PROMISES MUCH MORE ABOUND
Yes, "Peril abounds . . . but promises much more
abound."1 Out of the ashes of the past emerge the
greatest opportunities in the history of Christianity. For the first
time in centuries, the church will operate in its own realm. No
longer will it have to compete with the world on the world’s own
Like the early Christians, we are seeing "a rare
and momentous alignment of forces."2 This Spirit-birthed
age is birthing spirit! The very dynamics that define the digital
age also define the first century Church: a new community . . . a
new communication . . . a new reconciliation . . . a new creativity
. . . and a new power.
The future belongs to the faithful who seize this
A New Community
Suddenly, "community" has turned into an entirely
different fellowship. Overnight, "neighbors," have acquired an
extremely unusual nearness. In the past, we trusted Scripture,
Spirit, time, and space. And we loved to gaze on the familiar face.
Scripture and Spirit, of course, remain eternally the same, but now
we see a new time and space . . . and a new kind of face . . .
. . . for the future church will reach anyone,
anywhere, anytime, and anyway. In other words, it will reach
"different" souls, in "different" places, at "different" times, and
in "different" ways.
After all, the church is becoming less and less a
"place." Cyberspace, for example, functions free of time and space.
Churches will look beyond the old problems of distance and delivery.
They will see beyond the old borders of "here" and "there."
They will be more "nonterritorial," more
In other words, they will move wildly across
national and ethnic boundaries and easily ignore religious barriers.
They will explore the cross-cultural and move with the
multicultural. They will even risk the counter-cultural—leaping the
chasm between sacred and secular, religious and nonreligious, pious
and profane, clergy and laity, church and world, familiar and
foreign, "us" and "them". . . .
In the same way, the church will break free from
the absurd sameness of clock time. The "Word," for example, will
become a random-access medium. Immediate and flexible, it will no
longer depend on the hour or day demanded for delivery. Its
"real-time" reality will resemble a "present eternity" where the
recorded reality of the past and the virtual reality of the future
flood every moment.
And, in this new community, instant interaction
and digital democracy will empower the powerless. And, with this
gift, an even bigger barrier will fall—the "hierarchical" barrier.
For the first time in centuries, church leaders
will be more mentors and less manipulators, more role-models and
less regulators, more facilitators and less enforcers. The survival
of these clergy will depend on their being more "horizontal" in
style and less "vertical" in style, more humble and less career
driven, more a servant and less the one being served. And the church
will benefit from their becoming more a guide of experience and less
a deliverer of facts, more focused on "being" and less on "doing,"
more a poet or prophet and less a CEO.
Technology is building this new community at warp
speed. And the endless World Wide Web is building this endless World
Wide Neighborhood in "no-place" space. And, wherever these events
happen—"in spirit and truth"—we will discover the Church.
A New Communication
We are also discovering a new communication . . .
actually, rediscovering a first century communication. For we are
returning to an oral culture—or, in our case, an electronic oral
After all, "modern" words and "oral" words
While modern words expect logic, oral "words"
love things larger than logic. While literate minds legislate
abstract reasons, knowing hearts long for abstract arts. While
modern theologians market processed truth, "oral" elders model
In recent years, people empowered a "proper"
language. Now, oral language will empower prophetic people. Correct
words have meant precise "verbal" words. Now, meaning will spring
even from "nonverbal" words. And, while modern words presume little
intrinsic value, oral words will assume life-sustaining value.
We see the import for the church: Oral "words"
have more in common with the origin of our faith than with the
language of our culture!
Unlike modern words—known mostly by the
brain—Hebrew "words" emerged first from the body, from visceral
feelings rather than the logic of the mind. To the Hebrews, the
"Word" was a living, aesthetic experience, an open-ended reflection,
a meditative dialogue with multiple meanings. It was incarnational
language in its purest form.
It was as simple—yet dynamic—as Jesus "breaking
bread" or "mixing clay with spit."
Today, we see a return to an oral culture in the
visual ads, virtual reality, and multimedia of film, video, and TV.
We see our best theologians exploring the meanings in images,
novels, dances, music, drama, and movies. And we see our leading
clergy risking the truth in beauty, the meaning in emotion . . .
. . . the apologetics in aesthetics.
