There has been an evolving understanding called Integral Theory that is being applied to the Christian faith. In short this system provides a framework to understand the countless variations of how people have expressed themselves within their systems of faith. Like an infant moving to a toddler to a child to a teen through adulthood, each stage of ones spiritual progress is marked by some aspect of transformation into the next place. I highly recommend Paul Smith’s book called “Integral Christianity” as he does an excellent job of laying this out. The stages as he lay’s them out are as follows:
- Post Modern
- Integral and Beyond
It is very hard to argue with the fact that each of these stages has vital identifiers and landmarks. It is also quite easy to see how within each stage are people from all walks of life who are thrilled to find entry into the stage along with those who have grown frustrated or tired of their stage and are looking for more.
To grasp all that is being said will require each of us to progress through any residual pieces of our present stage and begin to explore the ideas of the next stage. This is my observation: Each stage requires not only a new set of “What-to-thinks”, but first must experience a new set of “How-to-thinks.” The warrior God who fights the battles only for your “kind” of people must (PROGRESS) into a view of a God who works institutionally and who has relegated his revelation to pro’s. Or the modern God where all is scientifically explained must deal with the realities of a fluid, dynamic and even mystical realities that do exist but are not empirically proveable.
My point is that progress is the byproduct of transformation. Until the inner ideas are changed, progress is stalled.
I believe that all transformation is the work of God’s benevolent Spirit within the life of any of his image bearers. The challenge of any stage is to trust the work and movement of this Spirit that is prodding us and pulling us into a new place. Unfortunately there are two big challenges in the Spirit’s work:
- Once a person moves into a new awareness of their place, they look back at earlier stages as if they are “lower” or lesser stages. This gives way to a sense of pride and if not checked, will mean that all so-called progress may end up as a modern form of Gnosticism or a bunch of elitist arrogant people. This will mean that each stage is plagued with fundamentalism. This is only avoided by maintaining all that is good and valuable from each stage, while embracing new ideas. There must also be plenty of space for people to live, thrive, and move within their own stage if they are not ready to move forward.
- Moving into another stage also requires tremendous humility while one learns the nuances and implications of the new ideas. Just as before, when a person learned exactly how to relate to God in a particular stage, so the new stage brings with it new ways of relating. This means that ideas that are coming from a further stage will always be met first with great skepticism and tremendous fear and doubt. Some stages will do all they can to “protect” their people from ideas from a new phases. It employs regressive “how-to-thinks” so that it’s people only believe the way it used to be and learn how to quickly reject new ideas.
Thus the work of God’s Spirit in this world among very diverse people is a profound one. The one who isn’t threatened by such work, and can humbly appreciate the station and progress of all others must have adopted some aspect of his most furthest reaching ideas for humanity. The ransom of people for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9) means that we all will ultimately get there. Even if the transformation is difficult, or a long time in the making.
My best advise is to let this idea become the one that reorders how you think. This small transformation will serve as a catalyst that will usher in the progress that you are seeking.