do and seek, is extremely hard, and it is what so many churches are unwilling to do. Church of the Saviour has wrestled with this for years, from their beginnings.
The title of this post comes from this portion from the final chapter in Smith’s book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, a chapter entitled “Applied Radical Orthodoxy”:

We need to be attentive and discerning about the way modernity has eroded our identity as the “peculiar people” who make up the body of Christ and seek to retrieve the strange ways and ancient practices of the communion of the saints in order to re-form who we are. … the outcome of the postmodemism sketched in earlier chapters should be a robust confessional theology and ecclesiology that unapologetically reclaims premodern practices in and for a postmodern culture. A more persistent postmodernism… will issue not in a thinned out, sanctified version of religious skepticism (a “religion without religion”) offered in the name of humility and compassion but rather should be the ground for the proclamation and adoption of “thick’ confessional identities. Much that we find in the name of postmodern spirituality, or even in the name of an “emerging” Christianity, is a timidity with respect to the particularities of the Christian confessional tradition. While this is almost certainly a corrective with respect to rabid forms of fundamentalism whether Protestant or Catholic, a retreat into a thinly “ecumenical” Christianity that reduces confession to bland concerns with justice or love still remains a latent version of a very modem project.

—James K.A. Smith Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? p. 116

When we were in D.C. in March this year, Gordon Cosby told me that the struggle usually comes down the issue of disciplines. The urge to resist too much of a departure from what we have known. There is strong resistance to too much “incursion” into the day-to-day and the “schedules” to which we adhere.
The “bland concerns” to which JKA refers are the types of “concerns” which remain on the level of “preference” or as “optional activities” or “our responsibility as cittizens”; these are not the source of our concerns with justice , but the realization of participants in a community which knows somethign else; who see an altenative telos; who have a very different eschatology. But these relationships with “our surroundings” are fruits of a community’s discernment as a “called apart” people. I certainly believe that such clashes with “the world” are a characteristic of a people so formed and so called and so sent. (It is also a key ecclesiological narration point in the Church of the Saviour churches that we are always seeking how to discern call, and to exist as a community who share a common calling to particpate in the discernment proces, and to “evoke” the gifts of others, and to constantly be “sounding a call” to some new work that God has revealed that needs to be done; thaqt is waiting to be done.

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