No matter our modern triumphs, the oral tradition
"is still the most powerful code . . . and will remain the principal
one for the foreseeable future." It is "something profoundly deep
and mysterious."3 And it will prove a more powerful mode
of salvation than the Greek rhetoric we’ve used for years.
A New Reconciliation
The postmodern world also promises a new
evangelism—a new reconciliation with God, ourself, and others.
Future evangelism will be more personal, and less
institutional . . . more intuitive, and less propositional . . .
more sensuous, and less doctrinal. Future salvations will be more
relational, and less rhetorical . . . more Jesus, and less jargon .
. . more feelings, and less formulas. And, future clergy will be
more artists, and less intellects . . . more moved by love, and less
by creed . . . more validated by experience, and less by programs.
For empowered passions will become the basis for
belief rather than the basis for unbelief. The church will finally
discern between the knee-jerk, garden-variety emotions of the
natural world and the "felt-meanings" of the spiritual world. That’s
because felt-meanings will yield light with their heat, revelation
with their warmth, insight with their inspiration.
They will "see" as well as feel.
For a while, though, we may set aside the label
"evangelism," for evangelists will discover a new "salvation." The
spiritual leaders of the future will disciple more and manipulate
less . . . they will measure their success more by quality and less
by quantity . . . they will more frankly share the cross and less
blatantly a bait-and-switch benefits package.
As a result, reconciliation will be more a
triumph of the Spirit, and less a triumph of man . . . more uniquely
inspired, and less cookie-cuttered . . . more the results of
"planting and watering," and less limited to premature "harvesting."4
Discipleship will involve more listening, and less talking . . .
more modeling, and less teaching . . . more caring, and less
Then, newfound faith will be more a maturing
journey, and less a one-time conversion . . . more the result of
concern, and less the result of "scoring" . . . more reliant on
lasting relations, and less a "means to an end." True rebirths will
be more grace-filled, and less sin-dominated . . . more motivated by
joy, and less by fear . . . more honest, and less deceiving.
Even science will offer new insights into these
age-old problems of alienation and reconciliation. Chaos theory, for
example, will prove the first scientific witness to the "Christ
Event." More to the point, it will explore the dynamics of Christ’s
death and resurrection in our own death and resurrection in this
Chaos theory goes like this:
Any "system"—biological, natural, social, even
spiritual—will often struggle with internal conflicts. And, as these
conflicts intensify, they threaten the system itself. Then,
suddenly, everything shifts to a higher level of harmony, only to
start the cycle over again.
That’s life! With all of us, the same dying to
internal hell brings the only hope for internal healing. And we
travel this road over and over. . . .
We find examples of chaos theory in traffic
patterns, weather predictions, and dangerous epidemics. Indeed, this
theory is the only way scientists can deal with the more troubling
of these events. So, in a future secular world, personal crises may
be viewed as the next level of God’s grace—not helpless destructions
or an imminent disgrace.
We are truly entering a new era of
reconciliation, and this "wisdom (will be) vindicated . . . by her
children."5 (Luke 7:35)
A New Creativity
Inspired vision—or creativity—is also a major
postmodern reality. For "intuition," "spontaneity," and
"metaphor"—the cornerstones of creativity—will propel our new world.
We will no longer "think" in the usual sense of the word. We will
"perceive," instead, with inspired insight. This means rafting the
many tributaries on which the human spirit flows from the Holy
"Spontaneity," for example, actually defines the
future. Fast-moving, quickly-changing data will supersede
yesterday’s coherent, orderly ideas. Fluid, unfixed images will
negate earlier immobile methods. And, open-ended journeys will leave
behind outdated static realities.
"Metaphor," though, will prove the mother of all
creativity. Metaphor has always been basic to life. Now, however, as
we return to an oral culture, we will also "think" like a
metaphor—surfing endless "multitudes of similitudes." And, since
metaphor has proven a perfect model of creativity,6 it
will now become the very "kernel of creative thought."7
Of course, metaphor is not possible without
emotion. So our pell-mell rush toward "felt-meanings" will only
increase the flood waters of creativity.
In this, we return again to the inspired visions
of the ancient Hebrews. For creativity pervades the entire Bible.
Scripture does not describe "what is," it describes "what is coming
to be!" Jesus even built His church on creative or inspired visions.8
In other words, faith and creativity are
essential synonyms. They always were. And now, their unity will
become what it was meant to be.
