Sei sulla pagina 1di 4

The need for a new set of scales: The Engels Scale attempted to measure the journey from ignorance

of God to discipleship in terms of a single dimension of increasing knowledge. The Sogaard Scale - as presented by Clark and Robb - added the dimension of a person's attitude towards Jesus. [I have just received Sogaard's book - Media In Church and Mission Communicating the Gospel - in which he suggests that the second, horizontal axis, represents a measure of the "affective dimension" and thus refers to a person's attitude to the Gospel, to Jesus or to the Church.] On the basis of my original understanding of Sogaard. I proposed a third dimension or axis, that of attitude towards or experience of the Church. Sogaard's actual model allows plotting of attitude alongside cognitive growth (Engel) on a piece of paper - my approach demands three axes and thus a cube or at least a representation or approximation of a cube. I suppose it might be possible to use Sogaard's model and plot two temporary points on the horizontal scale, one for Jesus and one for Church. These would probably have to be combined into an average score if one wished to plot a single point in two dimensions to show both cognitive and affective aspects. Adding additional dimensions or multiple plotting allows us to recognise that a postive appreciation of Jesus may exist alongside ignorance about the Gospel and antipathy towards the Church; for example, because of negative media exposure, such as sexual abuse by priests, or because of negative personal experience of the Church in the past. However, I now feel that this model must be further refined and developed because of changes in the context in which we attempt to present the Gospel. The Engels Scale assumed that ignorance of the Gospel was the main problem, with "no knowledge of God" as the lowest point. (I can only suppose that this meant "no knowledge of the true/Biblical God" since many non-Christians are members of other faiths or sects/cults and are not all agnostics or atheists. It is interesting that the scale does not address "no belief in a God or gods"!) However, in our post-Christendom society, such a scale no longer represents reality. It is true that there are increasing numbers of people who appear to be wholly ignorant of the Christian story, but their ignorance exists in a post-Christian context rather than a non-Christian one. They are surrounded by reminders of the story and of the Christendom past and by new attempts to reintepret and re-tell the story in an anti-Christian way. Thus, people may be ignorant of the Gospel but very aware of the latest media presentation of "what really happened". In this sense, the original negative numbering of the Engels Scale is misleading. We face a task, not simply of defeating ignorance by providing knowledge, but of first deconstructing and sweeping away the many false visions of history that set themselves up against the Gospel - we must demolish strongholds. Sogaard's addition of an attitudinal scale automatically brings with it the recognition of a truly negative dimension. Ignorance is in this sense neutral, you cannot be negative or hostile towards something if you know nothing about it. But it is possible for someone to have an entirely hostile attitude towards someone or something. Experience suggests that, in the past, people were entirely capable of being relatively uninformed about the Gospel whilst still having a positive view of Jesus. Whether this was because of a genuine appreciation of His person or because of an unwillingness to show open disrespect to the central person of Christianity/Christendom is open

to question. Nevertheless, Sogaard's Scale, potentially identifies a real possibility in our new postChristendom society, that people might have a negative assesment of Jesus. Such an assessment is, of course, also distorted by the new "histories" of Jesus that are presented. In the past, it would have been much more likely that disagreements might have arisen around how to interpret the Biblical Jesus. While it is true that academic studies of Jesus have been presenting their own interpretations and rewritings of the Gospel story for centuries, these did not form part of most people's understanding of the issue, nor were they particularly prevalent in popular culture. In contrast to the other two axes, the dimension of attitude towards the Church is one that has been with us for a long time. The latest scandals concerning paedophile priests may have hit the Church hard because they come at a time of declining attendance and general ignorance and misinformation that is characteristic of post-Christendon, but they are hardly the first criticisms of the Church to be presented. However, despite the French Revolution's attempts to utterly remove and replace the Christian religion, much of the criticism of the past has come from within the Church or from within a broadly Christian society. Even non-attenders and non-believers admitted to the good done by the Church or gave lip service to "respect for religion". Our present context has changed primarily in that this general respect is waning. Those who are truly ignorant of the Gospel no longer know what the Church is or what it represents. For those who accept the various revisions of accepted Church history, the mainstream Church is understood as having triumphed over other equally valid expressions of Christianity, as having manipulated its own history and core documents in order to do so and as corrupt and only interested in its own power and survival. This perception is reinforced by stories of paedophile priests and apparent attempts by Church authorities to avoid exposure and public accountability. In addition, the "new" atheists no longer give even lip service to the idea of respect for religion or the Church. Their attack on religion is unfocused and broad brush, but the Church does not emerge unscathed, even when the source or cause of the moral outrage is the non-Christian terrorism of Militant Islam. Thus we are dealing, not solely with ignorance of the Gospel or antipathy towards the Church, but with serious distortions of the Gospel and the person of Christ in the context of increasing hostility towards religion and the Church in particular, alongside increasing ignorance of its true nature and function. The Engels Scale must be extended, beyond a lack of knowledge of the true God, into an area of genuinely negative false knowledge or misinformation. My original exposure to Sogaard showed the scale as an L with the horizontal, affective, scale meeting the bottom (-10) of Engel's Scale. Sogaard's book actually shows an inverted T and maps attitude in terms of positive movement to the right or negative movement to the left. Thus, my suggested adaptation would only require an extension of the Engel's Scale below its base into what I call a true negative, thus assuming the form of a +. If one were to adopt a separate axis for attitude to Church, it could be extended into the third dimension, forming a cross with arms extending forwards and backwards as well as up, down, left and right. The nearest visual image would be the child's toy - a Jack. Or, perhaps, a large Cube with the axes at the centre, thus dividing it into smaller cubes. My own thinking about the Church assumed that attitudes to Church were primarily shaped by real experiences and real memories, either personal or shared that, alongside cultural differences, acted as barriers to encounter between non-Christians and Christians. Of course, I expected that some of these barriers would be based on misunderstandings and even on "myths", that is, distorted stories and preconceptions. Nevertheless, I assumed that they would be related to the reality on the ground and that more purely "mythical" perceptions would be

