Americans love innovation, and the more novel the better. Several facets of our society, technology, business, sports, music, television, etc., confirm this trend every year. As a people we are constantly seeking, poking, and prodding for the new, the better, the flashier, the more compelling. While innovation is the engine that drives needed and necessary advances in a wide range of disciplines and industries, what happens when a technology or idea resists? The simple answer is death…usually.
Numerous ideas and technologies that were once cutting edge now fill the proverbial and literal garbage dump. The individual reasons for why are legion, but the central cause is they ceased to be a compelling product. Successive generations of users, believers, fans, and fanatics simply faded, drifted, or were attracted to other things instead of reinvesting. This trend is relatively harmless when considering gadgets, more so when it applies to wallets, but what about a central tenet of one's faith?
While innovation is the lifeblood of American consumerism, conservation and consistency is the lifeblood of orthodox Christianity. No upgrade, tweaking, or re-tooling is necessary when talking about or presenting that most central of ideas in Christianity, namely the Gospel. Nonetheless, the desire to innovate theologically and doctrinally is resilient, especially in our time. There are those who believe they are more apt at communicating the narrative of salvation than Jesus of Nazareth and his Father.
The motivation is to remain relevant, among other things. Products and ideas are constantly dealing with an influx of data, components, consumer wants, and market needs. The best way to account for and overcome these variables is to adjust, tweak, rethink, and re-envision. This works for consumer products why not for theological teachings? Is this something Americans now expect from sermons, theology, and the Gospel? Does the Gospel need innovation on its side to be effective in the contemporary world? These are all pertinent questions, whether we want to admit it or not.
However, simplicity is at the heart of the Gospel, not innovation. This is something totally lost on revisionists, contemporary or otherwise. They believe the Gospel has lost its vitality because its branding is outdated, or its compelling voice has been degraded due to a monotone message. Thus, they tweak, prod, poke, and innovate producing a Gospel fit for contemporary society, but devoid of any fundamental truth. Thus, the notion to re-package the Gospel, to make it more relevant, may seem prudent, but in reality it only always weakens its argument.
Just because the Gospel's message is something many, even the revisionists, do not want to hear or buy-into, does not mean it lacks relevance. Relevance is not always determined by pragmatic efficiency, or driven by wants of the masses. Sometimes it is determined by the efficacy of truth contained. While this may be lost on an age craving for something new and innovative at every turn, its purveyor must remain committed. The Gospel does not need innovation. Rather, humanity needs realignment, and the Church needs to reevaluate its commitment to promoting such ends, instead of innovating a product devoid of defect.