2.24.2009

This post is for Andrew Smith and all those who once agreed with him...

So, there was this one conversation, this one time.

It was about the word dinner, as applied to sunday. Some people, not saying who, think that on Sunday, the word dinner magically changes to represent the meal directly after church, which is, on all other days, called LUNCH.

I think this is silly. And I had, and still have, a good argument as to why it is a ridiculous use of language, but I thought that maybe I would provide a little anecdotal evidence for those who remain unconvinced:

This past Sunday I went to lunch at the house of a couple in our church.  I went with two friends, and this couple really wanted us to meet their kids who, just like us, are college students.  We were all very excited, especially the nice woman who had created a masterpiece of a meal.  But, in a strange turn of events, she gets a phone call from her son, saying that unfortunately when she said "Sunday dinner," they took it to mean what it literally means--the evening meal.  Perhaps if she had said Sunday lunch things would have worked out.  So, the kids never showed, and we got to enjoy even more food than we anticipated.  I had a little convo with her about her use of the word "dinner" and "supper" on sundays, we went over the history of it, and the age group that generally uses it.  I understand all of this. However, pragmatically, if the older, midwestern generation wants to communicate with the younger generation with greater clarity--Dinner is an evening meal, Lunch happens around noon, and Supper is only to be used interchangeably with Dinner. 

End of story.

2.12.2009

A Comparison of Responses

Apparently, as humans, we have a tendency to overreact, overcorrect, and overrespond. Perhaps this explains huge paradigm shifts throughout history, and most recently the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism (not to oversimplify it or anything :)).  This train of thought started today in my my Contemporary Issues class as we dialogued about moral relativism.  

Dr. Smith told a story about sitting under two professors while in grad school, a couple of overt moral relativists.  One was an African American woman, the other was a Jewish feminist.  He, at certain times, would engage in conversation with these women, asking questions and prodding at the root of their convictions.  Once he expressed to one of the women that he was surprised by her moral relativity.  She was equally surprised at his surprise, and asked, "And why does this surprise you?"  He answered by telling her that he would assume there were definitely somethings that she would see as moral absolutes, rape, for instance.  She replied, "Well, if that is true, then why isn't rape within marriage illegal?"  To which he replied, "Well, if it isn't, I think it should be."  At this point his professor got uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation and said, "I'd love to talk to you about this sometime later."

After telling this story, he started talking about the history of relativism as a response to absolutism.  He said that it was his personal opinion (and one with which I tend to agree) that much of how these women got to this place of moral relativity is due to the misuse of absolutism in history.  After all, both of these women are part of a culture or race that have been, historically, overrun with prejudice and hate towards their people groups.  The disgusting institution of slavery and the holocaust run rampant with justifications on the basis of "moral absolutes."  And though there is such an obvious correlation between absolutist principle and gross misconduct, to insist that that there is a causation is to fall prey to a fallacy.  As I am reminded by my Intro to Psych professor, "Correlation does not imply causation."  

And this is true.

Moral relativism is not a valid conclusion following from the simultaneous existence of absolute principles and gross misconduct.  And though it seems and probably is natural to rebel against principles that in any way partook in social structures that served to demean, dehumanize, and destroy people based on race, that does not mean that we do away with principle altogether. What is does mean is that we stop misinterpreting principles that are, in fact, worth something and we rid ourselves altogether of those which serve no good purpose at all.

And now let me make my comparison.

In the same way that relativism is an invalid conclusion because its "causes" are really not causes at all, but correlations, so too with emergentism and those things that have "caused" it.  Some of the most obvious result of the emergent movement include a rejection of doctrine and an exodus from traditional church bodies.  It is my aim to use the above example to draw a sharp comparison between the overreaction of those offended by various absolutist principles and those (primarily within the emergent movement) who have also, seemingly, overreacted to the offense of "failed" doctrine and stagnant church bodies.

There is no doubt in my mind that the emergent movement is calling good things into question.  Why is the church not more concerned with social justice? With engaging culture? With using the arts, and thus our creative natures, to engage in acts of worship?  These, as I have mentioned much before, are valuable critiques, not to be ignored.  However, it does not follow that doctrine or the church structure itself are to blame for these things. Just because churches follow tradition and endorese very specifict doctrines within their bodies, we cannot thus imply that their lack of social conciousness or altruism is a result of the dogma they claim to adhere to.  

It is possible to ignore those things you don't want to deal with the implications of within your doctrine.  It is possible to ignore the mission of the Church.

It is possible misinterpret doctrine. It is possible to misinterpret "Church".

It is possible to have incorrect doctrinal statements.  It is possible to have incorrect views of what Church is intended to be.

Do we blame the doctrine?  Do we blame Church?

When we find absolutist principles that we don't concur with, we don't give up ethical systems all together.  We enact reform.  We change it.  We don't leave ethical studies, we engage them all the more to flesh out what exactly is right.

In the same way,
When we find doctrine that we don't agree with, when we find churches that seem dead.  When we find a part of our mission as believers that is absent from the every day lives of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ, we don't give up on doctrine. We don't give up on church. We don't give up on people.  What an overreaction that would be, and is.

