We have been looking at the meaning of “post” in “post”-evangelical, “post”-liberal, “post”-fundamentalism, and the like. Today I want to explore with you the significance of looking at this term “post” in the context of the telos, or goal, of the emerging conversation.
In some ways, one would hope that every Christian would have the same ultimate, final goal in mind, but one of the foci of the emerging conversation has been “teleological” thinking. One of its complaints, sometimes not as well-founded in practice as it is in its rhetorical advantage, is to compare its telos with the telos of Evangelicalism. And sometimes that rhetoric is that simple: “us” vs. “them.” The telos of the “them” is “going to heaven” or “eternal life” while the telos of the “us” is “the kingdom of God” or, in the words of CS Lewis (Mere Christianity, “Good Infection” chp) or Stan Grenz, “the perichoretic dance of God.” I admit that this language is not as analytically sound as it could be (is this not a simplification?) but it does have a basis in certain evangelicalistic tracts and in some simple language that can often be heard. And, to be sure, what is wrong with going to heaven when we die?
So, let’s learn not to criticize by setting up simplistic categories. But, let us also admit that there is some truth in this. I welcome the language about the telos in the emerging conversation as much as I know that others have been saying the same thing all along. This is not a new discovery, but a discovery in newness of an old category. The perichoresis is an ancient Eastern Orthodox thinking that emerges from John 10:38, and it is an idea so sustaining to my own faith that sometimes (or much more often) I simply can’t take it in without being overwhelmed with the splendor of our God.
And let us admit that the telos of the emerging folk, in its focus on “kingdom” or the “perichoresis” is an ultimate reality that can govern Christian living now in a way that a simplistic focus on gaining “eternal life” cannot.
And let us move “post” such simple terms and rhetorical advantages and get to the heart of the telos of the emerging conversation. Let us discuss what these things mean for all of us and what they can mean for our life.
It is this: if God’s perichoretic love, fashioned by Jesus into the term “kingdom” in the sense of a society in which the will of God is done (I’ve argued for this in both Jesus Creed and A New Vision for Israel — sorry no italics or links on this browser), then the telos is foundation-shaping and life-shaping.
If God’s ultimate goal for his created order is to bring them into the perichoretic dance of the trinitarian God where love between persons determines the meaning of life (Jonathan Edwards’ sermons on love use this category constantly), and if God values his creation as his Word tells us (can anyone avoid the glories of Romans 8 on this?), then the telos of the emerging conversation shapes how “church is done now.” The telos means that life here and now is not a “means” but a proleptic participation in the perichoretic dance of God, a living now as a performance of that telos. Doing church means a community absorbed with kingdom vision.
It means that life now is sacred; life now is what we are to focus on; life now in all its bumps and bruises and ups and downs is a participation in what God is doing now and for all Eternity: drawing his created order into his love.