Friday, September 18, 2009

A Dose of Reality

I love my GPS unit, but I have discovered that I need to update it on a regular basis due to new construction and changes in the names of streets. I have learned that I can’t assume that what it says (it does speak) is always accurate. This reminds me of author Alan Roxburgh’s comment that our maps define our reality and his warning that maps are only representations of reality, they are not the real thing. They can help us but they can also mislead us.

In The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo observes that theorists come up with beautiful ideas, but when they have to deal with reality, they often shelve those ideas. As he notes, “When they [policy makers] finally do get their hands on real power, many foreign-affairs academics or economic masters are quick to leave their beautiful scholarly ideas behind.” Their ideas are wonderfully constructed, but they do not always work in the real world.

My point in all this is to express appreciation for those who temper their theoretical concepts with an appreciation of real life situations. The real world contains too many variables that resist control. Ramo explains that “systematic irrationalities” (the environment, the economy, politics, people) always imperil constructs developed apart from reality. Organizational development consultants have to deal with real organizations and real individuals. Academics should consider how their disciplines actually impact the lives of people. Pastors must finally make an application of a biblical text to the lives of their parishioners. Spiritual directors help their clients to get in touch with God, but then those clients live out their spirituality in the real world.

Given that God chose to engage the world through Jesus Christ, we should not be surprised by this. The Christian faith may be of divine origin, but it does not deny the reality of the world. We are called to be "in the world," although not "of the world."

In recent days, I have suggested that CBF needs to take a fresh look at the real world it finds itself in. This is good advice for me as well. I am convicted that what I learn or attempt to teach must finally intersect with real life. Theory without action has little value. What difference are we making? We could all do with a good dose of reality.

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