I have started to read the book The Crucified God by Jurgen Multmann. And I thought I would share some thoughts on the book here.
Chapter 1: "The identity and relevance of faith"
Multmann begins off by stating that theology and the church has a crisis of relevance and identity. If the church strives to become more relevant they are faced with the crisis of identity. For example if we work with and for the poor how is our work "Christian" as compared to some other non-Christian group? On the other hand if a church works at stating their identity they run into a crisis of relevance. If a church identifies itself based on dogmas, rights and morals they are really stating how they are different from the world, and therefore how are they relevant?
These two crises are seen working in the debate about social gospel or evangelism.
“In many Christian churches, similar polarizations have come into being between those who see the essence of the church in evangelization and the salvation of souls, and those who see it in social action for the salvation and liberation of real life.” (page 22)
Multmann says that we need to be involved in both:
“Personal, inner change without a change in circumstance and structures is an idealist illusion, as though man were only a soul and not a body as well. But change in external circumstances without inner renewal is materialist illusion, as though man were only a product of his social circumstances and nothing else.” (page 23)
At the end of the chapter Multmann suggests the way out of these crises is to recognize how we are different and still creatively love those who are different.
“But for the crucified Christ, the principle of fellowship is fellowship with those who are different, and solidarity with those who have become alien and have been made different. Its power is not friendship, the love for what is similar and beautiful (philia), but creative love for what is different, alien and ugly (agape). (page 28)