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Shifting the Emergent Paradigm

Continuing from yesterday’s post, this is part two of a critique of selected excerpts from a 2001 era report by Brad Smith, President of Leadership Network entitled “What’s Next with Terra Nova Project: The Emergence of Terra Nova.”

The next section of the Smith report is subtitled, “Three Types of Innovators and Paradigm Changes.” This section represents a classic example of psycho-social and marketing methodologies. Smith begins by describing a “whole scale change in paradigms” and the “three types of innovators” that will help to shift a paradigm (worldview). In the case of Leadership Network, as Herescope reported yesterday, the paradigm that had to be shifted was theological, moving evangelicalism into post-modernism.

Smith lists 3 type of paradigm-shifters, or “innovators” —

ADAPTERS:The Adapters…who innovate by adjusting and honing what exists while taking into account new realities.”

REVOLUTIONARIES:The Revolutionaries…who innovate by critiquing the flaws of the old ways. They dismantle complacency in the old and make people aware of foolish assumptions that have previously been taken for granted. Much of what Revolutionaries create is a polar opposite of what preceded them.”

GROUNDBREAKERS:The Groundbreakers…who emerge after the war is underway between the old and the new. Often, they naively accept the new assumptions without understanding the necessity or background of the previous war. Utilizing forms from both the old and the new, Groundbreakers have the freedom to create truly new things built on totally new assumptions.”

How to Shift the Paradigm

The philosophy of the paradigm shift is quite significant. The concept originated with Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press). Kuhn, a scientist in academia, broke ground by applying Hegelian dialectics and existential thought to the field of science. He proposed that science itself is evolving and has no absolutes. Kuhn described science as a series of rocky shifts throughout history, created by a crisis when the old scientific model encounters new information that doesn’t fit. When enough new information is accumulated, a “revolution” would occur and a new scientific paradigm would emerge; e.g. Newtonian science gave way to Einstein’s theories.

Kuhn paralleled scientific revolution to political revolution, and noted that in “both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is a prerequisite to revolution” (p. 91). In other words, it is necessary to create a crisis first before the paradigm can be shifted. Kuhn then makes the remarkable statement that the use of force may be necessary to shift to the new paradigm: “. . . the parties to a revolutionary conflict must finally resort to the techniques of mass persuasion often including force” (p. 92) .

Kuhn speaks about this paradigm shift in terms of a religious conversion. First, he remarks that a “mental transformation” is insufficient. “Rather we must look for indirect and behavioral evidence that the scientist with a new paradigm sees differently from the way he had seen before” (p. 114) .This statement, emphasizing an actual behavioral shift, hearkens back to explanations given in yesterday’s Herescope post concerning “authentic” behavioral change. Kuhn advised that before a group can communicate fully, they must “experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm” (p. 149). This conversion is seen as a “transfer of allegiance” from one paradigm to another (p. 150).

New Agers and socio-political transformers took Kuhn’s ideas to heart and applied it to the planned emergence of a new global mystical and political structure. Marilyn Ferguson cited Kuhn’s ideas as significant, for example, in her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy, which launched the New Age movement into the popular culture. It is therefore, of relevance to note Brad Smith’s choice of language to describe the purpose of creating this emergent youth culture — to propel forward a paradigm shift in evangelicalism.

[For a more thorough and in-depth discussion of Thomas Kuhn’s philosophies, see http://cicministry.org/scholarly/sch002.htm, Bob DeWaay’s article, “Thomas S. Kuhn’s Paradigm Thesis and its Epistemological Applications in Theology.”]

The 3 Innovators

Brad Smith of Leadership Network deviated from his discussion about the three types of paradigm-shifters for an historical interlude. His report expounds on the topic of “Understanding Tectonic Change from a Historical Example.” “Tectonic Change” is, of course, another term for ‘paradigm shift.’ Smith explained the philosophy undergirding this change:

“The German philosopher, Hegel, described this adaptation-revolution-groundbreaking model as a process of thesis, anti-thesis, and eventual synthesis. Many historians, sociologists and other ‘world-view’ experts are declaring that the Western world is currently experiencing a ‘postmodern’ anti-thesis to a two-century reign of the thesis of modernism. . .

Smith then explained more about these three “Innovators in the Church” and “Why all three types are important.” The following description is a peek into the inner world of Leadership Network and how it has positioned itself as a premier change agent organization. As you read the excerpts below, keep in mind that what was really being discussed was the abandonment of orthodox doctrine. We know this because it has been five years since Brad first issued this report. The Emergent Church has now risen and provocatively positioned itself as THE NEW PARADIGM. The “old paradigm” is traditional orthodoxy. The “new paradigm” is post-modern mysticism:

ADAPTERS: “In the church world, the strength of the Adapters is that they continue to minister well to the people whom God has given them. They adapt and bring people along. They innovate well within the boundaries of old assumptions and eventually allow the new realities to bypass them. Adaptors do not abandon effective present ministry just because a new paradigm has emerged, but they will move toward it as quickly as they can without abandoning their people. A few may even know they are trading long-term effectiveness for faithfulness to a present calling.”

REVOLUTIONARIES: “The strength of the Revolutionaries is that they clearly see the new reality and send out a clarion call for change. They point out the dangers of old wineskins and do not shy away from the pain of a tectonic shift. While they critique the old with crystal clarity, they express the vision of the new with obscure idealism. To use a biblical metaphor, Revolutionaries are the Davids, the career soldiers who carve out the new land and gather the resources, but may not be allowed to build the new temple. Sometimes, they are so focused on what is wrong with the old, they do not have the freedom to create the new. “

GROUNDBREAKERS:Groundbreakers emerge on the scene and see a new, clean canvas unencumbered by old assumptions or even anti-assumptions. They have the freedom to create new expressions in a clean space carved out by the war between the old and the new. Groundbreakers are not necessarily better that the other two types of innovators, but perhaps, like Solomon, they show up on the earth at an opportune time. Having seen the shortcomings of traditionalism and idealism in their predecessors, Groundbreakers move toward practicality.” [All emphases in above quotations are added]

The Truth:

Young pastors reading the material quoted above are supposed to feel ineffective, inept, incompetent and out of touch. They may feel like dismal failures. This use of language is very slick. In contrast, the three change agent roles were created for new pastors and young leaders who were willing to step outside the boundaries of Gospel Truth. They would be applauded and rewarded when they became facilitators for the emergent paradigm shift.

Young pastors, do not be discouraged nor dismayed! Flee back to the Word of God and cling to it with all of your might. For in these Scriptures you will find comfort in these last days of trouble, and you will receive strength to stand and stamina to endure the trials.

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (I Timothy 4:12-13)

This analysis and discussion will be continued, Lord willing. . . .