Universal and particular – Christianity in Europe

Just been reading this interesting summary from Al Tizon’s Transformation after Lausanne:

‘Christianity is a universalism that affirms the particular. Modernity is a universalism that denies the particular. Postmodernity is a set of particularisms that never attain universality.’

Why is that helpful for thinking about mission in Europe? It points to the enduring value of forms of Christian faith that affirm a variety of local/regional contributions to a deeper and broader understanding of what might be termed ‘European Christianity’. Teaching a programme on mission to the European continent means that I am constantly asked what I mean by the term ‘Europe’. That’s a bit of a challenge to do with care and accuracy, but to describe what is meant by ‘European Christianity‘ is even trickier.

I don’t think that European Christianity is simply the sum of all the parts, it’s probably much more dynamic than that. It becomes a conversation between followers of Jesus from across the European continent, conducted in many voices, multiple languages, and reflecting the diversity of Europe’s churches.

I can imagine that you might feel  that European Christianity is a a meaningless term.  However, if you’ve ever met Christians in other continents you may have sensed that they practised and expressed their faith a bit differently to you. European Christians. African Christians. Asian Christians. Taken together, these can be summed up with ‘Slightly different – all the same.’

Overcoming the automatic impulse to dismiss other particular approaches to Christian faith as inferior to yours is an important step in learning from other European Christians and what is important for them.

Explore posts in the same categories: europe, mission, modernity, postmodernity

One Comment on “Universal and particular – Christianity in Europe”

  1. timjdavy Says:

    Very helpful post Darrell, thanks. James Brownson (‘Speaking the Truth in Love’, International Review of Mission, Vol 83, No. 330 (1994), pp.479-504) says the following which I think complements your points:

    “All of humanity is called to glorify God, not by suppressing diversity and particularity, but by sanctifying it. The universal bond of humanity appears not so much in its set of common responses to its creator and sustainer, but rather by humanity’s diverse responses to the singular vision of God disclosed in the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (p.485)

    Brownson then suggests that, “a missional hermeneutic begins with the assumption that the mode in which God is present among the faithful is irreducibly multi-cultural.” (p.485) So, he says, no single culture has a monopoly on understanding or describing God. We, the multiethnic Church must try to understand and worship God together, embracing our cultural diversity rather than constantly seeking our common denominators.

    This was from a blog entry a while ago: http://bibleandmission.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/the-multicultural-presence-of-god/
    There’s another one too on how this relates to reading the Bible in multicultural community: http://bibleandmission.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/david-bosch-on-the-international-hermeneutical-community/

    thanks,
    Tim


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