Multiplex: Dogma and Diversity Introduction - Terry Smith & Robert Calvert (Part 1) - Cape Town 2010

Uploaded by lausannemovement on 04.10.2011

>>Today you’re going to hear four Christian leaders interact on the theme of Christian
witness within a secular and pluralistic world. Two come from Western Europe, the greenhouse
of values, ideas and philosophies which have shaped secularity. They are Robert Calvert,
pastor of Scotts International Church in Rotterdam, Netherlands and a regent of the Bakke Graduate
University. And by the way, Robert is the colleague who posted on the Lausanne website
a very extensive paper with which many of you dialogued and for which we are grateful.

Stefan Gustavsson will be our second presenter. Stefan is the general secretary of the Swedish
Evangelical Alliance and the director of Credo Academy, an institute for the promotion of
Christian Apologetics.

Our other two invitees this afternoon are Paul Augustine. Paul is
the pastor of Union Chapel in Visakhapatnam, India. He’s also a professor in communications
and in pastoral care.

And finally, Nabil Costa, the executive director of the Lebanese
Society for Educational and Social Development, as well as a vice president of the Baptist
World Alliance.

You’re going to hear different understandings of the process of
secularization and the result which we call secularity. Some people view it positively.
Authors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Harvey Cox talked about it as Adult Christianity.
Others, of course, view it negatively, the loss of religious meaning.

In the Anglophone
world, the term secularization usually refers to the process of rationalist thought, the
fruit of the enlightenment and modernity. In the Francophone world, we use the term
(speaking in another language). We also have the English word laity, which you can hear
in that word. But (term in French) connotes how the many concentric spheres of our life,
of human life, find their autonomy. As well, they place human kind at the very center of
the world.. -- thank you -- human life at the center of the world, freed up from the
ideologies and the rules which religion had previously offered.

You know, our point
of view, where we stand, will condition our attitude towards the topic of secularity.
An American pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan will undoubtedly have a different and likely
more antagonistic view of secularity than, say, a Turkish evangelist in the city of Izmir.
For the one, secularity is a real threat; for the other, it’s an open door. We have
different positions and different attitudes towards secularity largely because of our
different contexts and cultures.

We have intentionally designed this multiplex in order
to express the fact there isn’t just one model of secularization and there isn’t
just one attitude with which we can embrace or resist it. We want to assist you, as Richard
pointed out, to comprehend, to contextualize, and certainly to commit yourselves to Christian
witness in a world of increasing secularity.
Let me repeat once again, a warm welcome to all of you who are attending our multiplex
this afternoon. We will be hearing from four different speakers. The first will be Robert
Calvert from Rotterdam, secondly we will be listening to Paul Augustine a pastor in Visakhapatnam,
India. Thirdly we will be listening to Stefan Gustavsson from Sweden and our fourth presenter
will be Nabil Costa from Beirut Lebanon.

After the four brothers have shared their observations
and testimonies, experiences and understandings of Christian witness in a pluralistic and
a secular world, we’re going to have a little panel discussion among ourselves and we invite
you to listen in and glean from our experiences. We begin with Robert.
>> Brothers and sisters, good afternoon. I also say to those who are listening in, watching
in from global centers from around the world, Christian greetings, but I don’t know what
time it is when you’re watching in.

I wonder, you know, why we’ve chosen 2 white
European presenters for this multiplex on secularity. And I came to the conclusion that
really Lausanne III needed someone to hold accountable for the effects of the Enlightenment.

I want to thank you sincerely for your many good responses and reflections on my original
essay which was posted, as Terry said, in April on the Lausanne website. For that reason,
I don’t propose to re-present the essay as it was then. You’ve stimulated me with
too many good reflections and thoughts and challenges, and this really response to a
further response.

In terms of context, I’ve spent my entire pastoral ministry in two cities
with a similar industrial past, Glasgow and Rotterdam. Already, we’ve reckoned that
I’m not Dutch. I say that in the Netherlands, until I open my mouth, nobody knows I’m
not a migrant.

I’m really a networker, a trainer, and a researcher of urban ministries
in Europe. And over the last 12 years, I’ve organized and attended many consultations
with Christian leaders in a variety of cities. So the context from which I speak is Europe,
a continent of 50 countries, most of which are sovereign democratic republics. There
are big differences for evangelical Christians in this patchwork quilt of different historical
stories. For example, in Barcelona, the Catalonian government is becoming more affirming of other
Christians who are not Roman Catholics. But in Athens, evangelical Christians are still
distrusted as neither being good orthodox or good Greeks. So I put it to you, can we
talk about a soul of Europe?

