Sunday, January 27, 2013

Limits to Imagination and Analysis

"Those like myself whose imagination exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe we have really been there." C.S. Lewis The Four Loves

I've been thinking about the church in the US recently; comparing what was done in earlier ages and how that maps into things can be done today. Some of those things I find I'm not too eager to try, with endless good reasons why not.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have taken to wondering whether - among the 700 other possible Causes of Anything - a law of diminishing returns applies to Christian influence on society. In Europe and its colonies, the church was a major force in eliminating slavery. (One could point to economic factors as well, but the same diminishing returns might apply there.) There is a tendency to look at such a success and say "Okay, on to the next big job." But it might not work that way. All causes may not be of equal weight in terms of effort needed. Slavery might have actually been low-hanging fruit in terms of societal change. Because culture change is hard.

Perhaps evangelism might work the same way. The entry of Christian teaching into a society might have a and uncertain start, then explosive growth once it catches, and subsequent improvement might come very hard. Or poverty reduction might be cumulative over centuries, hit an ignition point of great improvement, and then just hold stable, or even fade. We don't know what the equation should look like, so we don't know if we are above or below the expected value for y.

james said...

The "burned-over districts" should be a warning about overuse of any tool.

And institutions can have a life cycle. Monasteries were, for a while, amazingly effective evangelistic tools. They deteriorated. (Then reformed, then deteriorated in a slightly different way)

Or perhaps you could say the enemy adapts to the new tactics.