European intellectuals are thinking more than ever about the religious future of the Continent. Some of the predictions are tired truisms. For example, Giorgio Vattimo, the Italian post-modern Roman Catholic, together with the American Pragmatist Richard Rorty, argue for a “liberation from dogma,” in their recent book, The Future of Religion. If the church is to survive, they say, it will only be as a post-religious, but compassionate community. More subtle is Claude Geffré’s approach, in With Or Without God?, where he dialogues with the philosopher Régis Debray. He strongly argues that you cannot have meaningful compassion without first worshiping God. You need a higher framework. The theologian Marcel Gauchet agrees, as he reflects on strategy, predicting that the older default parish model will fade away, but a newer “religion of identity” will come to replace it.
Is this not a great opportunity for spreading the message the Seminary at Aix has believed since its inception? The heart of the gospel is that we can have a new identity in Jesus Christ through the cross. No geographical or ethnic qualifications are needed. Simply, lifting up the empty hands of faith. Our primary communion with God will of course lead to outreach. People who know the forgiveness and love of Calvary will turn to their neighbors and minister forgiveness and love to the surrounding community.
At the beginning of 2006, we want to concentrate on preparing heralds of this gospel for modern Europe, and for the French-speaking world. Only an educated clergy will be able to bring the good news in a credible way to the over-developed West. So the need for Seminary training is greater than ever. The European intellectuals are telling us what we’ve known all along. To be effective, the church must preach the new birth in Christ. But “how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President
P.S. We are over the $200,000 mark for the Boice Chair. 550,000 to go!
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P.P.P.S. We’re giving out signed copies of Paul Wells’ Cross Words, to donors who contribute $300 or more! It’s a masterpiece on the atonement.