In regard to my last post, it was long; but I wanted to put something out there for personal reference for the future, and also identify the kind of theology I am responding to when referencing the classical Calvinist complex. But in the end; so what, who cares, why does this even really matter, isn’t it all really about just loving on Jesus and loving on others?
In this post I want to address the movement from academic Christian theology to practical (so called) or pastoral Christian reality that takes place in the body life (or is supposed to) of the local evangelical church. The rest of this post will speak from my personal experience and observations that I have made over the years.
Steven Boyer and Christopher Hall write, in their book The Mystery of God, “… Those who do not love The Lord deeply will never be much concerned with the details of his truth.” Ouch! I think this cuts to the chase of where I want to head. But I also want to nuance this a little further; I don’t think the lack of ‘zeal’, shall we say, among evangelicals for pursuing the ‘details of his truth’ can totally be reduced to a lack of love for The Lord, per se—instead, I think another layer to the problem is the imbibing of the cultural psychology by the evangelical church that is also at least a symptom of the problem (and if I think about it, this would come back to a lack of love for the Lord and to a love for the world instead). We live in a Postmodern culture, the culture who operates with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and an incredulity towards any claims of meta-narratives (pace Lyotard). In short, we inhabit a culture that has embraced (even evangelicals and Fundamentalists) a mood of normative relativism, and a theory of truth based upon coherentism and pragmatism (if it “works” for me it is true for me). And even less concrete, we inhabit the information overload technology age; and so trying to nail down concrete correlative reality and truth in our age seems as slippery, for some, as it did when the printing press was invented and the age of the written word and mass production of books began to shape the pre-critical (becoming critical) world.
So how does the above sketched scenario have any relation to that long article I wrote on ‘Mullerian classical Covenant Theology’? Considering the above; I think our attention spans for things has been largely fragmented by the way that we receive information, and try to interpret it–which can make us feel overwhelmed and defeated before we ever even start the process of trying to critically engage with ideas; and so we just don’t. I think that many of us think that the nuts and bolts of the varied theological constructs and biblical interpretations that we encounter either 1) all have elements or components of truth in them, or 2) are so idiosyncratic to said theologian (or school of thought), or biblical exegete that it makes it rather obtuse to presume that one “Pope” has any more authority than another “Pope” (so the conciliar age all over again). And so given the kind of uncritical acceptance of the relativistic mode that we all have imbibed to one degree or another, it makes it almost an inane prospect to consider that one theological truth claim or interpretation (even as a project) has any more luster to it than the next one. So we end up taking a rather passive approach to things (or its polar opposite), and given the more “important” things, like loving on Jesus and loving on others, the ideas that fund what in fact that actually means (i.e. getting beyond the pragmatism of pietism) have very loose shrift in our lives with the rationalization that ‘I don’t really need to know how the nuts and bolts come together, I just need to know that they do, and I am happy to live in the oblivion of my own piety.’
Do I think, then, that everybody (who is “able”) needs to be a Christian scholar? Actually, yes! I know that it is a sacrifice, but to me, the alternative is actually idolatry (and that’s not just because I am wired the way that I am—I hate when people say that!). And the posture the Christian ought to adopt is one of critical realism; that is that we should operate with the attitude and principled chutzpah that we can know the truth, we can have a growing grasp of the ‘nuts & bolts’, as we continually engage in the kind of repentant and ever growing thinking that we have been called to as Christians. And the reason we can operate with this kind of audacity of thought and life as Christians is because we have a God who knows how to communicate, and has done so through the accommodation and humiliation of his own life for us in Christ, that we might know him. So instead of being relativistic, passivistic, or pragmatistic in regard to our approach of engaging in thinking theologically and Christianly; we need to be bold and think, and in that process, be humble enough to be wrong, and grow that way.