Sunday, June 03, 2007

9.5 Theses

Notice: Faithful millinerd readers, please dust off your senses of humor and take the following post with the requisite grain of salt.

Avery Dulles once critiqued George Lindbeck for conceding to much to postmodernism (here), and George Lindbeck took the opportunity to clarify. He succeeded admirably, to Dulles' satisfaction (scroll down here).

More recently, John Caputo is given a similar opportunity. A colleague gives a lucid presentation of the Gospel (here), and then critiques Caputo for obscuring such clarity in his writings. Rather than come clean - Caputo instead apes Derrida at his worst and fumbles the ball (here). Does he think he's being courageous? Postmodern castrati indeed.

Apostles of Ambiguity, this is just too much. I have heard my Tetzel. Where is my Wittenberg door?

1. I'll say it again: He who marries the spirit of the age will soon become a widower. Do those who married postmodernity realize their spouse is in a nursing home?

1.5 Christians who cater their theology to accommodate deconstruction are comparable to sub-rate CCM bands who copy Green Day five years after they've ceased being cool. They'll sell, but to a subset of evangelicalism who want to be "relevant" - which is the only group they'll ever be relevant to.

2. Yes Paul said he sees through a glass darkly - but he still saw. Don't forget to keep reading.

2.5 Paul did not end his speech at the Areopagus by saying "the Unknown God" is a great idea, sorry I bothered you. Nice statue. Can I have a copy?

NEW! 2.75 At least John Shelby Spong holds a position.

3. If you're reacting to a bad experience with evangelicalism, I'm sorry. Please, stop, take a deep breath, and learn the tradition instead of reacting to a truncated (but vivid) fragment of the Christian heritage. Learn, forgive, move on. You can do it.

NEW! 3.5 A new translation has revealed what was actually the last temptation of Christ. Returning our Lord to the temple mount, Satan said: "Obfuscate whatever remains of classical church teaching in American Evangelicalism and you'll get a book deal, multiple panel appearances, and an exponential increase in blog traffic."

The offer was declined.

Revised! 4. Yes, God is at work in the world already. That doesn't mean the church needs to be like the world. The best thing the church can do for the world is to be the church, not regurgitate graduate school seminar room talk from 1985.

NEW! 4.5 Wrestling with the difficult questions of the Christian life (the eternal destiny of non-Christians, the reliability of the Bible, church hypocrisy, etc.) does not constitute a movement. It's called normative Christian maturation. It is risky business, but followed through, opens into holy mystery and stronger, more nuanced faith. Abandoned, this process can lead to faith's termination. Perpetuating those questions indefinitely, however, is another thing entirely: Frozen adolescence.

NEW! 4.75 POP QUIZ! What is wrong with the following Biblical quotation? "Seek and you shall seek."

Revised! 5. Protestantism's only hope is to cling to its birthright, a passionate focus on the written Word of God, the unique, authoritative avenue to the Word of God in Christ. Protestants are an order of the written Word (in very sad condition) within God's woefully divided church. Our guide in stewarding this threatened charism is not the "spirit of protest" but the Holy Spirit. There's a difference.

NEW! 5.5 Tom Oden is right: "A center without a circumference is just a dot, nothing more. It is the circumference that marks the boundary of the circle. To eliminate the boundary is to eliminate the circle itself. The circle of faith cannot identify its center without recognizing its perimeter."

Revised! 6. Yes, we all know what big words like hermeneutics mean. The answer to the dilemma that the science of interpretation poses is not chaos, nor a license for whatever you want the Bible to mean, but the definitive community of interpretation of the historic church. No, this does not answer every question, but it rules many fruitless questions out.

6.5 Speaking of big words, consider this one: "And." It's especially helpful when confronted with polarizing rhetoric shortsighted enough to suggest one must choose propositional/factual truth or narrative/aesthetic truth.

7. It does not "puncture the hegemony of logic" to deny the central tenets of the Christian faith. The central tenets of the Christian faith do a fine job of that already. It is not humility to deny what God has done by impenetrable obscurity masquerading as "nuance." It is pride.

7.5 To correct abuses of rationality (which are legion) by neutering epistemology is like correcting poor carpentry by outlawing tools.

NEW! 7.75 The most radical postmodern epistemology appears numbingly Newtonian next to the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 8: You can't know this kind of knowledge (verse 3), this Knowledge knows you.

8. Heresy is boring, not exciting because it eviscerates mystery. If you're attracted to heresy because it makes you feel naughty then that's kinda creepy. If you're attracted to it because you don't want to "limit God," then the religion that serves a God who became a particular first-century Palestinian Jew might not be for you.

NEW! 8.5 If religion without doctrine suits you, consider Shintoism.

9. Negative (a.k.a. apophatic) theology is not a new idea. What's new is removing it from its context withing positive theology and until it leaves you without a Gospel.

9.5 And by the way, apophatic theology does not apply to ethics.