Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A New Kind of Heretic: A Tale of a Man on a Spiritual Journey

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A couple of my readers made points in their comments yesterday that were well summed up by Emmasometimes, "I really don't find I need anything but my personal relationship with God and a Bible. It's my walk, I have to do it, although it's good to meet others going my way...God's way. I think that labeling really stereotypes, don't you?"

Let's break that down into two parts. First: I really don't find I need anything but my personal relationship with God and a Bible. There's a huge problem with that in regards to what I was talking about. You do not read the Bible or relate to God in a vacuum. You have a historical and cultural understanding from which you relate to God. It is impossible for a human being to step out of these contexts and make observations or relate. Our culture, background, personal and cultural history all color everything that we see and observe. The church is thoroughly modern in its outlook on other things and worldview. We have structured theologies that tell God what He is and what He will or won't do. We see Him through our modern, mechanistic eyes.

For example, many people take comfort from saying "God is in control." I would never argue the accuracy of that statement, but I would argue the perspective. What do we think of God doing when we say He is "in control?" How do we perceive Him controlling things? For most moderns, myself very much included, we think of snap of the fingers or push of the button and it's done. However, it is our technological advances that make us think this way. Ancient and Medieval Christians would have never considered such a concept. They would have thought of how a parent controls a child or a rider controls a horse. And a rider can pull on the reigns, but a stubborn horse can continue to run if it so chooses. In light of a different understanding, it makes the question "How can you believe in a loving, merciful God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?" no longer valid.

To put it as simply as possible, it's like being asked to explain the story of known history to someone and saying, "Oh, sure. I can tell you about history. History is His (God's) story." Now, that is true. History is very much the story for man God has woven through the fabric of time, but would saying that alone be sufficient? No.

The second part of the statement: I think that labeling really stereotypes, don't you? Labeling stereotypes people, yes, but labels we must apply in this situation. There are radical differences.

First, after reading a few radical thoughts last night, I no longer abide by a structured theology of God...at least, not one that currently exists. Ever notice that the Bible isn't in outline form with teaching points highlighted? The Bible is mostly narrative, followed by poetry/wisdom, and finally we have instructive literature. God told us a story about Himself. I think it's time we quit trying to deconstruct and dissect His story into outlined theologies, and just read the Book and words in context to understand how God has worked and desires to work today.

Now, many of you might say to that "Amen, Brother!" but if I walked into almost any evangelical church, I would probably either be just tolerated by people as long as I didn't speak up to loudly or decried as a heretic. Why? Because that is a post-modern perspective, and the church sees the post-modern culture/worldview as pagan, evil and morally uncouth.

What clarified for me last night was that post-modernism is not a set of morals or values, but a worldview, just like modernism is a worldview. For those of you who still don't understand where I'm going with this, how about an example?

If you were suddenly transported back to the year 1400 AD, you would be in a lot of trouble. You might tell others that you are a Christian, and that you believe in Jesus Christ, but, in their eyes, you'd be missing things essential to their worldview. For example, if you told them that you didn't believe that the universe existed in eight crystal spheres and that the sun did not revolve around the earth, you would be decried as a heretic and either end up spending your life in prison, or you'd be burned at the stake. No, I'm not kidding or going overboard here, that is the honest truth.

Pull that up to the present day. We are moving into the post-modern future, which is very much the present. Modernism is dying out, even though the church is clutching to it as if it were its only lifeline in the Bering Sea. It is doing this by calling the people heretics who are trying to move the Church into the post-modern culture. They are forcing people to conform to modernism if they wish to become Christians and join the church (little "c" intentional).

Now, I'm not saying that modernism is evil and wrong. It is merely a cultural perspective, just like post-modernism. Not all cultures are becoming post-modern, either. I'm not saying that it is the only way. What I'm saying is that for too long, leaders in the church have been in denial that modernism shapes their perspective and worldview. They think they read and see the Bible and experience God in a vacuum. Then, when they observe others claiming the name of Christ doing something that looks different, they call it wrong or heresy because it doesn't fit their worldview or cultural perspective. They impose their cultural standards upon Christianity and force anyone who'd associate with them to be the same.

