Wave Formation, Waves and Learning to Surf

Author:  Revd Darrell Jackson, Tutor in European Studies and Director, Nova Research Centre, Redcliffe College.


TV homebuyer series like, ‘A place in the Sun’, presented by Jasmine Harman and Jonnie Irwin, show how the home buyer market in the UK compares with the rest of Europe. Choices of home are offered and the buyers are left to choose: Merthyr Tydfil or the Dordogne.
The simple fact is: the UK is no longer isolated from the rest of Europe by La Manche – that’s the English Channel to you and me. Trends and patterns cross the Continent – Information, Communication Technology ensure this in our globalised world.
Wave formation: the religious and social-cultural context of Europe
1. Varieties of Christianisation
I suspect that a fair number of us will be reading, or at least claim we are reading, authors such as Stuart Murray Williams (Church after Christendom, Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World), David Smith (Mission After Christendom), Simon Bartley and Simon Barrow (Ekklesia), and Michael Frost (Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture). Even our own Richard Tiplady’s book Post-Mission touches on these themes.
Taken as a whole, their writing is persuasive and describes accurately what is observed in many instances. Additionally, their assessments seem to be those that many of us may instinctively share. However, the theories offered by prophets of secularisation seemed incontrovertible in the 1960s and onwards. The current consensus is that much of this may have been an attempt to describe the way that the world ought to be rather than the way it was. This is the current danger I see in trying to describe religion in Europe as necessarily conforming to a post-Christendom paradigm.
Why is it important to make this point, apart from the fact that it means there is still space for writing more books? If we are going to resist the pressure of the waves that seem to be overwhelming us then we need firstly to understand the nature of the wave. Any competent surfer will tell you that – I’m not a competent surfer.
So what can be said about the complex and confusing religious beliefs of Continental Europe as well as the UK?

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