Paradigm Shift

Will you explain what you mean when you say, “the church is in a paradigm shift?”

When I use the word “paradigm” I mean, “the norm by which things are.” In theology a paradigm could be considered a dispensation – “one portion of time distinguished from another.” For example: In the Old Testament, from Adam to Noah was a dispensation or paradigm. From Noah to Moses is another dispensation or paradigm. And from Moses to John the Baptizer is yet another dispensation or paradigm. Different paradigms are clearly distinguished from one another when the accepted norm changes. Those points between paradigms – those times of clear distinction – are known as “shifts.”

The New Testament paradigms become very interesting when Jesus comes onto the scene to complete the “shift” of John the Baptizer. The “norm” of the later Old Testament times was dictated by the religious leaders. Coming in the line of these leaders is John. But John comes with a different norm, a different message that rubs over against the accepted norm of the leaders. The paradigm is shifting. Jesus inaugurates the new paradigm. He sets the new norm and dictates (if you will) the way things are to be.

For nearly three-hundred (300) years this paradigm stood as the norm. Then, around A.D. 313, the paradigm began shifting again. The church was no longer the minority (the norm of the time), but was becoming the new majority. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine, and the subsequent merging of Church and State, the new paradigm of Christendom set in.

For sixteen-hundred (1600) years Christendom set the norm. Even through the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century Christendom dictated the norm and held sway with the minority. Whatever changes were brought by the Reformers were only brought to bear within Christendom (though, later, the work of the Reformers would instigate another shift).

In the mid-twentieth century (1960’s) the paradigm shifted once again. No longer was the norm of Christendom accepted. With the secular revolution of society (as well as the sacred revolution within the church) in the 60’s came a shift away from Christendom and its majority rule. Today, we find ourselves, whether in secular society or sacred church (which, incidentally, had no separation in Christendom), in the midst of this shift.

In many ways, we look very much like a prior paradigm shift of New Testament history. Where the religious leaders of Jesus’ day set the norm, which Jesus disrupted and contradicted; the norms set by the religious leaders of Christendom are being violently overturned by the way we “do” church today. And the establishment called “Christianity,” in the age of political correctness, is quickly becoming the minority sect and the outcast of society once again (as it was for three hundred years before Christendom).

I should also mention that paradigm shifts are universal. What I mean is, paradigms shift globally and throughout every aspect of society. Today’s paradigm shift is evident in the political spectrum of America. “The way it has always been done” is now being rejected. While it is hotly debated exactly what kind of “change” has recently occurred, it is clear that “change” is precisely what has happened; and that, in and of itself, is a paradigm shifting.

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