Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christian conduct in church and society

Rowan Williams recently wrote on Apostle Paul's vision of the Christian church:
"For him, the Christian Church was not a human institution – but equally, not even a divine institution in the ordinary sense. It was an imagined social space: a place where human desires found their proper focus and human relations were harmonised accordingly. The Church was where you discovered what you most acutely needed and how you could become most fully what you were created to be – an agent in community, drained of self-will and self-absorption by the pressure of God’s love, so that you could relate to others without fear, rivalry and lust for power."
I wonder if it is legitimate to extend this ecclesiological vision into an ideal pluralistic society that politics attempt to create and sustain? Could this be a Christian political witness? 

Some such as Stanley Hauerwas and John Milbank have suggested that the church should be the role model for the society to emulate, however such view assumes an obvious social wall separating the Christians' social reality from non-Christians', as if both groups do not live in the same society or their interaction can be clearly defined and ought to be minimized.

I'm thinking, what if it's the other way around? If churches' beliefs and practices are more often than not being influenced and affected by the society they are situated in, then the political arrangement of the society has both direct and indirect access to the formation of ecclesiastical life. 

If so, then Christian political witness should not prioritize the question 'how should Christians conduct themselves in churches' over 'how should Christians conduct themselves in a pluralistic society'. Christians must learn how to conduct themselves consistently in both the church and the society.

In other words, the "social space" that Christians imagined must be big enough to contain the society as a whole without prematurely distinguishing between the wheat (church) from the weed (non-Christian social reality).

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