Take Greek mythology where Zeus, the chief of the gods
kidnapped Europa, the daughter of the king of Phoenicia. He did so by approaching her
in disguise in the shape of a bull. And when she sat upon the bull, it took her to the
island of Crete where Zeus revealed his true self to her. Now is this a story, a parable
of Europe? Has Europe’s soul been stolen in a similar way? Affected by pagan, Celtic,
Jewish and Muslim spirituality, is there any sense of the soul of Europe, of a Christian
soul, of the living God alive and well in our cultures?

The number of Christians
in Europe has declined as a percentage of world Christians. When I research these numbers,
we find that in 1900, 71% declined to 65% in 1910, the time of the mission conference.
To 1960, 50 years later to 46%. 30% in 1990, 26% in 2000. 25% this year, and it’s projected
to go down to 15% in 2050.

This afternoon we’re speaking about secularity. I describe
that as the framework in which we’ve chosen to locate our discussion about truth and dogma.
It shouldn’t be confused with words like secularism, which is an ideology, or secularisation,
which is a process. Secularisation is the process that describes the gradual withdrawal
of religion and its values in the public realm. It also includes the decline of church attendance.
Secularism is the committed philosophy. It’s an ideology that seeks to explain all of life
without reference to God or the divine.

So we come to the word ‘secularity.’ A framework
upon which we exercise belief or unbelief today. It’s just a way of understanding
the stage or the part of the planet that we’re living on. The context of understanding our
age where Christian faith is one option among many. Now Charles Taylor, the author of that
mammoth text – I wonder how many of you have read it - A Secular Age. It really is
a must-read, but put aside a few months to read it. It traces secularity from deism that
was so influential in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain and France as well as America.

Our age is underguarded by assumptions of secularity, where he says, the presumption
of unbelief has become dominant and belief in God isn’t quite the same as in 1500 or
2000. Let me put it differently to you. Religion is not banished, but it’s relativized. A
Christian was once discussing his beliefs with an editor of a Christian magazine. He
was trying to explain how we’re limited by our perspectives on life. He said, ‘I
have a point of view,’ he told the interviewer, ‘you have a point of view, but God, God
has a view.’ But when the article appeared in print, a diligent copy editor had changed
it to’ I have a point of view, you have a point of view, and God has a point of view.’
In other words, the revelation of God is relativized and just another perspective.

Another illustration
of this secularity comes in this month’s research newsletter Vista from the Nova Research
Center linked with Redcliffe College in England. In this survey of 44 European nations, you
can look for the mention of God, church, or religion in their constitutions, in their
national constitutions. There’s a chart contained in that newsletter. And what do
we find? We find that the name of God, interestingly, is mentioned in 13 of the national constitutions.
Church is mentioned in 24 of them, and religion is mentioned in 42. Not bad you think. But
then you look a little closer and you see that church is mentioned mostly with regard
to the separation of church and state. And where religion is mentioned, it’s with regard
to the freedom of religion.

We’re living our faith in a secular – in a mid-secularity.
We’re living our faith in a condition of doubt and uncertainty. I’d like to illustrate
this with a bronze monument, not the other one that you saw just now from Rotterdam,
but this one of Desiderius Erasmus, the famous son of Rotterdam, one of the great reformers.
His passion was to educate the church leaders and this statue to him shows him holding the
Bible aloft and studying it.

Today in Rotterdam, we’ve given his name to a big bridge, a
university, and to countless educational programs. But I want to tell you since this statute
was put up in the city, it has been moved to no less than nine different locations.
It seems that we’re not comfortable with him, as long as he’s holding a Bible in
his hands. We’ll use his name, but please don’t hold the Bible aloft. We don’t know
what to do with him. I wonder if this is not a picture of Europe today.

Our cities’
contexts for understanding secularity are very complex and very mixed. I want you to
quickly look at the foreign-born populations of London and Amsterdam here. And just get
a feeling of not only how mixed they are ethnically, but also how mixed they are religiously, knowing
the traditions and religious backgrounds of these countries. While I get you to see the
cake of Amsterdam, let me say in Rotterdam most babies are born to couples where at least
one was not born in the Netherlands.

In Leicester, in England, where UCCF has its
headquarters -- or had its headquarters when I was a student, 36% are ethnic minorities
and 24% of residents are of Indian origin. The highest in the UK. Go back to London and
you find that 50% of the UK’s Hindu and Jewish populations are there and 40% of the
UK’s Muslim population is in London.