Friday, July 6, 2007

review 3--a different kind of christian

Picking up where I left off in the last one (there are only three more journal entries and a small story in the chapter, so, courage :-)), the next entrie is about theology and how 'modern' it is. His claim is that theology in it's love of systems and ordered schemas and outlines is different from the Bible, which seems to consist most in stories and poetry and letters. He does say that he seeks "not to criticize but to observe", and that he is not against systematic theologies.

There may be something in saying that Bible consists of stories and poetry and letters, but we really can't say that such is only what it consists of. When God came down to the mountain and Moses went up it, God did not give him a novel or a set of short stories, He have him laws and rules. When Jesus preached from the mountain, he gave them lists of things that were also applied to real life ("Blessed are" some kinds of people, "You have heard it said...But I say" to act or not act in certain ways, "When you pray, or fast, or give, do it this way but not another way").

I would think that few people mistake systematic theology for all of the Christian life. I think it was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that when the Bible tells us to feed the poor, it doesn't provide up recipes and cooking lessons. We know very well that "thou shalt not steal" is a command that must be applied to real life.

The next is again a somewhat strange entry. He claims that "All of our Christian Institutions--seminaries, radio stations, denominations, Bible studies, and so--are in fact modern inventions". We are not given any support for such a claim, only the statement that it is true.

But is it? We are told in Acts that the Berean believers studied the scriptures to make sure that what they were being taught was really true, and the they seemed to have been hightly thought of by the writer of Acts (is it maybe telling the Paul does not write a corrective letter to Berea, maybe because he didn't need to?). If Mclaren means Bible studies as simply studying the Bible, such a thing could be traced back at least to Acts. As well, for quite a bit of time, people may not have studied the Bible themselves much due to, for example, Catholic ideas that it shouldn't be put in the languages of the people, the cost of getting a copy before the printing press, and the movement to put the Scriptures in the hands of common people that people like Tyndale fought and died for.

Radio stations is, well, silly. We didn't have the tech to send out radio waves until fairly recently. Denominations are not so very new, either, and if by seminars we could mean places where people could go to study scripture more thoroughly, then that would itself go back well before the modern era, I think.

Dan tells us that the world outside the church is become more and more postmodern, but we are not told how, or what that means.

The next part of the chapter is a story, where Dan speaks as a conference, and disagrees with another speaker on a panel where he participated. The overall message, I think, of this story is that his new 'postmodern' insights give him hope over the modern 'pessimistic' speaker he is contending against. While the 'modern' person saw something as an example of syncretism, Dan saw it as an indictment against a 'modern' Christianity that is not 'holistic' and not 'open to the mystical'. The person being talked about, a strange in a car one of them had seen, was not there to clarify or correct either of them.

The last journal entry is short. Again, the idea is given that modernity may have 'severly distorted, deformed' Christianity, but that we can't see it. But it's only a unsupported accusation, as of yet. There is also the idea that while 'modern' Christianity may have worked a few years, or a few hundred years, ago, it may not work for the future.

This is frustrating for me. We are being told that things are 'modern' when I can't think of them as being that. We are being told that we are becoming 'postmodern', when we are not being told what the heck that means. We have been told that we 'post--' certain characteristics that are themselves still very much with us. At least so far in this book, I feel as if I'm being told to accept something which cannot be adequately supported as reality.

No comments: