Monday, January 29, 2007

Still Chewing...Perseverance Redux and Expansion

The emergents go marching along?

Well, I hope you'll bear with me as I use this blog to sort out some of the issues that keep cropping up within the confines of my own little mind. The question of the day (of the year?) for me sits tangentially to the tension we maintain between freedom and holiness, antinomianism and grace, question and faith, and to a lesser extent, redemption and damnation. These questions are leading me to take some of my old convictions out of the closet and examine them with a new mind. This practice is always useful, and as I employ it, I am astonished to find that the old ideas are more beautiful, applicable and rich than I remembered.

Let me just be blunt. Here's the crux: some of the dialogue I've been privy to in private and some of the blogs I've seen written publicly have celebrated the Christian's freedom to question the tenets of our faith and has unraveled the assumption that "I don't know" is an unacceptable answer to theological questions. This is good. As we open ourselves to the understanding and the appropriation of truth, the Holy Spirit makes it available. We need to shed that arrogance that always searches for understandable concrete answers in order to understand the truth we do have. (How's that for a Zen-Christian mantra?) It isn't so much that concrete answers don't exist as that we so often wish to use the concrete and finite to buttress faith in the abstract and Infinite. Sometimes, believing precedes seeing.

The other side of the coin is that some of the same dialogue has shifted from celebrating the freedom to doubt to celebrating the doubts themselves and even to a unashamed rejection of the means to having those doubts resolved. (i.e., Prayer, Scripture, Meditation, etcetera. They are all elements found in a Christians "survival kit" for planet earth.) It's a subtle shift. In my opinion, it's beyond insipid. But I'm afraid it has some pernicious implications.

It is easy for the Christian to fall away from truth, but a Christian can't fall away from their human nature. What was a gentle encouragement toward honestly has morphed into a surprisingly structured philosophy that disparages the Church, disavows prayer and scripture and undermines the individual's responsibility for others. I may be poised on the brink of a complete and undeniable over-reaction, but I have dark visions of a Jackbooted Monolith that will not be questioned rolling heedlessly over any Christian who lays claim to any truth at all.

I'm afraid this is going to be the legacy of the Emerging Church. Wouldn't it be odd if we all found ourselves experiencing religious persecution not in the secular universities of the world, but in the pews of our own churches? I forsee a time when we will all long for the days when a white man in a suit had the courage to tell us the truth.

This whole entry kind of left me after the first sentence. It's amazing what I find in my head sometimes.


Carla said...

I need more Susan in my life.

Seriously. I always enjoy conversations with you. I guess putting a voice to my thoughts and bouncing them off yours helps me to process through what it is that I think.

That's a terrible sentence. But maybe it makes some sense.

Brian T. Murphy said...

hey su.

is some of this directed at me?

kristen said...

I've been mulling about this today, and I think maybe a good way to judge our questioning/doubts is their fruit. There's one part of the Westminster Confession where it describes the mystery of a doctrine producing worship. I think if the end of our questioning leads us to worship, there's nothing to worry about. We've been stripped of arrogance and pride in knowing all the answers and at a place were we can truly worship that God is God and we are not.

If our questioning and doubts overtake us to the point that prayer, mercy, communing with the saints, etc. are left behind, is that good? Can it bring us to worship if it strips away the means God uses to work in his church?

Joining in as you think out loud.

Robert said...

Great post. You nailed it!

Leave it to humans to create all new forms of legalism and fundamentalism. The war of legalism is not in how we dress or worship or drink or cuss (or not), but rather in our thought life. What is love without truth? It's vanity. ...and we are simply patronizing one another. Want some Kool-Aid?

susan said...

Carla, I'm glad you are my friend. I can use some friends right about now.

BTM, thanks for the conversation. You're always a little bit of a conundrum to me.

Kristen, I think that's a very good plumbline. "If a question leads us to worship, it's nothing to worry about." There's some real wisdom there.

Robert, I've missed you in blogland. And yes, I do want some Kool-Aid. Love without truth is vanity. And flattery. And yuk. I pray that God will give me the grace and the wisdom to hear and acknowledge truth and make it a part of my life.


Brian T. Murphy said...

nice to chat.

I'm a bit of a conundrum to myself.

CK said...

Interesting post, Susan! It sparked some thoughts of my own, which you can read, if you like, on my blog. (I decided to post my thoughts there because they kind of digress from yours.) Later, tater.