I started this blog one blog back and then added about 1500 words to the previous blog. I expect to add about 2000 words to this blog over the next few days, to rework its structure but to say the same things, just better. Watch this space, if you wish.
Bloggers are the pamphleteers of our day. It is pretentious beyond description to compare my blog to Tom Paine or Diderot. The comparison is remarkably unflattering to them but they would understand the point, I think. The pamphlet writers, including Franklin and Hamilton in this nation, put their thoughts on paper with help from the Editor-in-Common. That is, public opinion decided if they were important or just right. The blogger today uses a screen and internet. He/she gets more readers in a day than the pamphleteers and with more wide spread immediate contact.
What is the difference between being right and being important? An important message is right but is also outrageous, energizing, adrenalin pumping, culture changing. A religious message, a political slogan, an engineering formula, can be technically correct and thoroughly irrelevant.
Charles Wade, recently retired ED of the BGCT, often decried the bloggers (he meant Montoya and me, but you did not care and read us any way) as those who could set themselves up as experts on anything. Then he tried to enter the blogosphere, worked sporadically, poorly, superficially, and so confirmed his own thoughts, as well as those of the Minor Prophets on his premiership. He ought to get some credit for his attempt, even if he started late in the day and with transparent pomposity. Transparency is vulnerability for the inept.
The bloggers have the power of immediacy. We have the political forum of ideas instead of power. Indeed, we are shut out of power, so our ideas seep first out of the rocks of isolation. Then, purified, the force of the idea moves the rock formation over us and shoots up to the surface. We have the advantage of manueverability because we need not defend the indefensible. If we happen to be good writers, more the better, but literary adequacy is not our core force.
Although, frankly, I will pit my writing against any of the fellows put up against me yet. I am an independent musician, true to the music, not worried about commercial acceptability. I am an Indie Film maker, with not much money but all kinds of expression.
What do I want? This is a thoroughly modern question. I don’t even want your fear but those frightened to death of ideas reproach me most openly quite because I do not require anything of them.
Future Ring-Today (Continued)
Forget the Rules. They do not count any longer.
Or, perhaps, the game changes so completely, the rules count more than ever.
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or
it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.
Quoted by Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat, page 137.
The Church is chasing the slowest gazelle. The Church is the fastest lion.
Or, wait, no, the church is the slowest lion chasing the fastest gazelle.
Oh, no, the Church is so much and so many, it is all the lion’s pride and the gazelle’s speed.
So, what does the Church have to do with the previous blog about social conservatism? The Church is struggling out of the basest depths of conservatism as bigoted hatred, while wanting to maintain the clear core values of individual human worth.
The Church is weary of the partisan politics of hatred, while tentatively still in touch with its sense of outrage over mindless attacks on human life by proponents of irresponsible nihilism. Outrage is not a bad thing. We ought to argue vehemently with those who wish to save the whales while they turn a blind eye to unborn humans. Yes, there are more people than whales. Yes, whales are cool and important to the eco-system. I am pro-whale. A fetus is cool, too, and important to the eco-system.
The great danger for the Church is that which makes the Church dangerous to a culture. That is, the Church puts forth some doctrine/dogma/system of revealed religion. These are our propositions. When our propositions become the be-all, end-all, heretics (people who have better sense than to accept our propositions but no better sense than to tell us so) may become kindling.
The Christ put forward propositions. He even claimed He would found His Church on the correct basic pronouncement of His identifying propositions. No one can say from the testimony of Scripture or mainstream history that propositional identification does not matter.
The Church and Culture assume/insist on incarnational identification. That is, the Church assumes and Culture insists Christ-followers will so identify with the Christ personally/incarnationally as to offer humanity the better way(s), the Tao of the Christ. In Christian evangelism we tend to stress propositional identification, while in Christian missions, we might put the emphasis on incarnational identification. In a conformist/control culture, evangelism as proposition might take the fore. In a communal culture, missions as incarnational identification will take center stage. The argument becomes ridiculous when either group elevates its position as the spiritual ultimate.
In fact, Christianity is both propositional and incarnational. The propositional approach will be critiqued by culture as that which forces all to be alike. In fact, neither Incarnational Christianity or Propositional Identification force conformity, guarantee control or provide community, or there would not be a local church of some different stripe on every street corner or a Great Universal Church with a Proud Human Papa earnestly trying to enforce the Imperium on Humankind. Some commercial, social or political impetus must force conformity or enforce control. Religion cannot accomplish either purpose alone. This is the clearest argument I know for complete separation of Church and State. The State totally misunderstands the purpose of religion, and so codifies the propositonal, as it outlaws any incarnational aspects that might offend its sensibility.
Young Churchmen learn the propositions to the apparent satisfaction of their mentors. Then, the young Churchmen look around and begin to sing the old Peggy Lee song, "Is This All There Is?"
My scientist/inventor friend, Biff, argues the tenets of my faith are obvious and boring. Don’t back off there, Biff, you are at the point. It is obvious God wants us to be better people, to love others as we love ourselves and to avoid cynical hypocrisy as a life choice. It is quite boring to learn a catechism in order to repeat the same words over and over again, pandering to the local prejudices, outraging no one, quiescent to the religious establishment, reinventing the Christ in our image, affirming the absolute inerrancy (and so conforming power) of writings we have never held and will never see so that all the good little saints can be kept in line.