So there you have it. That is why speaking openly of being post-modern or modern is important and that we do not relate to God in a vacuum.

I hope that I did not come off as attacking what was said or condescending. Not only do I respect the two commenters I took examples from, I love them as true Sisters. They just really opened the door for me to explain myself, and I needed that. Thanks to everyone who left comments on that last post (no Poppins = no gold star for Poppins).

I had an experience last night that blew my mind. I referenced it earlier, but it completely destroyed my preconceived notions and over-constructed theologies of who God is. I can honestly say I'm no longer Calvinist. I'm not even close to being Arminian, either. What am I? I'm not sure, but for now I'll call myself a post-modern (or post-evangelical if you would prefer that) biblicist. Stories and teachings from the Bible speak about God, but they must be appreciated in their contexts. They aren't bullet points. I wonder, with Scripture so expansive, if God isn't just much more concerned that we would be in His Word reading about Him to see what He's done and how He works rather than trying to construct a box (a structured theology like Calvanism or Arminianism) to fit Him into. I'd encourage everyone to pick up A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren and read at least the first 30 pages of it. I think you'd be surprised by how much sense I'd all of a sudden be making (as I'm sure much of this could come across as nonsense).

And for any detractors that might come along and call me an idiot just because I'm thinking differently, C.S. Lewis walked this road in The Discarded Image. If you want to criticize this, pick up that book and read it first.

Well, I suppose that tomorrow will have to take another part of this. I was going to do a detailed, yet simple, explanation of how post-modernism is not the same as liberalism. I suppose hugging will have to wait 'til Thursday or Friday.


clumsy ox said...

Loved this post, bro. I'm waiting with bated breath for the next installment.

Dapoppins said...

I think you are trying to make my brain explode. Really. You are one of THOSE people that digs and wants to understand, wants to know why, and how and what. The world needs critical thinkers like you. You did well in Algebra didn't you?

But me, I had to take Algebra twice. I barely passed the second time. And that about sums me up.

Dapoppins said...

I was grieving. Now can I have my gold star?

KingJaymz said...

I just scrolled back down through that and I was thinking, "Dang, this post is even longer than I remember it being this morning!"

Okay, Poppins, you get a pass. Gold star today.

Yes, I did fairly well at the lower levels of Algebra. I hated matrices, though. I could kill them.

Yes, I dig because I want my faith to be solid and informed. I dig because I want Jesus to be presented in the most relavant way to someone who is thirsty and seeking a drink of Living Water. I dig because I have been disenfranchised with what we know as Christianity in our culture, and I refuse to walk away from what I know to be true! {deep breath} Okay, I'll stop now, but you get the idea.

Dapoppins said...

Gold star for me? Wow. Okay. I didnt have a speech prepared. But I'd like to thank the Queen, who laughs at my jokes, and the King, who laughs at his own jokes, and Emma, who rememinded me to comment on the King's blog today, and my Husband, who let me buy a new computer and my children, who ....

Wow. You are very good at digging. I need someone to dig a post hole for me. When can you come over?

Okay, seriously, critical thinking is a skill I lack. Practical thinking, I am okay. I feel like my faith is solid,and I am not often confroted by questions I can't answer. (speaking of my mother,she will be visiting this week.) I guess i am too Lazy to dig.

Looney Mom said...

Uhmmm... Ok.


Emma Sometimes said...
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Ba Doozie said...

I'm curious why you tend to label yourself at all? It seems a contradiction of what you are saying about the church and how they seem to think in a vacuum, or have narrowmindedness, which severely limits their view outside their own realm.

If you label youself aren't you limiting yourself as well? Putting yourself in a box of sorts, by applying the label, you might be committing yourself to one way of thinking. Isn't limiting a sort of vacuum in and of itseIf?

I think that is why Emma said a relationship with God exists inside a vacuum. It is the very nature of the relationship, being so personal that limits it to vacuumish ways.

