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Introduction: What is a Manifesto and Why do we need a Next Christianity?
Part One: The Love-of-History Challenge
1. Christianity and the Love of History
Part Two: Other Big Turning Points in Western Church History
8. Augustine and a Greek/Hebrew Synthesis
Part Three: A Reconstruction of Christian Practice
13. An Existential Trinitarianism
Appendix: The League of Next Christianity Organizers
Copies of this book are now available.
Introduction: What is a Manifesto and Why do we need a Next Christianity?
A manifesto is an examination of the past and a vision of the future that focuses upon action in the present for a community of actors who are calling themselves and others into being as a historical project of change. Why is there a need for manifest action to build a Next Christianity? Why do we need a religious practice at all? Why is a Christian religious practice useful for ourselves or for whomever else might chose to join us in such a practice? And how do we ascertain what is for us the essence of a vital Christian practice for living our lives in this troubled and awesome 21st Century – a practice that we want to practice and feel is worth inviting others to practice? What can we learn from the abundance of ways that people have created to practice a religion they call ”Christian”? How can we sort out from the history of Christianity what is essential from what is wayward or obsolete?
It is to such questions that a manifesto needs to give answer. At the same time a manifesto needs to be relatively brief and yet long enough to be convincing and clear. These are not easy requirements, for the topics involved can easily consume many books. In fact, many very important books have already been written: such writings fill whole libraries. The manifesto I have in mind is a piece of writing that boils down this edge thinking to a tight focus on the core issues needed for a call to action within these 21st Century social conditions and within the redefinition of religion that is taking place in our time. I do not claim that this brief book is that manifesto, but I do claim that it is an attempt to move in that direction.
I am going to take a somewhat indirect approach to dealing with these challenges. I am going to start with a topic that I believe is one of the core blocks to a vital Christian resurgence – a love of history. By “a love of history” I mean a recovery of the past for the sake of anticipating the future in order to live fully in the present. I am assuming that a love of history and a loyal service of that Mysterious Power experienced in the unstoppable flow of time is foundational for a vital resurgence of a Christian-heritage-related religious practice. I am further assuming that such a recovery not only serves those of us who are reaching out for a vital practice of Christianity, but also contributes to our present moment of history a needed revolutionary force that can assist all humans to create a viable future for the human species.
Part One will focus on the basic love of history and especially upon key historical turning points within that period of time in which the writings of the Christian Bible were composed.
Part Two will focus on four key turning points within that period of time we commonly call “Church history.”
Part Three will focus on the future, the turning point that we now occupy and the vision of a Next Christianity that is or may be emerging.
what people say about this book
This book grows out of a decades-long immersion and grappling
with the most profound insights from the most original and daring
Protestant theologians of the 20th century. No one knows this tradition
better than Gene Marshall. Even more, no one has done more to implement
this tradition by radically reimagining what the institution and
practices of the church are and can become. More than a manifesto, this
book is also a how-to guide.
Gene Marshall captures the essence of active engagement with
the texts of Christianity in order to keep it alive and vital for
today's and even tomorrow's world. In doing so, he reinvigorates our
Judeo-Christian tradition of speaking truth to life, and life to truth.
He has written deeply about finding meaning and relevance, guided by
the collected wisdom of Hebrew and Christian philosophers, science,
reason, history, considerable personal insight and experience and the
experiences of some of the great storytellers of all time. You owe it
to yourself to be warmed by the glow of the fire that Marshall has
kindled. His words are at once personal, intimate, historic,
insightful, enthusiastic and perhaps even prophetic.
Gene Marshall's projection of a "next Christianity" takes into
account the entire 3,000 years of Christian history and its turning
points, portrayed in the Scripture and tradition of the church, and
merges it with the future at the nexus of the present. To validate his
claim for the need for a "next Christianity" & the role it will
play in the historical continuum, Marshall appeals, not to the
authority of the church, but to the authenticity of his own most
personal experience. The hope that the author holds out is for the
creation of an institutional structure that will nurture, rather than
suffocate, the missional dynamic of the movemental church (the "Awed
Ones"). The promise of such a hope is not that the church in any of its
forms may grow in size and stature, but that a troubled 21st Century
Earth may be served through "witnessing, justing and presencing love."
