Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Not unlike Reinhard Hutter's Bound to Be Free, Reno's In the Ruins of the Church is increasingly helpful for Protestants, despite the fact that the author is Protestant no more. Allow me to string together a few of his most perspicacious points:
1."We need to realize that the real problems of our Christian vocation in the contemporary world do not stem from the supposed archaic irrelevance of the prescientific religious worldview of the Bible or the naive prescientific supernaturalism of the Christian system of belief. Quite the contrary, our difficulties, personal, pastoral, and theological, stem from the fact that Christian proclamation bites very deeply into our anxieties about our own lives. The gospel is about what concerns us most, ourselves, both in our dignity as persons and in our fragility, but far from reassuring and affirming us, the gospel threatens to judge and change us" (48)...

2. "[O]bjections to traditional Christian moral teachings are motivated far more by the fear of personal change than by considered examination of the sociological evidence, or by careful calculations of social utility, or by a disciplined reflection on the conditions for personal well-being. The objections boil down to shocked expression of dismay: Surley you cannot expect me to become different! Our goal is satisfaction and affirmation, not something so destabilizing as redemption" (59)!

3. Regarding the "hermeneutical task of bridging the distances that separate us from the Word of God... The most important and debilitating distance should be understood spiritually. For all our worries about history, as well as those about the limitations of finite language and culturally conditioned texts, our difficulties in relation to the biblical text are not historical or metaphysical. More precisely, those difficulites are but subsets of the fundamentally spiritual reasons that paying attention to Scripture is such a challenge" (166).
In other words, while genuine intellectual difficulties with the Christian worldview (1), moral demand (2), and Scriptural interpretation (3) surely exist, in almost all cases so do genuine intellectual responses. But the reason these apologetic attempts are often ineffective may not be because they're inadequate, but because they only scratch the surface of a much deeper issue: The threat the gospel poses to our supposedly inalienable right to self-governance. That is, the real problem is a spiritual one.

It is as offensive a proposition as it is familiar.