Virtually There

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An Experiment in Conversation

I don’t know why I do it. Why I EVER get into these conversations. But I have a friend who has to be one of THE most conservative (almost fundamentalist. I say, “almost fundamentalist” because I think there would be some things that the fundamentalists teach that he wouldn’t go along with) Christians you could ever find. I’ve never PERSONALLY met someone AS dogmatic as him.

We had this conversation that started out slightly light hearted but eventually broke down with him basically, saying, “I don’t care. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what any author says. This is what the Bible teaches.” I said, “Yeah, but what about this scripture that teaches something that is the opposite of what you say the scriptures teach?” “Well, I don’t care. All I know is what Jesus said and he said…by the way, what is that scripture you are talking about suppose to mean anyway? I don’t know what exactly that means.”

I said, “If you don’t care that there are other scriptures that speak against your position, don’t you think that it is YOUR responsibility to look into all the relevant texts to see if your position is what the scriptures in fact teach?”

“Well, I just don’t care Brandon. I just don’t care.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff said this:

“Thou shall not take cheap shots. Thou must not sit in judgment until thou has done they best to understand. Thou must earn thy right to disagree. Thou must conduct thyself as if Plato or Augustine, Clement or Tertullian were sitting across from the table—the point being that it is much more difficult (I don’t say impossible) to dishonor someone to his face.”

Now, aside from being disrespectful of me personally, as to blatantly disregard my views, (though that sounds as if my views are something that attach themselves externally to my being and so therefore, they don’t reflect myself) this is what some scholars term, “the noetic effects of sin.” In a nutshell? Basically, a seeing of what you only want to see. Not what you CAN’T see, but what you want to see.

Now truth, to a large extent, is perspectival. In Bible school one professor, (Richard Hanner at Christ for the Nations, [CFNI]) said, “Grey areas in the Bible do not mean you don’t take a stand.” And though many adhere to different positions in scripture (there is probably more that we agree upon than not) the problem arises when we insist upon our understanding (not being open to other interpretations, even adapting them to scripture or theology) as THE interpretation of scripture on a given issue.

See, the ironic thing about my friend is that he claims that HIS view is THE biblical view (and I’m one of those soft-bleeding heart lobbies), yet most of the Christian church does not side with him on this issue. The majority of those who would be in agreement with him are Pentecostals and some evangelicals. Orthodox don’t really have a position on the matter. But Roman Catholics and Charismatics and many mainline churches would basically be on agreement on the essentials of the matter. Many evangelicals (though there has not be much talk about the issue until recently) are in agreement with RC’s. Yea, it is not only this, but it is the whole idea that says, “I don’t read the Bible through tradition or what have you. I’m just a Christian and the Bible is all I know.” But that is not true for this issue as it is for most other issues along the theological spectrum that Christians fall along. As Jack Deere said (to paraphrase and you will want to see his "Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit" in that link), “There is no such thing as pure objectivity when it comes to reading the Bible.”

I’ve heard that the world was a smaller place because of globalization. But what kind of world do you live in when all that is truth is your own little interpretation that is open to no one but me, myself and I. Small indeed.

The issue, by the way, was the place of Christianity among the world religions and the uniqueness of Christ for salvation. But the REAL issue was about narrow-mindedness and the lack of respect for others as we converse.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kirk Franklin's Newest CD "Hero"

You know? I like Kirk Franklin. I bought his newest CD and there is a song, entitled, “Imagine Me,” a song about what Christian theology has normally thought of as “sanctification.”

Now I don’t mean for this blog to be blog that is entirely critical of this song as I’m sure when Kirk Franklin was writing the lyrics, he was not opening up systematic theology books to gage the extent of the theological correctness of that which he writes about. As a matter of fact, I think it would take away from the artistry and creativity of where he starts when he writes and much of what this album is about—his own life experiences—as is the case with much of what I term “black gaaaaaspel music.”

So Kirk Franklin is following tradition here. Like many of the spirituals written under chattel slavery, Franklin writes from the heart about life, pain, and hope for a brighter tomorrow. What else do we have to rely on when the dark nights of the soul smash down on us like tsunami? This, as a matter of fact, is what the Old Testament biblical authors called the children of Israel to do when they were in Egypt or when other nations attacked them and overtook them—to remember. Remember the promises of God.

But this is also where Franklin’s song may be at its weakest as well. When God calls us to remember, it is not merely to remember OURSELVES, but to remember what God has in store for ALL of creation. By this, I don’t simply mean our own psychological selves--- being freed from sins, passions and dispositions towards sin. What I mean would include, the larger vision of the church—what Brueggemann has called the “finished church.”

Brueggemann, in his book,

“Texts Under Negotiation”

says that,

“…the church is only an anticipation of the full, promised community of the whole world. It ill becomes the church to announce its own expected completion, because the church itself is not the goal of God’s creation.”

But it isn't only this as well. One day, the whole of creation will no longer be bound by what Brueggeman calls,

“fixed patterns of domination, no longer caught in the endless destructive power struggles…a world no longer bent on hostility but under God’s presence as a place where creatures “no longer hurt or destroy.”

The text for this is not somewhere to be found in Revelation (in completion and consummation) but is found in Gen 9: 8:17. God rethinks and recares for the world (cosmos) and the rainbow servers to remind God of his promises.

Again, it probably was not Franklin’s desire to get into some full-fledged theology of renewal. None-the-less, though I personally think he is on target, his vision is limited.