Images for change...


In many sections of the church in the Western World there is much theological reflection taking place at the moment, affecting our Ecclesiology, Soteriology, Christology, and Missiology. For those of you who aren’t sure what these words mean, it is basically shorthand for people who are asking questions such as:

“What is the gospel? What should church look like in the 21st century? How can we incarnate the good news in our communities? How does the life of Jesus affect our understanding of church, the gospel, our mission?”

All of this is bringing uncertainty to things that we were previously certain about. It is a necessary and good reflection, but it also leads to the possibility of change, of letting go of held dearly beliefs and practices and taking hold of new unfamiliar things.

One of things I have noticed is the language that people use when speaking of this change. Often they might be saying they are open to change & re-evaluation, but the images they use often betray their real thoughts…

Here are some images that I have heard recently:

“slippery slope” “watering down” “dilute” “off the wall”

All of which seems to betray the person’s true feelings: this kind of theological reflection is bad and should be resisted.

But what if we find some different images for change? How about using these images for change?

“reframe” “explore” “off the map” “change tack” (a sailing metaphor, perhaps bringing an image of a sailing boat running out of water, and needing to “tack”, to change direction to find more water).

How different does the change seem now? There is still a danger that we could question so much, and lose the essentials of our faith, but there is the possibility that we could also see things differently, in a more helpful way, and explore new horizons and vistas of theological thought and praxis.

It seems to me there is a dynamic interaction between the image of change we use and the way that we feel about things being re-evaluated.

What images of change do you use? What other images can you think of?

Rupert Ward