relatively easy to dismiss. However, these myths and distortions of the Church's nature and history have become part of the fabric of the wider cultural discourse - as ubiquitous as respect for the Church used to be - so that there is a default setting of negativity. If the original Scales measured a person's personal or individual position on one, two or three axes, one might want to plot the final result as a point within a cultural matrix. That is, one might identify people who are strongly negative on all three axes, even though they live within a cultural context that has a strongly positive relationship with the Gospel, Jesus and the Church. Why, then, is that person so resistant? On the other hand, identifying someone who has a strong positive relationship to all three dimensions within a culture that is generally highly negative may provide an accurate measure of effective discipleship (as counter-cultural) and not merely shallow conversion or "cultural belief". The scales alone might find a high degree of knowledge and positive attitude present in a church-going but unconverted person. Hiebert's Centred Set plotted people in terms of orientation towards Christ, but also plotted a hypothetical, fluid, boundary that represented movement not simply towards Christ, but in to being in Christ. Sogaard avoids such a boundary in his model because he wants strongly to accept that decision for Christ can occur at any point (unlike Engel's model, which presents a very structured view of the process.) Hiebert's Set theory identifies people in terms of orientation and movement towards Christ at the Centre. Thus someone may move close to Jesus in attitude and acceptance, but remain outside of saving faith because of other factors, such as ignorance of the Gospel or relationship to the Church. One could imagine other "sets" which locate people in terms of attitude to Jesus or the Church and their grasp of the truth about them. However, an attempt to plot a person in terms of more than one factor would require a Venn diagarm and plotting all the factors would require a multi-dimensional Venn diagram. Redefining the scales so that their meeting point would be Jesus might be possible, but this would mean that each person could only be plotted by a single point in two or three dimensional space if Jesus were the zero point of scales that did not extend beyond that point. Negativity would be represented by distance from Jesus and perhaps by an orientation, as in Hiebert's Centred Set and in some of Sogaard's Scales (where this is represented by a line and arrow on the graph.) Jesus could still be centre, but other quadrants of the scale, beyond zero, from the point of view of one person's plot, would represent other people. It is highly likely that I have over-complicated the physical mapping of the scales and certainly, if Sogaard is allowed to represent any attitudinal aspects with his horizontal scale, an extension of Engel's axis to form a cross is all that is needed. Or one could simply extend the line of Engel's axis and turn Sogaard's axis into a simple line moving from negative to positive to produce an L shaped line. The major advantage of axes crossing at zero is that Sogaard uses his scale not only to plot position but to map movement of an individual over time. Nevertheless, the questions I have attempted to identify do need to be addressed. The journey is not simply from ignorance to knowledge and attitudes are not merely personal. Another aspect that has not been addressed in its own terms is that of the culture of individuals. The Biblical account deals with the question of religious culture and missional thinking has done a huge amount to think about enculturation of the Gospel, but the problems represented by cultural differences may shape attitudes but cannot be reduced to them; except, perhaps, in the sense that there are often unexamined assumptions and attitudes to learning and to behaviour that prevent the Gospel being effectively communicated or which create the perception that the Church is "not like us" and "not for us". Some forms of cultural distance are easy to perceive and measure: ethnicity and speaking another language, lack of fluency in the host language, etc. Others are more difficult to identify or quantify: literacy, fluency in one's own language, learning styles, learning difficulties, learning

culture (book/non-book) and so on. Sogaard, himself, says that the scale cannot map all the possible aspects of the process. Thus it may be important to use a variety of scales of differing complexity at different times. Attempts to combine them into some sort of totality, either hypothetically or in visual representation, would be unnecessary except, perhaps, when seeking to situate one or more of the factors in a larger context.