Today, technology and creativity propel each
other. The power of the future is neither money nor manpower. It’s
innovation! Creativity impels all high-tech progress and drives all
global economies. And the profit motive only deepens these bonds.
As example, today’s entertainment industry
immerses us in sensual, emotional, multimedia fantasies more real
than reality itself. Or, consider the World Wide Web where
individual, spirit-inspired visions run unhindered, where a new
legitimacy gives free rein to the notion of "play." Of course,
"virtual reality" trumpets the very spirit of creativity when it
portrays absent things as though they were present.
We find another creative presence in the computer
"interface design" where give-and-take, to-and-fro dialogues create
never-known worlds in real-time replies to instant sensory
feedbacks. Hypertext "links," for example, allow readers to create
their own stories and even shape the outcomes. And, online,
role-playing games give new meaning to the word, "interaction."
(Already, "the computer games industry is
considerably more valuable than the movie industry."9)
As we learn the origin of our faith and see the
future of our thought, a long lost theology of creativity will
re-enter the pages of history.
A New Power
But believers will find the most astounding news
in the "power" of an oral culture:
Unlike today’s words which merely "supervene" in
life—that is, they only "add to" life—oral words "intervene" in
life—they actually "change" life. They speak "of nonexistent things
. . . as if they [already] existed." They declare "the end and the
result from the beginning."10 Then, they go forth and do
things . . . "with signs following."11
This power lies at the very heart of the Church.
Again, Scripture doesn’t claim "what is," it demands our part in
"what is coming to be." Further, it declares this vision more real
than the world in which we now live, which "is passing away!"12
The "actual" universe, in other words, is the universe that is
coming to be.
So a future faith is pregnant with the future,
with the not-yet inside the already.13 We anticipate the
time to come in the midst of the here-and-now. We claim the
culmination of our promises within God’s promises.
God’s world, in short, is not so much a
"creation" as a "creating." And the universe is not so much "an
existing entity that has a history; rather, it is a history."14
In other words, God wills a future reality, a non-present reality.15
Or, we can say He wills an evolving reality, an ongoing,
After all, He is the Lord of History!
And, amazingly, we have a role to play. As our
believing and speaking become one, we interact
creatively—prophetically—in what the Spirit is bringing to pass. Our
boldness comes not from creaturely destinies, but from the One who
destines . . . not from the goal of our existence, but from the goal
of His existence. We point, in other words, only out of the power to
which we point.
Then—with vivid expectancy—things happen. What we
envision becomes real. Our inspiration becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy. It derives its meaning from the evidence we proclaim, even
as we proclaim it. It creates a new reality from the new world we
announce, even as we announce it.
So get ready! A new language will decide a new
reality. A new way of speaking will confirm a new actuality. And
this utterance will prove a powerful incarnation, for power always
incarnates power. And, once again, the Word will become flesh as we
call "those things that be not as though they were."16
Does this require risk? Yes! But, not since the
first century has the church been so empowered.
A Quantum Leap
Again, a new science confirms this power:
Quantum theory, a miraculous physics discovery,
now turns old realities upside-down. As scientists gradually lose
faith in a material existence, they more and more mirror a world
changed by the very act of observing it. We are finding, in other
words, that "more matters than matter." And this discovery will
empower the church.
"What else but quantum mechanics," ask the
thinkers, "explains the miraculous event of creativity?"17
In the same sense, "What else could explain the intrinsic power in
inspired faith, meditation, prayer, and prophecy?"
