New Awakening: A New Combination

When we wake up, we awaken to a new day. Each day is a combination of continuation and creativity. Morning, noon, and night continue as they have for billions of years, but they do so in a creative 24-hour period which has never existed before. The new Awakening we are experiencing in our time is comprised of the same blend.

Our day goes wrong if we separate continuation and creativity. Life goes wrong when we separate the two. In matters of faith it is easy to separate continuation and creativity. The loss of either one diminishes our ability to recognize and participate in the new Awakening.

Conservatives often fail to see creativity. The conservative error turns faith into “dead orthodoxy” (John Wesley’s term)–that is, a view which demands that the past be repeated/replicated in the present. The past is idolized.

Progressives can lose sight of continuation. The progressive error turns faith into “confusing relativism”– that is, a view which commends current reality to the disparagement of the past. The present is idolized.

The new Awakening avoids these errors through combination–through the conjoining of continuation and creativity [1]. Our model for this is Jesus, who said that he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Continuation and creativity. The bridge that enabled the continuation of the law, but with creativity, was love. It is still the way “dead orthodoxy” becomes “living faith.” 

The combination of continuation and creativity follows the biblical pattern that Walter Bruggemann calls orientation, disorientation, reorientation. [2] Matthew Fox refers to it as rooting, uprooting, re-rooting. [3] Richard Rohr has recently written of it as “the Wisdom pattern”–order, disorder, reorder. [4] The combination of continuation and creativity is a challenging journey that does not take place when either aspect is denied.

Jesus summed it up in saying that wise people bring to life treasures old and new (Matthew 13:52). Paul preserved continuation and creativity in the term “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The combination of continuation and creativity in the new Awakening gives us the ability and courage to say what Jesus said six times in the Sermon on the Mount, “you have heard that it was said….but I say….”

New-awakening people personify the combination which enables us to live in the present with an appreciation of the past that does not demand a lock-step adherence to it, and with a creativity in the present that does not demean what people before us have believed. New Awakening people are formed by the Wisdom tradition, which holds the past and present in constructive tension. Jesus was a Wisdom teacher, and periods of awakening arise from his incarnation of and instruction about Wisdom. [5]

Awakening occurs when we become mystic-prophets. [6]  Mystics are deeply rooted in God. Prophets are courageously at work in re-rooting life so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. Mystic-prophets live in the in-between moment (the time of disorientation, uprooting, and disorder) leading people from darkness to light through a theology of hope. [7]

Jesus called this perspective having eyes that see and ears that hear (Mark 8:18). It is a metaphor that combines continuation (sight and sound) with creativity (God saying, “I am doing a new thing. Don’t you recognize it?”). The new Awakening is the work of God on the earth that preserves the foundations while building the new house–that is, living in ways that the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of God and Christ (Romans 11:15). This vision gives us the means to see the transformation, and the will to become among those bringing it to pass.

[1] Matthew Fox calls this the “via creativa” and describes it in detail in his book, ‘Original Blessing.’

[2] Walter Brueggemann, ‘The Spirituality of the Psalms.’ In addition to the psalms, he shows how this pattern occurs elsewhere in the Bible.

[3] Matthew Fox, ‘Prayer.’ Chapter three

[4] Richard Rohr, ‘The Wisdom Pattern.’

[5] Cynthia Bourgeault, ‘The Wisdom Jesus.’

[6] Matthew Fox, ‘Prayer.’ Chapters four and five.

[7] Jurgen Moltmann, ‘A Theology of Hope’

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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