Friday, February 25, 2005

The Tale of Ernest Christian

"Ernest Christian was converted as a high school senior. He went to college and studied computer science; but he also worked hard at his church and enjoyed effective ministry in the local Inter-Varsity group. His prayer times were warm and frequent. Despite occasional dearth, he often felt when he read his Bible as if the Lord were speaking to him directly. Still, there was so much of the Bible that he did not understand. As he began to reach the settled conviction that he should pursue full-time Christian ministry, his local congregation confirmed him in his sense of gifts and calling. Deeply aware of his limitations, he headed off to seminary with all the eagerness of a new recruit.

After Ernest has been six months at seminary, the picture is very different. Ernest is spending many hours a day memorizing Greek morphology and learning the details of the itinerary of Paul's second missionary journey. Ernest has also begun to write exegetical papers; but by the time he has finished his lexical study, his syntactical diagram, his survey of critical opinions, and his evaluation of conflicting evidence, somehow the Bible does not feel as alive to him as it once did. Ernest is troubled by this; he finds it more difficult to pray and witness than he did before he came to seminary. He is not sure why this is so: he does not sense the fault to be in the lecturers, most of whom seem to be godly, knowledgeable, and mature believers.

More time elapses. Ernest Christian may do one of several things. He may retreat into a defensive pietism that boisterously denounces the arid intellectualism he sees all around him; or he may be sucked into the vortex of a kind of intellectual commitment that squeezes out worship, prayer, witness, and meditative reading of Scripture; or he may stagger along until he is rescued by graduation and returns to the real world. But is there a better way? And are such experiences a necessary component of seminary life?"

D.A. Carson, "Exegetical Fallacies." Pg. 23.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

μενοῦμαι, Article I

(in which I am simultaneously intellectually pompous and existentially alienated)

μενῶ, ὦ φίλε μου, μενῶ....

Currently Playing
By Damien Rice

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

waiting for the light to shine

Because I am opposed to the idea of "Blog as journal" (for myself), I tend to wait for inspiration to strike. But it has not done so for over a week, and I'm not sure why. Like many people, I tend to work in creative bursts, and all my creative juices have apparently been flowing toward scholarly projects due this week.

I did, however, run across the following quote which I think is quite brilliant (in a dry, British sort of way):

"You do not have to be a fundamentalist to admit that it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit supports guiding the Church into denying His existence." --Prudence Dailey, of the Oxford diocese

Monday, February 07, 2005

feels like home

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

just when you thought it was safe...

Soooo...for those of you who thought that Iraq might not be GWB's Vietnam after all, there's this reminder of President Johnson's response to the 1967 South Vietnamese elections. It could have been pulled from the the front page of Monday's national newspapers.
Spooky, indeed.

(Edited to add) You can purchase the entire article from the NYTimes here.

thinking out loud

I do a great amount of my intellectual processing and "working out" my thoughts out loud, espeically in dialogue with others. This is my latest stab at the same:

In a recent conversation, M reiterated his belief that there is little in the way of "Truth claims" that we can firmly stand on in the context of the Biblical text by itself. (See this post for a more comprehensive articulation). He has also expressed support for the well-worn - though often not properly analyzed - assumption that people do not come to faith on the basis of the historical truth of the Bible, or words on a page, but on the basis of a heart transformation as the result of such a God encounter. Taken together, I believe these conclusions amount to something of an intellectual copout and leave Christians vulernable to the critiques of several groups we ought to be evangelizing with confidence. Thus I offer the following observations/critiques:
  1. If an "encounter with the divine" is both the telos of Scripture and it's illuminating light, then the encounter preceeds Scripture in importance and becomes it's Judge. This model has no independant resource to judge those who claim to have "experienced God" and then set out to interpret Scripture in an entirely unbiblical manner (think Heaven's Gate or Jonestown here). Since human experience of the divine is undeniably unreliable, Scripture must act as the foundation and judge of our experience of the divine. We must seek Truth in Scripture so that we are not led astray by our own interpretation or the faulty interpretations of others, and more importatly, set limits on what is an acceptable reading with a clear understanding of what the text says.
  2. On a similar note, we become impotent to articulate the Gospel to members of other religions (think Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, etc). Each tradition claims to have encounters with the divine, and without an appeal to a verifiable Scripture, we can only counter by somehow claiming that our experiences are "more true," or by lamely restating that Christ is somehow unique in a way that can only be "experienced" and not verified.
  3. While it may be true that people will not believe on the basis of rational, historical or logical arguments, I think it is often true that people will disbelieve on the basis of such arguments (think atheist/agnostic here). I personally know several people for whom this is true. If Scripture can't stand up to intellecutal scrutiny, they won't give it a second look. While we may not win converts with articulations of historical truth, by doing so we remove obstacles for the skeptic and allow the Spirit to soften the hearts of those that would otherwise disbelieve. If the truth of Scripture is not itself sufficient, neither should it be proven false.
  4. Lastly, simply claiming that the truth of Scripture is unknowable and appealing to a subjective encounter with the divine amounts to an intellectual copout. I realize this is a controversial point, but if the material cannot stand up to tough scrutiny, then we should honestly recognize that and reject it. We would expect the same of members of other religions (the Mormons, for example) or in any other area of life (science, politics, history). Our desire to hold on to what we cannot understand on the basis of subjective experience is admirable, but foolhardy. We feebly claim that this Christianity cannot make sense, or it would lose the mysterious or we try to hold on to the trappings and symbols of Christianity for the sake of our heritage or personal comfort, but we have lost the foundation on which all else is built.
I invite your response - loud and angry denial though it may be.
Grace & Peace