Here is how quantum theory works:
In the odd world of quantum, things exist in a
multitude of states until tipped toward a definite outcome by our
participation. In other words, it is impossible to "measure" or
"observe" a quantum event without changing it. And, considering that
time and space require each other, any "event" in time (creativity,
faith, meditation, prayer, prophecy . . . ) must also show up
somewhere in space.18
So what we imagine, then, happens in parallel
worlds. There is an unavoidable bond between the observer and the
world observed—between our imagination and the created image.19
Once we look, we change what is seen. That’s the reason the
imagination—or the creative images—of scientists often foretell
their physical findings.20, 21
We are participants, in other words, rather than
spectators. We are co-authors. Our "desire reveals design, and (our)
design reveals destiny."22 In God’s will, we "make the
Holy Spirit offers He can’t refuse." We live in a world of continual
creative reflection, a kingdom of "as if." In the words of
Wordsworth, we are "affected more than other men by absent things as
if they were present."23 And Michael Polanyi agreed,
"(We) lose ourselves in the performance of an obligation which we
accept, in spite of its appearing on reflection impossible of
These convictions invoke the "manifest" presence
Today, we see early signs of a new "co-authored"
The current TV season is littered with so-called
reality shows . . . programs that are authored by their participants
. . . We no longer think of ourselves as actors working from a
script but as co-creators, responsible for the collective
development of our world . . . (Further) the experience of
democracy, free markets, free speech, and an interactive media space
has made us reluctant to live by decree . . . We may be more
partnered with the Almighty than we at first presumed. 26
Of course, the significance of quantum theory for
the church is enormous. When our actions and God’s will mutually
move each other, the role of divine action takes on a miraculous
dimension. In short, our inspired creativity has the power to change
the world. In the hands of prophetic believers, we will describe
those things that don’t exist as though they do . . .
. . . and history will change.
This is the power of incarnational language. The
early Hebrews knew all things exist in the invisible realm before
they appear in the visible realm. So we find no surprise that under
dry skies, Elijah announces, "There is the sound of abundance of
rain." Nor is it rare when Jesus declares, "I have overcome the
world," when—in reality—His victory became fact when He later died
and rose again.
As we learn to see theologically and apply
prophetically the alignment of forces confirmed in quantum theory,
the doors will open to God’s miraculous presence in history.
"One is no longer simply thinking, one is
projecting a world"27
Future faith will not passively assent to what
man’s reason "proves" real or unreal. Instead, it will explore the
implied power of Pentecost. And, as a result, a new theology will
break forth, and new tests of veracity and authenticity will
For now, though, the church warms in a new "glow
that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day."28
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Romans 5:20 (paraphrased).
2. Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New
Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (New
York: Basic Books, 1997) p. 10.
3. Derrick de Kerckhove, The Skin of Culture
(Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1995) p. 193.
4. I Corinthians 3.
5. Luke 7:35, AMP (my parentheses).
6. Lewis Edwin Hahn, Editor, The Philosophy of
Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995) p. 267.
7. Jay A. Seitz, "The Development of Metaphoric
Understanding: Implications for a Theory of Creativity,"
Creativity Research Journal 1997, Vol. 10, No. 4, 347-353.
8. A careful reading of the original Greek in
Matthew 16:15-18 reveals Jesus founded His church on spiritual
9. Lance Concannon, "Games," Internet Magazine
(www.internet-magazine.com), May 2001.
10. Romans 4:17, Isaiah 46:10; AMP.
11. Mark 16:20, KJ.
12. I Cor. 7:31, AMP.
13. Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the substance of
things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
14. Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on
Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) p. 46-53.
15. Isaiah 65:17-19; Rev. 21:5 (as examples).
16. Romans 4:17, KJ.
17. John McCrone, "Quantum states of mind,"
New Scientist, August 20, 1994, pp. 35, 36.
18. Michael Lockwood, Mind, Brain and the
Quantum, reviewed by Stuart Sutherland in Nature, Vol 343
Feb. 1, 1990, p. 424.
19. Kimberly A. McCarthy, "Indeterminacy and
Consciousness in the Creative Process: What Quantum Physics Has to
Offer," Creativity Research Journal Volume 6 (3) 201-219
20. Roger Penrose: "Shadows of the Mind: A Search
for the Missing Science of Consciousness," quoted in The New York
Times, Monday, October 31, 1994, by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
[Section C, Page 20, Column 3].
21. McCrone, pp. 35, 36.
22. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering
the Secret of a Man’s Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,
2001) p. 48, 219.
23. William Wordsworth, quoted in Brewster
Ghiselin, The Creative Process (New York: Mentor Books, 1955)
24. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:
Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1958) p 324.
26. Douglas Rushkoff, "Playing God," Yahoo!
December 2001, Vol. 7, No. 12, p. 136.
27. William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being
(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996) p. 73.
Moltmann, Theology of Hope, trans. James Leitch (New York:
Harper & Row, 1967), p. 16.