Thursday, March 31, 2005

To think...and to relate

There is a twofold problem that the Christian in a postmodern society finds himself/herself in. Christians do not think and when they do very rarely does it matter.

It is often difficult for a lay Christian to be presented with the idea that Scripture may not be inerrant in a fundamentalist sense (this statement would be more accurate for previous generations as it appears that the emergent Church is more open to various views of inerrancy). The Bible for many Protestants has become the fourth member of the Trinity...err...Quadrinity. Elevated to a status in which one wonders if there is a rogue church somewhere speaking of Scripture as homoousios with the Father, Son, and Spirit. It would appear that many would say that to challenge the beliefs or tenets upon which Christianity stands is negatively received. While this is often true, and to an extent understandable, I think the more common context in which Christianity finds tension is within the challenges made against beliefs or ideologies which are thought to be essentials of the Christian faith. The fundamentalist view of inspiration is an example of this. To hold a fundamentalist view is much more difficult than submitting to the reality that Scripture does not often fit into our man-made categories.

Ultimately what I am saying is this: too many Christians are willing to commit intellectual suicide if it relieves them of the responsibility to think. However, there are of course anomalies to this generalization and these people are typically referred to as scholars. Christian scholars make it their life to think. I respect the work of these people and have found my own beliefs and paradigms challenged by higher thinking. Here is my qualm with the scholar; so what? As I have read through various scholarly journals the question that perpetually bombards my mind is "so what"? What does this mean to the Christian Church?

We had a religion colloquium today in which the subject of debate was apologetics. The thrust of the debate was "what place does apologetics have in Christian belief"? Without going into detail about the colloquium itself I will make a few observations: 1) A central question which needed to be addressed, namely whether we should even be using rational arguments to defend the Christian faith, was not even proposed until two and a half hours into the event. 2) Some students asked well thought-out questions, others just asked questions. 3) Why is this even important?

I left the colloquium with this last question burning in my mind. The debate obviously holds importance to Christendom yet there was very little attempt to portray this in the presentations. There certainly were comments made in regards to how our view of apologetics effects the way we witness and evangelize, yet these comments were anything but conclusive. The problem which scholarship finds itself is how to make its studies relevant. What difference does it make to argue for a certain side of the pistis christou formulation in Pauline literature if there is no connection to how we should believe and live our lives? Could this debate have relevance? Certainly! But that is the chasm which scholarly journals often fail to bridge; the connection between intellectualism and practicality.

My plea to the scholar is this: make it useful, edify the Church, create scholarship for the people not just for colleagues. I believe that God gave us a mind to think, yet I also believe that God desires for those cognitive processes to produce information that is beneficial for both the edification of His Church and the spread of the Gospel. If scholarship fails to leave the intellectual battleground it becomes merely interesting and ultimately useless.


Anonymous said...

"Christians do not think and when they do very rarely does it matter."

That's a broad generalization. But it's hilarious, and I agree. It's a good thing that's not something you wrote in an "issue paper" for Dr. Riggs.

This is me commenting on one of your posts. I don't really have a great deal to add at this point, other than that I agree with many of the points you raises, and I don't know what 'pistis christou' means. There is some Latin on which I am stumped...assuming that is Latin. And you know what assuming does. Anyway, if you would like to be affiliated with/responsible for some of my thoughts, here is my xanga URL.

Feel free to add me or not to add me. Either way, have a good weekend, and I'll see you later.

Brandon M. Brown

Ben Robinson said...

Yea, it is a board generalization. I am infamous for using hyperbole that can become inflammatory. Perhaps I should word things more eloquently. :) Anyway, thanks for visiting! I certainly will add you and visit often. Have a good one.
In Christ,
~Ben Robinson
PS Pistis christou is Greek

Sniper said...

I find myself in this quandry often, mostly because I have been a trained killer of faith for two years now. The more I learn, the more I struggle. I am not suggesting that we merely stop scholarship when the questions get too hard, but I know there are many out there who simply cannot handle the issues that some Theologians handle on a daily basis. We need to be particularly sensitive to these individuals. I myself might just be on the brink of being one of them, but it's too late now to turn back, I know too much, and I can't stop thinking. My brain cramps often...

I would also add that Kevin brought up in his opening essay about whether or not reason should be used to defend the faith. In fact, I think that was his whole focus, that reason is steeped in modernist, enlightement thinking, and that in the end, apologetics are an attempt, but not a particularly effective strategy in convincing another of a life-chaning faith.

Ben Robinson said...

I stand corrected. You are right, I did feel as if Kevin did an adequate job of proposing the question. My dissatisfaction in large part was a result of an inadequate development of the question. It was as if we started strong and ended fairly well yet there was much superfluity throughout the middle of the presentations.

You also are exactly right that there are some things which are better left to the scholar and if presented to the typical layperson may prove deleterious. One need only read Christology in the Making by James Dunn to have this point poignantly expounded. What do we do when the questions get too hard, when the inquiries seek to categorize an in-categorizable Being? What a question indeed...