One need be neither Christian nor "religious" to find wisdom here for
in our challenged and challenging
In this ambitious work that the author modestly claims is
merely an attempt Toward a Manifesto for a Next Christianity, Gene
Marshall presents a succinct historical overview of the three-thousand
year journey of Judeo-Christian practice, emphasizing that a deep love
of history is crucial for envisioning a new practice of this religious
heritage for the 21st century. Marshall uses strong, often provocative
and earthy language to break open new dimensions of thought. He
challenges the person of faith to explore an entirely new way of
thinking, acting and being, and offers specific healing methods and
pioneering social forms to advance such exploration. I found the charts
and images particularly helpful reinforcements of the text, and
appreciated his passionate call for attention to contemporary social
justice issues throughout the book.
I want to personally thank Gene Marshall for his enduring love
of the Christian tradition. I am especially moved by the idea of a next
Christianity. This provocative image should warm our hearts and
challenge our minds. It is a must read for Christians and
If you are seeking to live a 21st century Christian life
reconciled with present science and one which begins with authentic
human experience and seeks to care deeply for the urgent challenges of
our times, then dialogue with Gene Marshall. He will connect your
present life experiences and questions to Christian symbols, history
and scripture and release your compassion and care.
The Love of History and the Future of Christianity exemplifies
what Gene Marshall has always done best: express a love for
Christianity in very practical terms in a way that does not insult its
audience with oversimplification or inaccessible language. Instead,
here we have a primer for Christians living in post-Christendom
searching for a Christianity that is deeply rooted in history and ready
to make the next big historical step for a faith so desperately in need
Gene Marshall does two great things with this book. He brings
history alive in a way that enables a person living in the 21st Century
to both appreciate and appropriate the journey of consciousness that
has been emerging over the centuries of insight by the giants of
theological thought. Secondly, for those of us who have despaired at
the ability of the historical church to be either relevant or
sustaining, Marshall creates a practical vision of how those of us who
love this heritage can be newly embodied version of Church. Marshall
offers an exciting alternative based on a profound grasp of Reality and
communion. A must read for those seeking hope for a new operational
form for Those Who Care.
Death is certain. Experience is certain. In The Love of
History & the Future of Christianity Gene Marshall takes the reader
on a journey into an encounter with Ultimate Reality. It is this
encounter we most require today to re-unite our global community with
the Real, forsaking the contemporary idols by which we are consuming
our selves and the planet on a path to certain destruction. This book
represents a necessary first step in abandoning our infatuation with
unreality and returning “home” to the One Reality that can restore us.
Gene Marshall’s ‘love of history’ comes out of the lineage of
Isaiah, Jesus, and Kierkegaard. Like all his other books, his
theologizing is eventful and personally grounded. He is among those who
transpose the 1st century experience of the Trinity into a rigorous
existential expression worthy of the 21st century. And, as a prophet in
this apocalyptic time, he coined the visionary phrase ‘eco-democracy’.
For pioneering the next Christianity, this book is a primer for all
thoughtful individuals and for adventuresome small groups.
This masterful pull-together of a radically spiritual
understanding of our profound human role in history is all a dedicated
group will need: to hear the call, be sustained, and become practically
prepared to change history so the “common good” does come on Earth.
Gene Marshall has been used mightily with this best one-book source I
know for this task.
Marshall's Love of History addresses in a single coherent
narrative what I have struggled with in my attempt to act as a
responsible member of St. James Episcopal Church in Lenoir, North
Carolina. His narrative delivers explosive images that can heal the
devastating effects of our current societal fragmentation and the
resulting experience of living an isolated life. Marshall clears away
misconceptions that bar people from "accessing the awe"--the essence of
Christianity. In the last section of his book, Marshall completes the
narrative with a description of the practices and organizational forms
for anyone interested in "accessing the awe" now in this moment and in
the moments to come.