2007 September

I often hear believers decry the postmodern focus on experience concerning matters of faith. They usually decry the subjective nature of personal experience, and encourage people to look to the scriptures alone for divine revelation.

But life in Christ depends on “experience.” Sin is realized when God’s Spirit convicts. We realize scripture to be true, authoritative, and inspired by God when He illuminates it to us. Faith comes by hearing the word of truth. Salvation is being born again. All of these are experiences.

The Bible is a collection of human experience with God. Personal encounters, like visions, dreams and miracles. Calling. Rebuke. Incarnation. Revelation.

Our experience doesn’t make truth true, it makes truth true to us.

I recently read an interesting thing about Wal-Mart. It seems that in cities across the country, Wal-Mart stores are up-sizing from their regular old large retail centers to shiny new extra-large “Super Centers.” In many cases, these new stores are right next door or across the street from the old stores.

The problem is that the distinctively Wal-Martian building design and layout (you know, gray and blue big-box warehouse with two main entrances and a chain-link fenced-in “garden center” on one side) makes it difficult for any other retailer to use the old buildings. So the old stores are sitting empty.

Some communities are now requiring that new Wal-Mart stores be built with future use in mind, with store designs that are more easily subdivided for varied uses should the current Super Center ever vacate to build, I don’t know, what’s bigger than a Super Center?

For some reason, this reminds me of church buildings.

Western Europe is home to thousands of church buildings. Cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, and temples that were once full of devout religious people now sit empty in every part of the continent. In the U.K., Some have been converted to pubs. In Italy, many are used a museums. At least European church buildings are pretty to look at.

In one hundred years, what will have become of your church building?

Whenever I try to encourage Americans to be church planters, they almost invariably say something like, “There’s already a church on every corner.” The problem, of course, is that these people are mistaking “church building” for “body of believers.”

We certainly don’t need more church buildings.

Immigration is a huge problem here in Western Europe. Europeans fear (with good reason) the extinction of their own cultures through dilution with immigrant ones. Gone are the days of leaving one’s home culture to adopt a new way of life in a new place. Turks are moving to Frankfurt and living as though they were still in Turkey. Moroccans in Paris are setting up Muslim prayer rooms and markets. The Chinese in Barcelona aren’t bothering to learn the local language. These groups are already here in significant numbers, and they’re demanding the right to build schools and places of worship.

In the flood of foreigners, Europeans are finally asking some good questions. What happens when the immigrant population grows to become the majority? Won’t they want representation in local government? How long until they begin to impose changes that threaten the existence of European cultures? Not only are they asking questions, Europeans are also searching for solutions. A wall? Stricter controls? Exclusion from social services? Pour money into poor countries of origin? International identification databases?

All of these questions and proposed solutions, however, seem to ignore one major truth: the Indians, North Africans, and Latin Americans that enter the Union every day aren’t invading, they’re coming home. European immigration is unique in that these immigrants are coming from lands that not so long ago were colonized and exploited by European superpowers. The Spanish, British, and French sent “Explorers,” “Missionaries,” “Traders,” and “Pioneers” to far-off places in an effort to expand their territory, discover wealth, and conquer potential enemies. They pillaged the land, plundered the goods, and raped the women. Now, generations later, their offspring are coming home to claim their birthright.

I wonder how immigration policy would change if we started to see the situation in this light. I bet it would lead us to send more money to developing and emigrant countries.

Call it “generational child support.”