Summer seems to have come and gone already in Holland. But I’m not complaining about the grey skies, wind and occasional rain. It’s great weather for knuckling down to some writing. Besides in two weeks’ time I’ll be in sunny Kenya for our annual YWAM Global Leadership Team meeting.
That gives me a short window of time to work on the remaining chapters on a book on tomorrow’s Europe I have been trying to finish for some time now. Could I solicit your help with this?
Actually, to help me, you don’t need to do anything at all. Over the next ten weeks, I’d like to base the w e e k l y w o r d s on each of the ten chapters comprising part two of this book. Each installment will therefore be a short summary of the chapter, forcing me to be concise and logical. Just imagining that you may be reading that instalment will help me hone my presentation.
However, please do respond to these instalments on anything you find unclear, untenable or unbiblical, or particularly resonating with your own experience or perspective. Constructive criticism welcomed!
The problem I find with writing such a book is that the more you get into a subject, the more you realise you don’t know, and the more questions and issues you become aware of that need responses. And some stage however you need to draw a line in the sand and say, thus far and no further. This is not intended to be a theological tome, but more inspirational, easily readable, and aimed at practioners like ourselves in the field, not academics.
I’m also writing with HOPE.21in mind, the major Hope for Europe congress we are holding next April in Budapest. We want this event to foster awareness that our mission call involves ‘shaping Europe’s future … together’. In wrestling with the challenge of the re-evangelisation of Europe over the past decade, I have formulated ten imperatives for God’s people to respond to, necessary to recover faith, hope and expectation for Europe’s future. The ten chapters of part two each deal with an imperative.
My working title is ‘BRAVE NEW EUROPE’ – who will shape it? I am attempting to describe directions Europe is heading in as the remaining ‘baggage’ of Christendom is jettisoned.
Part One describes the European situation via Six Questions.
1. WHO dares predict?
After the Y2K debacle, who can say anything confidently about the future? Well, let me rush in where angels fear to tread. I propose that:
- One, no-one really knows what tomorrow’s Europe will look like.
- Two, Europe tomorrow will not look like Europe today.
- Three, most predictions about tomorrow’s Europe will also miss the mark. But that should not stop us from asking ourselves what the future could hold for Europe. So in this book, we aim to pose and explore the following questions together:
- Who – and what ideas – will be the key shapers of tomorrow’s Europe?
- What will happen if Christians remain passively on the sidelines, absorbed in their own church affairs?
- What might God’s intentions be for Europe and Europeans in the 21st century?
- What could happen if God’s people recovered vision for transformation in Europe?
2. WHERE is the hope?
Yesterday’s Europe was shaped significantly by Christian hope-bringers. So we would expect Christians to have a message of hope for tomorrow’s Europe.
Surely we will be looking eagerly for signs of God’s rule advancing among the European peoples in answer to our prayers for his Kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done here on earth, here in Europe, as it is in heaven?!
Surely we will be seeking scriptural responses to potential threats to shalom in tomorrow’s Europe: nationalism, racism, urbanisation, pollution, immigration, globalisation, unemployment, the ‘greying’ of the population, sex-slavery, corruption in business and government, pluralism,
the wealth-poverty gap, the breakdown of values… !?
The stark truth is this: at the dawn of the new millennium, there is all too little vision for tomorrow’s Europe among God’s people. Where are today’s prophetic voices with something from God to say about the New Europe??
He who offers hope leads. How do we become the ‘head’ once more, leading the nations towards God’s purposes?
3. WHAT is happening here?
While travelling to the Balkans in the summer of 1999, I had a bizarre and provocative encounter with a woman whose worldview was very different from my own. Frankly, she ‘rattled my cage’.
And in so doing, she opened my eyes to realise that our journey towards tomorrow’s Europe may well be a turbulent ride – back to the future. This chapter describes our meeting – and her vision for a revived
Old Europe: old, animistic, pagan Europe, in a new sophisticated guise.
Excerpt: “What I was doing listening to this gobble-de-gook ?! Shouldn’t I run away from this conversation? I wondered. I was in unfamiliar territory and should play safe. This woman was challenging some of my deepest beliefs about God and reality. Besides, evangelical mission leaders didn’t usually meet in hotels with ‘pagan, Jungian, feminist,
archetypal psychotherapists’ (her own description), did they?
“Later as I returned to my room, questions swirled in my mind. What was happening here? Was this a diabolical trap? Was I being bewitched? Or could it be a divine set-up? Could God somehow be in this encounter? Was this indeed ‘meant to be’, as Danica had mused at the airport? If so, by whom, or what?”
The question ‘what was happening here?’ would take on a broader significance, to embrace the whole European situation at the end of the ‘Christian’ millennium, in the following chapter…
4. HOW do we exit from here?
The cage-rattling continued the next day when we explored a newly-opened underground labyrinth in Budapest, taking us on a journey through the history of the Hungarian people (Magyars), from animism to
theism, and eventually to a cynical look at materialism. By now, I was awakening to the realisation that, for the first time ever in history,
westerners had tried, and spurned, all three options in turn. What other options remained? Where could they turn to now?
“Earlier in the labyrinth, as we came to a junction of several corridors, we had met a group of schoolgirls looking lost and disorientated. Almost pouncing on us, they had asked half desperately, “How
do we exit from here?”
“What a metaphor for Europe’s search for truth and meaning through the centuries! Now having rejected the possibility of there being any true map of reality at all, post-modern Europeans were as lost and confused in history’s maze as these schoolgirls without a map.”
5. WHEN did Europe become “Europe”?
Riding on a train across the Hungarian Plain to Romania, I reflected on my recent encounter while reading Leslie Newbigin’s thesis that Europe was merely an extension of Asia, geographically, ethnically, linguistically and philosophically. Yet somehow it had acquired a distinct identity as a separate continent, and as a civilisation clearly
distinguished from Asia.
When then had Europe become ‘Europe’?
The simple answer was that starting 2000 years ago, dedicated messengers came to Europe with a Book that told a Story that brought Hope, and transformed European society. This Christian hope was the singular
factor that had made Europe ‘Europe’, robustly self-aware and distinct from its eastern roots.
And if that Hope was lost? Newbigin: “If Europe loses the Bible, it becomes once again merely a part of Asia. The vastly expanding influence of
astrology and of ‘New Age’ in its many forms is evidence of this.”
That was it! Danica was not just a weird left-over from the past. She represented a likely future for Europe. The New Europe could again become Old Europe, could journey back to the future, back into its eastern roots …
pe could become re-‘Oriented
6. WHY paganism?
I delved into my bookshelves on my return, looking for answers to the many questions throbbing in my mind. Francis Schaeffer had insisted that the basic worldview options were very few, and stemmed from two
questions: Did creation have an impersonal or personal origin? Is ultimate reality infinite or finite? The four basic options are thus:
- atheism/materialism (impersonal/finite);
- pantheism (impersonal/infinite);
- polytheism (personal/finite), and
- monotheism (personal/infinite).
The western world had been shaped primarily by options 1 & 4; our apologetics were still aimed almost exclusively at atheism and rationalism. Yet Post-modern Europeans have rejected the materialistic view of reality.
They are open to exploring spiritual reality. Europeans are being attracted to options 2 & 3, the pantheism/polytheism axis, a new animism, or neo-paganism.
The future of Europe will depend on which view of ultimate reality prevails as the 21st century unfolds.
It boils down to a choice between theism and animism. Which will it be?
How do we respond? That’s what Part Two is about.
Till next week,
enclosed: Pre-Christian pagan art on Newgrange tomb entrance stone, Ireland