The thing that SHOULD exist outside the vacuum is acceptance for others views and beliefs and an openness to listen and take into consideration other cultural perspectives etc. That doesn't mean we will change that innermost personal relationship with God, but at some point as with your experience last night, you changed your perspective. It could happen again at some time.

KingJaymz said...

4 Emma

It’s a play on the book title A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren.

It is God in our heart. A heart decision. A singular decision. Using your word, simply one made in the vacuum of our own self.

No decision is ever made in a vacuum, though. We are not vacuums. There is no avoiding presuppositions of what a relationship with God is because culture impacts us, even if we think it doesn’t. What and how we think about God impacts how we relate to Him. That makes it absolute, because what we think about Him is drawn from our worldview. There’s no such thing as a worldview in a vacuum, either. The Bible itself is not a worldview. It is a mirror for us, and it provides us with principles, beliefs and morals that help us determine how to live our lives, but worldview comes from the age and culture.

Jesus said above all things love one another. I don't see how heated debate over legalistic ideals or which denomination is the right one exemplifies this in any which way. Wouldn't you agree?

I completely agree, and I have no desire to debate denominations. I will debate legalism at all costs, just as Paul would, and just as I would debate licentiousness at all costs, because both walk all over the grace God offers through Christ. Legalism and licentiousness are both selfish motives, not love motives. No one has a right to lay unnecessary burdens on another’s shoulders when it comes to the faith.

Emma, it isn’t that I don’t agree with you, but you seem to be answering different questions than were asked. You’re approaching this from the practical perspective, and I’m coming at it from a wholly philosophical perspective. I’d keep going on this, but it feels pretty futile because of that. I don’t mean that condescendingly, either. What you’re discussing is just on a radically different vein than what I’m trying to get at. You laid out your thoughts intelligently and tactfully. I have complete respect them. And I agree with them.

I am not judging anyone’s walk, saying that anyone is wrong for worshipping or following Christ from a modern or fundamentalist (which is modern at its core, but distinct) model. I’m simply saying that just as the Medieval model of faith gave way (extremely violently, might I add) to the Modern model, the Modern model will give way (hopefully much more peacefully) to the Post-Modern model. It took two centuries for the Modern model to take roots and mature, but the Reformation changed everything at the beginning. Look how the church has withdrawn from the culture and the culture has withdrawn from the church. I’m not saying that the old wine is bad. The old wine is well worthy to be drank, but new wine can not be poured into old wine skins. Post-Modern Christians will not fit into the Modern worldview church.

4 Badoozie

First, see my response to Emma.

Second, it isn’t just a label, like calling me “whitey” or “cracker” is a label. It is a term that can be applied so that one can understand the perspective of where they are from. I’m post-evangelical, meaning building on the foundation of what evangelicalism has lain {that is worth building on}, and post-modern meaning I no longer follow the modern model of understanding the world, but have built upon what there is worthy to build on. It isn’t a good/bad or right/wrong thing, it is worldview and perspective. An indigenous person from Papua New Guinea who becomes a Christian has a worldview that is nothing like ours, but which is the perspective from which they understand God.

The mere act of giving a label does not necessarily limit me, any more than my parents limited me in this world by naming me Jared. A system for understanding limits something if they have absolutes about something, like Arminianism and Calvinism do. A more Post-Modern view is much more mystical, presuming that God is free to work as He sees fit outside what we think we know about Him. Developing systematic theologies (like Calvinism and Arminianism) puts God in a framework where He works from. My theology presupposes that I couldn’t know enough about Him to say that, because there are just so many instances in Scripture where He blows the lid off each theological system.

Just because a relationship is sacred and holy doesn’t mean that it exists in a vacuum. Again, see my longer explanation in my response to Emma on this. How you view God is colored by your worldview, which totally effects how you relate to God.

If the worldview (or perspective, as you termed it) of our culture changes for a second time in my generation, I’ll go with it. As Paul talked about becoming Greek to the Greeks and being Jewish to the Jews, he became all things to all men that they might see God through him. However, worldview changes in the Western world (500 AD, 1500 AD, 2000 AD) don’t come around but about once every 500 years thus far. I don’t see me changing my perspective again in my lifetime.

