I read the above phrase somewhere, probably in an Alan Hirsch book of which I’m trying to read three simultaneously at the moment, but whatever the phrase referred to in the original context it stuck in my mind and got me thinking about the Reformation. Now I don’t know a huge amount about computers, so this might be a very poor analogy but here’s where my thought’s took me.
The medieval Catholic church was a bit like a mainframe computer. One central processor, everything in the control of a very few at the centre, programs accessed in a language unknown to most end-users. As the internal methods for agreeing code updates were pretty slow and cumbersome the code became pretty buggy, and the system performance declined. Along comes the PC revolution, which quickly breaks down into two camps – PC and Mac. The Apple Mac is like Calvinism – its truth is elegant, neat, tidy – it all fits into a very clean box and you can’t hack into it. Adherents of Apple / Calvinism just know it is better than PC, but they also know that “only the few are chosen”, and quite like the exclusivity of being the only ones who are right. PC reflects the broader scope of Protestant Lutheranism, Arminianism and Methodism. These folk have more of a mix and match theology and ecclesiology, which more of an emphasis on “what fits”, or “what is better” than the Calvinistic “what is right”. Interestingly the internet allows all of these PCs Macs to connect and relate to each other, but on a different basis to the nodes on a mainframe.
All with me so far? OK what about the Anabaptists? At the risk of straining the analogy even further, I would suggest that the Anabaptist drive in the Reformation are the equivalent of the Shareware movement and Open Source programming. The Anabaptists abolished the laity, giving everyone access to read and write code. They placed authority in the local congregation, meaning there were no bureaucratic barriers to innovation. Moreover the Anabaptists were infectiously missional, allowing the new code of the Gospel to become viral as users installed it, liked it, ripped it and shared it. In the sixteenth century all of this innovation and viral sharing was facilitated by the technological shift to movable type printing. In a moment in time that is characterised by a new technological shift that facilities copying, liking, ripping and sharing – perhaps its time for a fresh Anabaptist move.
Pushback, rip, like or share…