March 10, 2008-In fact, the Church is a double minded man, unstable in all its ways. The Church regards itself in a mirror but, straightaway, as it leaves the reflection, forgets what it sees.
The Church as Double-MInded Man may find itself in an auditorium rather than a sanctuary, manifesting itself as mall rather than a meditation garden. No matter, for the Church, unstable in all its ways, goes away from the glass forgetful and so forfeits three of the five ways of knowing; senses count for nothing in double mindedness, experience is empty for it knows no borders and memory is, well, forgotten.
So the Traditional, Modern, Post-Modern Church "knows" only two ways of knowing, of the five. The TMPM Church relies on authority and intuition. Little wonder the church is in conflict in the West, for authority often scorns intuition, while the "intuitive" may withdraw from the "authoritative."
The TMPM Church relies on the Expert so it may "know" with authority. The knowledge gained from authorities lines the aisles of Christian bookstores. The psychobabble section would make Dr. Phil wince at its Oprahized superficiality. Another section offers "authoritative" word on things the Christ said He did not know about with any precision.
Imagine how surprised Jesus must be in Heaven. His Dad would not tell Him but then He goes and tells Hal Lindsey and John Hagee.
A Churchy appeal to Authority is not new. In what we know as I Corinthians, Paul corrects the immensely correctable Corinthian church in its "dueling authorities" controversy. Some, Paul told them, say you are of Paul, some of Peter, some of Apollos, some claim to follow only Christ (I Corinthians 1:10-17). Imagine, before God the Holy Spirit through Paul mentions incest, gluttony, tongues speaking or even love, God the Holy Spirit through Paul chooses to offer words on unity made impossible by human appeals to authority by humans who appeal to human authority, with certain spiritual overtones.
Look to the other side of the aisle. There sit the intuitives. In the same way the Authoritatives need their Experts, the Intuitive Church requires the Success. This is the other aisle in the Christian bookstore, wherein we read about how this guy "did it." He caught suburbanized lightning in a demographic bottle, prayed harder, knocked on more doors, surveyed, preached better, got a few breaks along the way and achieved the American Church Dream. He was so full of grace, God adopted him as his own. He became annointed like no one since Paul.
The Intuitive knows, just knows, this fellow has a secret, which, if fully unencrypted, will enable his followers to reconcile their family, recover from substance abuse, corner the market, enjoy complete healthand "see the whole picture."
The Authoritative needs a Christianity/Church firmly set in a rationalistic world view, competitive with all the other rational systems, to assuage his own fears that he might be so wrong he appears ridiculous. The Intuitive needs the same reassurance, with a teaspoonful of mystery added.
The Authoritative mistake is Bibical in essence. That is, Christianity is not an easily verifiable rationalistic world view. There is nothing wrong with Rationalism or the Renassiasance or the Enlightenent, though I have much more trouble with the Romantics, like Voltairre and Rousseau. They are just so…so…so…French.
Sorry, I could not resist. Back to the point.
The Crisis of Inerrancy, for instance, is in its belly (for it has no meaningful soul) covered with rationalistic terms. The Bible is not just authoritative or reliable, it is complete historic, scientific and philosophical truth, claiming for Scripture in the 20th Century what the Christ neglected to claim for it in the first.
Yes, I know, Jesus told His hearers not to change the OT in any way (Matthew 5:17-20). What version of the printed page did our Lord hold that day? The Inerrantist, with his fearful inner need for Christianity as rationalistic world view imposes Modern, Western thought patterns on the first century Orient and so insists Abraham meet God as the Modern thinker meets God. Scripture is then codified such that it is scarcely recognizable to God its Creator.
Human values, it seems, cannot be derived from simple facts about human nature. Humans want different things at different times for different reasons. Yes, Man must have food and shelter but men deny themselves food and shelter for numerous reasons and are called Mahatma, the Great Soul. Man cannot educate/rehabilitate men into conformity by means of authoritative controls; that is, by promise of reward or threat of punishment. This is not religion, anyway.
Understand with me my great fear that Christianity as authoritative, rationalistic world view is not a religion so much as a way of life. The difference between religion and ethic (way of life), it seems to me, is that religion is a life that cannot be replicated from inside man to the original effect. That is, Christ died once for all. I could replicate His death but my patterned death would lack the original salvific effect for I am not God, or god, or one of many gods.
Simply put, I would rather be religious than merely ethical.
The Rational world view, from the Enlightenment to the Rationalists cum Romantics, sought to throw off stultifying tryanny, both sacred (in the Church as Inquisitor) and secular (the state as Divine Monarchy). Rationalists bask in individual rights, but set on the Maypole of human reason. When the Church needs the "expert" to offer "authority" because it forgets sense, experience and memory, it ceases its religious function and offers instead, only a kind of replicatable ethic, founded on good but ultimately devoid of God.
Morning in America,
you are not a lion or a gazelle,
but you must run to eat
or to escape the predator
all the same.
