To summarize the first session: In order to lead a worthy life, we must not just understand what our calling is, but what it means to follow that calling as servants of Christ in a hostile world. Much of the emphasis was on the latter, describing the nature of the postmodern world and how we can set ourselves apart from that. Though there wasn't much said about understanding your calling, I do still have a few things to say on it.
There's a lot of advice about finding or identifying your calling out there. Our pastor really favors a quote by Frederich Buechner, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." There's a variety of other things said in this regard, but the overall idea in finding your calling is both knowing yourself and "watching the signs," "keeping the antenna up," "listening for God," and so on. This is frustrating to me, though, because this is frequently described in very mystical terms.
I'm not going to ignore the possibility of the mystical in the faith, but I definitely don't think it's normative. Finding your place in the world, discerning your calling, is something that everyone will experience, but few will hear that "whisper in your heart," or whatever the current popular term is. Worse, many Christians discuss it as a definitive manner for discerning the will of God in many other circumstances, making it complicated for those who don't experience it. Am I a bad Christian? Am I "ignoring" God? Am I not paying attention? Why am I not having that experience?
As I've said before, this is something I've wrestled with for years. I don't really have any sort of answer, but I think it's something that doesn't get talked about nearly often enough.
The other major part of this session, the discussion of finding our place in a postmodern world, is interesting to me, as I've read a number of authors who suggest that we're not so much in a postmodern world as a post-postmodern world.
It's hard to argue with the idea. Postmodernism was said to have been the reining mindset in the post-WW2 era, and we are far removed from that society. People under 30 have most of their interactions with the world through electronics: Texting, email, Instant Messaging, Facebook, message boards. So much connection, but very impersonal. So much knowledge, but no depth. With the extent of disinformation on the internet, truth, and not even in a metaphysical sense, becomes a tribal matter.
Even with metaphysical truth we may be in the post-postmodern era. The postmodern reckoning made morals and truth out to be relative and personal; there was no "wrong" answer to these matters because it was ultimately a question of what works for each person. Those under 30 have been raised in a society that by-and-large ignores questions of truth, religion, and morality. It's not that they're atheists, antagonistic towards the idea of faith. Faith isn't even on their radar, it's an alien concept, an interruption to the status quo. Morality in the post-postmodern paradigm is a function of victimhood, and everyone is a victim. Right and wrong isn't a function of values, it's about offering benefits to the aggrieved and punishing privilege, real or perceived.
None of this changes the mission of the church. I just find it interesting.
I look forward to seeing what Frank has in store for the remainder of the study.