Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Paradox of Life Through Death

Life is full of paradox. Scripture understands this well and speaks of it constantly. Light out of darkness. Freedom out of bondage. Greatness out of servitude. Perhaps the most paradoxical of all this sort of thinking, however, is oddity of life springing forth from death. I find myself thinking about this idea a lot lately. With Spring upon us, we are all well aware of the blooms of life that are emerging from the death of winter. For months we have waited for the sun to shine and the flowers to bloom, but we must not forget that these only come through the pains of winter.

I wonder what this idea means for the church in the midst of our current post-modern, post-colonial, post-Christendom culture. As the church moves into this new and emerging way of engaging Scripture and the world, how does it balance the tension between old and new paradigms? As Max Planck has brilliantly pointed out, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

While I wish Planck weren't right. I fear he is. Paradigms don't shift. Old ones just die while new ones rise up and dance on their grave. The church has not done especially well in honoring those who have gone before us while still progressing toward what lies ahead. I wonder what it might look like for the new paradigm to care for the old one, bury it properly, and adequately mourn its loss? What would it look like to treat those ideas that have gone before with honor and dignity, learning from their wisdom and insight, while still moving forward faithfully? As a future pastor, how will I hold the tension between knowing that the church must look different than it did for my grandparents, while still treating that generation with the dignity and respect they are due?

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