One thing I know: Modernity, with its isolationism and authoritarian establishments is dying out. In two to five centuries, a new worldview that supersedes Post-Modernism will come about. It will be time for Christianity to, once again, move in a new direction.

I believe, very firmly, that God has His hand on the Church, and that it will continue to serve and glorify Him as worldview transitions come and go.

4 Everybody, everybody

Once again, what I’m saying is not new. CS Lewis said all of this over 60 years ago.

A post in a comment, in and of itself!

Emma Sometimes said...
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~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

Hey dude, sorry I've not been around the last few days...computer issues and personal flightiness (literally, been running around like a chicken with his head cut off)...has kept me from the 'puter. Forgive me?

I'm not going to venture to comment on these last few posts...they are really heavy to digest and well, a lot of it went right over my head. Suppose I should have at least taken a few more philosophy classes in my undergrad days.

I kind of get some of it, but not a lot.

Joel W said...

It amazes me how much I can see myself along the same path that you are walking, just a couple years back. I got disenchanted with Calvinism and believed in Biblical Theology (BT) as the answer. I loved John Sailhamer and Hans Frei, guys like that. But after awhile I started to think that, as you say, we are all rooted in a point of view and you can't just say 'let the Bible speak' or you end up with the myriad of nutty interpretations out there - no Trinity, no need for church, baptism, etc. etc.

I believe now that it is arrogant in the extreme for us to think that we have to exegete the entire Bible ourselves and 'figure it all out.' We stand on the shoulders of giants, and the church is our mother, just like God is our Father. It's not *if* we hold to a tradition, but *which* tradition we hold to. For me, this is what made me be at peace with Anglicanism despite it's strong Predestinarian tendency - I don't have all the answers, I live under my tradition and try to let it shape me, rather than being the lone ranger.

Anyway, I could go on and on.

KingJaymz said...

Once again, read CS Lewis. There are other giants whose shoulders I'm standing on with this. I've mentioned several books, and I'll probably start including more.

I'm not going lone ranger on this. If I'm joining others who are walking the path that the (pretty much universally) very respected CS Lewis talked about. Read the book.

I've also never said that I'm never going to associate or fellowship with others who believe differently or are "modernist." I love all of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, no matter where they fall. I just want the same from them.

Joel W said...

I don't have time to read it now. Lewis emphasized mere Christianity, but I don't think the least common denominator approach works in the end. I am with you on fellowshipping broadly and the Apostles Creed as a good basis. I have an older post on po-mo that you may not have seen:


Pilgrimguide said...

Sounds like your on a wonderful adventure of discovery implemented by the Spirit himself. I look forward to your response to this new path.

Just as an observation, you might consider lengthening your posts -- too short.

clumsy ox said...

Larry Wall, who invented Perl, gave a rather lighthearted talk called "Perl, the first postmodern computer language".

While I'm sure not everyone knows or cares about Perl, his dicsussion of the term "post-modern" is interesting and vaguely enlightening. And discussing simple philosophy in the context of computer languages is an interesting twist.

I'd highly recommend that talk as worth reading.

cathouse teri said...

Are you aware that when you write that it is very hard to comprehend what you are saying?

KingJaymz said...

Quite, but not everything that is worth knowing is always easy to understand.

cathouse teri said...

I started to write a long response to your reply, but I think I'll let someone else answer you. Someone who says things much better than I can.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

Today's admonition, brother.


C. Andiron said...

"How do we perceive Him controlling things? For most moderns, myself very much included, we think of snap of the fingers or push of the button and it's done. However, it is our technological advances that make us think this way. Ancient and Medieval Christians would have never considered such a concept."

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Proverbs 21:1. The ancients were well aware of the concept of controlling in the sense of necessarily and precisely determining an outcome.

I'm always disturbed when pomo's try to evade scripture by saying that it's meaning is really an interpretation based on Greek philosophy, etc.

Hasn't it occurred to you that people can be aware of a concept (such as logic) but never formalize it in all the details, nor give it a name?