Root on Transformation vs. Change

“Modernity,” according to Root, “is the constant process of speeding things up.”1  Under the accelerating forces of modernity, human beings and communities are constantly scrambling to keep up with the rapid rate of change, leading to increasing levels of anxiety and depression.  Root illuminatingly contrasts change with transformation:

“Change is almost always considered to be some kind of growth, and in late modernity that which grows must continually grow.  Modernity is about change because it is about growth.  It takes a lot of work, and a whole different imagination, to disconnect change from growth.  Untying the two leads to something completely different:  transformation in the Spirit.  Being the church is about transformation, not change.  Though on first blush these seem synonymous, transformation and change are quite different.

Transformation, in the Christian tradition, comes from outside the self, relating to the self with an energy beyond the self.  Because transformation comes from an energy outside the self, it invites the self into the new as a gift, as grace.  It demands no increase for continuations, no energy investment to receive it.  Transformation is the invitation to grace; it comes with an arriving word, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).  Transformation is not the necessity to speed up but the need to open up and receive.  Change, on the other hand, comes from within the self.  Change makes the self into something new, using the power and effort of the self:  it is produced by the energy of the self.

Transformation and change have significantly different relationships to time.  Change seeks to catch up and possess time.  Transformation is an experience of encountering the fullness of time.  It is to feel a resonance, not speeding up to change but remaining open to transcendence.”2

  1. Andrew Root, The Church in a Secular Age: Keeping Sacred Time against the Speed of Modern Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2021), 14.
  2. Root, Congregation in a Secular Age, 14-15.

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