This generation of Christians, for a vareity of reasons, including an awareness of the social and physical sciences, contends that the gospel addresses the “whole” of the human condition — heart, soul, mind, body, community, society, and environment.
One of the features of Doug Pagitt’s Reimagining Spiritual Formation is an attention to holism. Again, holism is not just an “individual” being completely restored by the gospel but the whole human condition. I found the intergenerational “thing” of the Sunday gatherings fascinating: children are with adults and the whole community comes together and avoids as much as possible the boxing off of one set of humans from the others. Apart from the noisiness of children crying (always worse on parents than those around them, except young single men who find crying babies more intolerable than most!), this feature of Solomon’s Porch is a good illustration of what is meant by holism.
But, holism of gospel work appeals to more than this: it concerns the entire human person embodying the entire gospel for the good of the entire community in the whole neighborhood for the good of the whole society and the whole world. Well, this gets pretty complete — but nothing less is the interest of our good God who wants to bring the entire nation before him to reflect God’s glory.
Let me emphasize one feature here: holism means that gospel work is in the context of the community, where each voice is heard and where humans relate to one another before God. Pagitt’s book has three things going on at once: journals in the margins, Pagitt’s own descriptions, and other voices within the chapter. There is not connecting thread at times. Why? This is not just pomo glitch. This is the reality of how communities are: humans are on different pages working the gospel out in their own worlds, but they come together (they gather together) in one narrative to tell the story of the gospel.
So, Solomon’s Porch is at the same time creative, and in part because it seeks to let the gospel have sway with everything in the human condition. In other words, for us “oldsters” the holism of the Emergent church is a belief in the Lordship of Christ in his Kingdom mission.
This means, as you might expect, that gospel work and world work cannot be segregated, and it means that “sacred” vs. “secular” becomes a has-been of a previous era that didn’t have the imagination and creativity to bring the whole world into focus in its gospel work. Work and church, family and spiritual giftedness, money and possessions are not separable items but arenas for the gospel to do its work in the community.
Solomon’s Porch is especially interested in the physical world as something that embodies the gospel, and its holistic ministries are especially expressed there — which does not deny the Spiritual, but may in Pagitt’s fine study get more than its fair share of emphasis. The physical world, as I said in an earlier blog, is all about embodiment.
Here is yet another feature of holism: the whole person is expected to gather with other Christians and to be held accountable to the gospel. So, truth-telling is important in the Emergent movement, and sometimes the utter frankness and honesty and almost compulsive truth-telilng may offend some of the older generation who preferred to keep private thoughts and sins in the private, but if the gospel is holistic, then the community must embrace the whole person. A word that gets used alot, naturally, is authentic: but authenticity is about the whole person joining in the story of God as it works itself out in particular locations. Which brings me back to something I’ve blogged before: the issue of coherence gets another jump-start from this holism. The coherence of the gospel is found in a community where holism is at work.
I like this emphasis on holism, for I think it focuses the gospel in its most biblical starting point: Genesis 1–2. Humans are made as Eikons of God, as male and female, in their utter union with God and communion with each other, for the good of the world (which they are to govern under God’s governance). The cracking of Eikon led humans to emphasize one thing or another, but always out of distortion: community vs. individualism, spirit vs. whole person, body vs. whole person, persons vs. the good creation … I could go on. But, an emphasis on holism is a welcome sign of listening with ears wide open to the story of the Bible. Redemption, gospel work, is about more than spirits and souls but about the whole person in community for the good of others and the world.
Next blog: Democratic and dialogical