The Theory behind our Journey

Introduction

Our actions are rooted in a set of assumptions about what is good, what is right, what is beautiful, and what is valuable that we have pieced together through the principles of our faith, and experiences of our lives. In a way, they are only provisional. Like the world we live in, these assumptions are fluid, and prone to change. But since they are what we have, we act on them, recognizing that this action will catalyze their continuing evolution.

We want to take these theories out of the abstract and test them in the field. Through our process of journeying, conversing, reflecting, and articulating, we hope to be able to distill elements of good, true, beautiful, and practical faith in Jesus for our age, and then demonstrate this faith vividly through our writing and the rest of our lives.

Theoretical Underpinnings

This is a short inventory of the assumptions that have led us to this project; the attitudes that, on this side of our adventure, we imagine our journey to embody.

A Fresh Look at the Church

The ecumenism of the past 150 years has been built primarily on theological conversation and social cooperation of Christian bodies at high administrative and clerical levels. The ecumenism that we want to demonstrate is based on reverent participation, listening, and sharing, and is intended to be practiced by laity rather than ecclesiastical elites.

Our own practice of this sort of ecumenism has led us to an ecclesiology derived from experience that will be a theme in our writing. We want to encourage a sense of holy awe at the depth, breath, color, complexity, and diversity of the Christian movement.

A Contemporary Pilgrimage

We want to demonstrate the incredible relevance of Spirit-led pilgrimage to contemporary Christian spirituality. Travel is an important part of life in a highly mobile, globalized society. But along side this rise in mobility, there has been a sharp decline of the importance of pilgrimage, particularly amongst Protestants.

Today, travel is most often conducted for travel's sake. Business experiences are purpose oriented. Tourist experiences are fun, novel, and relaxing. We do not have good models for relating these experiences to our lives, finding meaning in them, and tying them into a larger existential framework.

As Christians, we have the unique opportunity to recognize and celebrate the work and presence of God across the globe and in all corners of the human landscape. But we need to develop a value for identifying and distilling such experiences and bringing these lessons back home with us.

A Re-interpretation of Christian Missionary Activity

We want to help re-interpret the historical activities of the Christian missionary movement. In the popular imagination, missionaries are often stigmatized as an arm of imperialism; as imposing a foreign belief on ignorant native people. They are portrayed as forceful, manipulative, intolerant, and even violent people who will stop at nothing to gain a convert.

We want to tell a different story. We want to reclaim these people as heroes and saints that anyone can learn from.

Theirs is the story of men and women who, taken by the beauty of the Gospel and the resounding cry of God to "GO!" take a tremendous step of faith and follow. Like us, they are imperfect; they have their socially conditioned prejudices that they struggle (and sometimes fail) to overcome. They don't always act perfectly, or even maturely. Yet when we appreciate the humanity of their struggle, we can admire their courage, celebrate their successes, and learn from their failures and weaknesses.

A Lesson in Growing in Faith through Cross-Cultural Conversation

Entering wholesale into a foreign culture is an adventure of the highest order, but it is also an extremely difficult and traumatic endeavor. In our world of high speed travel and communication, it has become more safe, more common, and even more necessary. Still, it can be incredibly frightening and threatening to look out upon the diversity of the world. It is much easier to burrow deep into a community of like-minded people and deal with the rest of the world through rigid stereotypes.

We want to establish cross-cultural conversation as a Gospel imperative. Jesus crossed the greatest possible cultural divide in coming to earth. Through the Great Commission, he mandated that cultural boundaries be crossed by his followers. Christian history is filled with examples of saints, missionaries, and refugees who found faith and circumstances compelling them to unfamiliar places. Revelation affirms God’s eschatological vision of the earth as incorporating people of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

As Christians, we are called to take these words seriously, even when this prospect makes us uncomfortable.

A Re-articulation of Christian Contemplative Practice

In the West, Christianity has become a very heady experience. We identify ourselves more through what we believe than through the spiritual disciplines flowing out of these beliefs that help us to draw near to God. This orientation has its advantages and disadvantages. However, in our current culture, restating a way of doing Christianity rather than simply believing Christianity is an important part of passing on a rich, life sustaining faith.

There are three great streams influencing contemporary Christian contemplative practice in the West: Eastern methods of meditation, Pentecostalism, and new insights from the broader history of Christian community. In India, we will have the opportunity to interact with all three of these streams in a patient and conciliatory way, and learn ways to integrate new ideas from these traditions into our spiritual practice.

Textual References

Bibliography
1. Jones, Eli Stanley. The Christ of the Indian Road.
2. Sharpe, Eric. The Riddle of Sundar Singh.
3. Firth, CB. An Introduction to Indian Church History.
4. Sugirtharajah, RS. Postcolonial Reconfigurations.
5. Housden, Roger. Travels through Sacred India.
6. Halevi, Yossi. At the Gates to the Garden of Eden.
7. Frykenburg, Robert (ed.) Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication Since 1500.
8. Singh, Sundar. Collected Works.
9. Housden, Roger. Travels through Sacred India.
9. Old, Kenneth. So Great a Cloud.

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