Similarly, the notion that Jesus of Nazareth was both and God would have been totally implausible for those who grew up with him and knew him. It was particularly true for those who watched him executed on a Roman cross.
But plausibility structures do change. They certainly changed for the disciples after they met the resurrected Jesus.
For many years following, believing in the resurrected Jesus resulted in persecution. Over several centuries, however, the idea that Jesus is the resurrected Son of God grew in plausibility. It ultimately became widely accepted. So much so, to think otherwise was not only implausible but reason for persecution.
Australian Plausibility Structures
By contrast, contemporary Australian plausibility structures dismiss not only the notion of Jesus being the Son of God, but of God altogether.
There was a time, not that long ago, when ‘normal’ was synonymous with Anglo Celtic culture. The plausibility structure of British Protestantism dominated religious, cultural and social life in Australia . Some people can still remember those days, but they are long gone.
The average person in Australia today has very limited theological and historical knowledge. Yet, they have made up their mind, or have had it made up for them about all things pertaining to God, Jesus and things religious. They live in the plausibility structure of secularism and there are clear expectations of what to believe.
The plausibility structures of Australian society have changed dramatically over the past 50 years or so. We are no longer a predominantly white, Christian society. Today Australia is a mixture of multicultural, multi-faith and non-religious. We are a secular society that has pushed religion, and particularly its inherited religions forms, to the margins.
It wasn’t that long ago when the community caricatured Christians as society’s moralists. Some wouldn’t got to church believing they were not moral enough. That has all changed. In today’s progressive, secular society, Christians are caricatured as immoral for not accepting the current plausibility structures regarding sexuality.
These changes in plausibility structures have profound implications for the church, and its ministry and mission.
Most of our theology. and its undergirding framework, emerged in a different era, on a different continent, in a different context addressing issues that no longer exist. Our inherited Protestant plausibility structures transported to Australia with the First Fleet, are no longer plausible to the majority of Australian.
This secular turn has rendered much of our witness irrelevant, ineffective and counterproductive. Although it may have once, our framing of the gospel no longer makes sense. This is not the fault of the gospel. It is about the way we tell the story. We need to find new way of telling the old story within the current plausibility structures.
This is not a call to accommodate to the culture. To be salt and light surely implies we are to challenge the prevailing plausibility structures. However, be a challenge we still need to communicate and to communicate we need to operate within the existing plausibility structures.
This is what God did, Through the incarnation, God became a human being and lived within the plausibility structures of the day. From there, God purposefully and profoundly set about transforming them.
It was tortuous journey, no doubt. It led to crucifixion and death. But that isn’t the end of the story. It culminated spectacularly in the resurrection. When Father raised Jesus from the dead it dramatically, sensationally and unexpectedly confronted the plausibility structures of the time and throughout history. The world changed forever.
The need for Grace and Wisdom
This is the challenge the church faces today. How do we inhabit the plausibility structures and transform them from within? It will take a transformation of our hearts and minds. But that has been the journey of God’s people throughout history.
May God grant us the grace and wisdom we need to communicate within the plausibility structure of our day and challenge them at the same time.