I suppose my charge is to the emergents (and the relativists alike), don't overreact. 

Stay.
Help.
Enact change from within.
Don't allow those who would misuse truth to triumph. 
Don't reject truth.
Reclaim truth.

To me this seems the most loving thing to do.  
Let's make this the "love movement" ok?


2.10.2009

on the stretch between the library and olson.

I thought to myself...

though story-telling, enticing rhetoric, and flashy points are often good tools for engaging people in the word.  It often masks the truth of what we are trying to relay, as if we need those tools to up the excitement factor of the actual content of our message.  

"It is the dogma that is the drama--not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspiration to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death--but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death.  Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe." --Dorothy Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church

Maybe I thought about this because Fergus MacDonald gave a great talk tonight about engaging scripture in a postmodern context.  He did it mostly in a monotone voice and he definitely wasn't there to entertain. But i was drawn in. I was drawn in by truth, not by rhetoric.  By scripture not by anecdotes. And by exposition, not entertainment.

Thanks Fergus.

2.06.2009

Kluck, round two.

Well, chapel today was a lot of repackaging of what was heard last night.  Again, we were graced with his observations and reasons for loving the church.

The Church is important. Very important (so important, in fact, that I've capitalized it). And now we are aware that Mr. Kluck believes this.  He loves expositional sermons. He loves structure. He loves worship. He loves authority. He loves the gospel. I don't dispute this. I love these things too.

BUT, if expositional sermons always focus on what was done for us on the cross and not at all on the implications of that as Christians who are called to act, to respond, then we have missed a huge part of the Gospel. (He was very ready to shrug off our duties as people to people outside the Church).  If structures are not serving the correct purpose or have lost the meaning and value they were intended to posses, then they need reform and reevaluation, truth is to be valued far above authority and structure (luckily, they are usually manifested in those contexts)--God's inspired Word, the Truth, is our highest authority. If we are missing any part of that, it is our duty to root that out and reclaim it.  The Gospel is the very foundation of who we are, how we think, and what we do, therefore it is to be protected above all else.  This means that distortions of the Gospel, most specifically within the emergent church must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny.  

While that is being done, in part, by Mr. Kluck, there is another aspect of protecting the Gospel that he, among many others (often including myself), have failed to do.  Knowing that we are depraved, acknowledging that we're prone to error, wouldn't it be prudent to utilize the critique (whether appropriately conducted or not) of the emergent church, to do a little self reflection and analysis--to recognize the parts of the Gospel that as fallen people we have forgotten to remember?  Perhaps a little humility from both sides?  There is no doubt in my mind that much of the action and stance (or intentional lack thereof) of what has become the increasingly loathed or loved emergent church is some good (or distorted good) pursued in the wrong way, and in the wrong context. I just think it would serve the purpose of unity and truth to find those similarities and work to flesh out where we have both gone wrong, because no doubt there is incorrect orthodoxy and orthopraxy on both sides.


Rebellion.

Tonight I attended a special seminar that Taylor offered by a guy named Ted Kluck.  He is one of the Co-Authors of "Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys That Should Be".  I attended, expecting something phenomenal, and I was sorely disappointed.  I wasn't dissatisfied with everything, but his knowledge seemed to be somewhat lacking for someone who wrote a book on the subject. I was disturbed all the more by his statement that "after writing the book he was done with the emergent church."

There are a vast array of reasons I was less than excited by his presentation, but the biggest one has to do with a very evident contradiction in his critique of the emergent church and the way he goes about reacting to it.  One of the 9 or 10 things he heralded as "observations" (which were, in most cases, true enough) was that the emergent Church has a distinctly rebellious undertone, that this rebellious ethic is sexy (which is by the way, such a sexy word to use to use when critiquing this movement because of the obvious unrest the word causes in the mind of conservative evangelicals).  

He laid the claim that the members of the emergent church are generally those who are rebelling against problems in churches and the structures of organized religion (valid, in many cases).  He did mention (briefly) that much of what they are rebelling against is a deficiency that can be seen in the way we (as evangelical churches) do or do not engage in culture. However, he did not spend much time on that really, and focused for the most part on the distinctives of the emergent church: savvy marketing (which does not seem to be bad to me, unless it is an end in itself), "saving the world" arrogance, seeker friendly megaplexes, heavy-handed left sided theology (as if the only good Christians are right wingers), etc.

All this to say, besides presenting what seemed to a quintessential example of a "straw man" argument against the emergent church, he also fell prey (in this presentation) to the very thing he was speaking against.  With all the talk of rebelling against something being such a bad idea, he sure did his fair share.  It seems logically inconsistent for him to be so heavily anti-rebellion, when, in fact, he is doing the same thing.  Instead of responding to logical inconsistencies, postmodern relative mindsets, and widespread theological misconstruction, he seemed to slam the Emergent church at its weakest points, without giving much thought to the strengths in the things that motivated the emergent church to act (whether they did that correctly or not).

