In their On the Moral Nature of the Universe, Nancey Murphy and George Ellis say, “The church is a laboratory for imagining and practicing new forms of social life.” What do they mean by this?
Our first thought might be to take this claim absolutely. Regardless of the background, regardless of the catalog of forms of social available, the church’s calling is to be creative, coming up with new ones. On this view, the point is to be new. This is not their claim, however.
This quote is from a section of their text that examines the preponderance of violent and coercive forms of social life. Wherever we look, we see forms of social life that exemplify greed, lust, vengeance, envy, etc. The church, recognizing these social realities, not just out there, but also in our own midst, is called to own up to these realities and experiment with other ways of doing life together, through the power of Christ. By discovering and then practicing these new forms of social life, we not only find a blessing for ourselves, but show the world another way to live. Who knows – some might find it attractive and come investigate the life we’ve found in Jesus.