Did you start running from the lion today?
Or did you start looking for a deer’s hindquarters
the moment you saw light?
It is morning.
You better start running.
March 11, 2008-The ancients believed in a Triune Divinity, impersonal but present in all things. Truth, Good and Beauty were their Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Aristotle put forth his god-above-spirits, the Unmoved Mover, who was completely immaterial, impersonal, eternal and spiritual. For Aristotle God was pure thought, involved in eternal contemplation of Godself. Since God was impersonal, Aristotle thought, no one could know God personally, but all knowledge of God imbedded in humans was still purely personal. That is, thought was not something man did but something that happened to man, inspired by God. Humbly, he agreed with Plato, that no one could put forward an adequate conception of Truth, Good or Beauty but all could add a small bit to human collective understanding.
Philosophical schools would emerge from age to age, debating the means by which humanity might sense, experience, remember, authorize and intuit truth or, at least, knowledge, in order to transmit information from culture to culture. Knowledge/Truth/Information pushed the philosophical schools from Heraclitus to Hume, from Kant to today. Religion followed in the wake of the philosophical churnings of history, sometimes in the court, sometimes pushed to the lunatic fringe but always encumbered by its mandate to make disciples for its faith system, for all religions proselytize. Man knows one thing about God; God directs one giant Infomercial in human history.
At least until the Rationalists came along, most philosophical schools seemed to operate on the assumption that the Impersonal Trinity (Truth, Good and Beauty) completely facilitated one another. That is, they were all part(s) of the same Answer, with no actual disconnection in their essence. Thus, the Impersonal Divine Trinity could offer certainties/absolutes. Each man, it could be proved, had a unified, unproblematic inner nature from which all human values could be deduced.
The Modern Progressive/Scientific worship of education directly results from the pre-Enlightenment worship of Truth, Good and Beauty. Man can be educated into proper conduct by authoritative experts who know man better than he knows himself.
The Traditional, Modern Era, Post-Modern Western Church, the Church as devoid of senses, experience, and memory for knowledge, tags along like the pesky little brother to culture insisting on its relevance but utterly unable to make a case for itself outside the transmission of acceptable values to the young. The culture in which the Church finds itself tells the Church what values are acceptable, assumes all will want to be like all others. The Culture finds the Church useful as a nanny but unacceptable as a mate.
Even the Enlightenment Rationalists accepted the commonality of man. The Romantics at least understood human conflict could not be swept away by mass education leading to social conformity. The Progressive/Liberal Movements birthed from Enlightenment Rationalists could not comprehend the madman. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tze-Dong, Mussolini did not fit the civilized pattern but they were not, as Roosevelt supposed in his "My Dear Duce" letters to Mussolini, the product of poor upbringing. They were madmen, useful to powerful interests because of the madman’s ruthless lack of self-control but then too ruthless to be profitable. No system of communal conformity, it seems, has a default setting for madness in leadership.
For decades, the Western Church held hands with the Progressive Movements, knowing, just knowing, men could be educated to Christian civilization. The middle part of the twentieth century put an estop on the Progressive/Liberal movements. The Pragmatists, the Cold Warriors of Containment, took the place of the Liberal Visionaries, exaggerating the foibles of Liberalism like they are rewriting a comic opera.
The Church, with wetted forefinger held aloft, sensed the change in the cultural jet stream. We held hands with the Conservative/Pragmatists through the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Tonkin Gulf Resolution, American Malaise, all the way down to the Reagan Revolution. Along the way, in desperate need of cultural authority we discovered pragmatic conservatism would at least sleep with us even if he would not slip a ring on our finger.
In 1951 H. Richard Niehbur published Christ and Culture. In his book, Niehbur identified several cosmic insults offensive to (then) Modern Man. Somehow, humankind discovered neither man nor Earth could be the center of the solar system, let alone the cosmos. In fact, man was animal, little removed from beasts of the field he once seemed to dominate. His conclusion accepted falling human capital. He offered different means by which Christian thinkers might encounter secular culture. Niehbur investigated several ways but each one involved either cultural confrontation or cultural companionship for the former (confrontation) was still possible and the latter (companionship) was still available.
Fast forward to the cultural insults since 1959. No, let’s just go to 1964, when the commercial atheist Madelyn O’Hair insisted the US Constitution be adopted as the actual law of the land in matters of religious establishment. Jump to 1973. Roe v. Wade passed out of the U S Supreme Court, largely because Justice Blackmun needed to impress Justice Brennan so they could be friends. The natural consequence of man as animal slipped two feet down the slope.
No less an authority than W. A. Criswell said, "I agree with this decision. I think it is right. I have always thought the child did not exist apart from the mother until birth."
In 1974, the law and order President Richard Nixon resigned in shame because he his illegal acts had thrown the nation into a constitutional crisis. The campaign reform laws spurting up from Watergate empowered the now famous "soft money" contributions with the result, twenty-five years later, that massive PAC contributions are declared protected as "free speech."
The Church looked around, bewildered, suddenly realizing that Princess Law, Princess Medicine and Princess Journalism had descended into harlotry. The Church did not hesitate. She looked around for someone who would buy her, as well.