 Just like the emergent church would have done a much greater service to the cause of Christ if they had responded and reclaimed the things they saw as problematic in the church instead of rebelled, so to could Mr. Kluck have done a greater service to the cause of unity in the body if he had responded to the things he saw, reclaiming those ideas of peace and reconciliation (which are fundamental to scripture) instead of rebelled.  I am not saying that he should have said that the Emergent church is "ok," but at least given value where value is due. Perhaps by bringing up the very valuable critique that the Emergent church has put forward, and responding to their methods for dealing with that critique.

I am not emergent either, but I do think that the emergent church has emerged (if you will), with some hugely important ideas that the evangelical church has left behind, but often have wrenched them out of context.  There are many truths that they have brought back into the light that, if put in the correct context (of the historical doctrine, dogma, and theology) could be that much more powerful in extending our hand to those who are sick, hungry, thirsty, shirtless, and searching.  

And side note: He was very much Mr. Reformed, and thats fine, however, we must remember that in order to be a "reformed" evangelical, a reformation had to happen (reform and rebellion seem to be similar things, one with a less unfortunate linguistic implications than the other, but both include recognizing a problem and working against it).  Interestingly enough, there were many things that the reformers got wrong that we have been working towards fixing today. But that requires conversation and intelligent critique, not rebellion against a whole cause, but instead responses to specific ideas within a cause. Often that's MANY responses, and sometimes only a few. Either way, we must be willing to enter into conversation about this. We must be willing to see even the beauty in retrieving the often lost ideas of peace and social justice, while still maintaining that we must be adamant about placing them in the correct context--the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A funny side note: I typed this whole thing, spelling "emergent" as "emmergent".  Perhaps I am now tipping my hand, showing you my lack of book knowledge on this subject. However, I, as most, can observe, and this was one facet of my observation this evening.

A clarifying side note: I am not rebelling against Mr. Kluck, merely critiquing the points that I thought could use some help. I do think that he is doing a valuable thing in reacting, i just don't think he is doing it in the correct manner/that tonight he did it in the correct manner.

We'll see him again in chapel tomorrow. Topic: valuing church authority. Right on. But i value truth more, i think. Sometimes, historically, churches, and church authority have gotten it wrong. Thank goodness there were people to call us out on it. Thank goodness the emergent church is calling us out. And thank goodness we don't have to eat up their methods or agree 100% with one side. Thank goodness its not an either/or. 

2.03.2009

Commit Already.

Today i was hunched over, running across the street towards the student union, when i looked up and saw a car about to hit me. So he slowed down, then i motioned for him to go, then he waited so i started to go, but he started to go just as soon as i did. We both were a bit indecisive, i suppose.

I was less frustrated by the fact that he almost hit me than by the little piece of paper in the corner of his windshield. A bumper sticker. Besides the painfully obvious fact that the sticky rectangular self-advertisement was not even on the bumper, there was also the little annoying (ooh, shooting myself in the foot if you've ever read my post about annoyance) fact that is was not, in any way, attached to the car. I mean, really, you buy a bumper sticker because you believe in a cause, but if you are so uncertain about whether or not you will believe in the cause you are advertising via your vehicle, why buy it in the first place? Perhaps bumper stickers just annoy me all together because the essential purpose of a bumper sticker is more of a self monologue than a conversation. If you believe in Jesus, or Obama, or pre-trib rapture, please don't tell me with your car. I have no way to respond, no way to ask questions, no way to tell if recently the car came under new ownership and is thus entirely misrepresenting the person who now occupies the driver's seat.

Interestingly enough, it is equally bothersome to me when a bumpersticker is permanently attached to a vehicle as it is if it just sits in the window, waiting to be removed.  The former instance seems to imply a self presentation tactic in which others must accept what you see to be true of yourself, driving, life, God, etc, and leaves no room for humility.  But on the other hand, if you can't even commit to putting a bumpersticker in your window, then how can you even commit to an idea at all?  Perhaps the temporary bumpersticker user attempts to remedy the prideful aspect of the bumpersticker by showing that their beliefs could be changed as quickly as a hand could remove a slip of paper from the dashboard, as long as someone would present a good case. Eh. 

OR MAYBE, the whole point of a bumper sticker and its permanent nature is to show that there are some things that are and will always be true of you and the way you see the world (what a silly way to show this).  Therefore, the whole idea of just placing a bumper sticker in your window to be taken out at a moments notice is self-defeating. Using something permanent in a transient manner.  Good idea, it just doesn't work, and it gives way less credibility to whatever the idea is that your are trying to purport.

All this to say, if you have a bumper sticker, you better be REAL ready to defend and live by the words or phrase that sit on your bumper permanently. And if you have a bumper sticker sitting, unattached to the car, maybe you should consider why you can't bring yourself to adhere it to the car in such a way that if you were to attempt to remove it, loads of forrest green paint would be removed with it.

Just a thought i had when i almost got hit by the most indecisive (in terms of driving AND ideas) person in history. (hyperbole)


What an odd way to re-enter the blog community. With talk of bumperstickers.
silly really.