New Awakening: Rethinking

A sign that we are in a new Awakening is that more and more people are rethinking things. On multiple fronts, and in a variety of topics, status quos are no longer being allowed to remain sacred cows. Rethinking always accompanies awakening. Critical thinking punctures assumptions, creating holes where new light can get in. [1]

That’s why fallen-world people caricature rethinking (e g. “going down the slippery slope”) and reject those willing to engage in it. Rethinking threatens those who have turned ideas into idols. Rethinking is openness, and those who are closed do all they can to prevent it. Christians are not exempt, and sadly we are living in a time when some are preferring darkness to light (John 3:19) that turns into a toxic preservation of power and control.

Some years ago, a trustee of a large Christian school asked the president how far she could go in exploring ideas, and still be allowed to remain a trustee. The president said she was free to explore as much as she liked, but that she could only remain a trustee if she ended up where the school was. Disagreement was the unpardonable sin. And that is precisely why rethinking is denounced and stereotyped by those who have made their ideas the only acceptable definitions of truth and orthodoxy.

But history shows that every new Awakening includes rethinking. If it didn’t, nothing would ever change. Rethinking is a synonym for the word ‘repentance’—which means our willingness to look at life with an enlarged mind (metanoia), a mind that’s thinking beyond current reality—looking at life in a new way with the intention of changing and being an agent of change in the world.

Look at the re-formers today. [2] They are all people who have rethought things, and are prophetically inviting us to do so too. Like Jesus, they are voicing, “You have heard ….but I say to you…” in ways that call out evil, call for repentance, and call forth hope. Rethinking creates a “divine moment” which we call a tipping point. We are living in a time of rethinking (action that makes use of new data and sound doctrine) that signals we are in a new Awakening.

[1] ‘Critical thinking’ is a technical term. It does not mean negative thinking, but rather exploratory and penetrative thinking. Tom Chatfield’s book, ‘Critical Thinking’ not only describes it, it shows why it is so important, and guides readers in ways of practicing it.

[2] I am currently reading ‘The Reckless Way of Love’ excerpts from Dorothy Day’s writing, edited by Carolyn Kurtz (Plough Publishing, 2017). It is a reminder that rethinking always accompanies awakening. We see the same dynamic in people like Richard Rohr (“alternative orthodoxy”), Diana Butler-Bass (“Christianity after religion”), Brian McLaren (“a new kind of Christian”), Lisa Sharon Harper (“a very good gospel”), Steven Charleston (“ladder to the light”), David Gushee (“after evangelicalism”), Thomas Oord (“open and relational theology”) and Ilia Delio (“the emerging Christ”), to name a few.

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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