Culture

How the Gospel is Better than a Liberal Political Agenda

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The Gospel wants to mess with our worldview.

But if we come to Scripture with a left-leaning worldview we may see things that confirm our perspective and so we’ll say, “Jesus was a Liberal.” And, by the same token, if we come to Scripture with a right-leaning worldview, we may see things that confirm our perspective and say, “Jesus was a Conservative.” But liberal and conservative values are not, in themselves, the Gospel.

I can’t speak for folks who lean right—they need to distinguish between a Conservative Agenda and the Gospel in their own ways (I’m encouraged, for example, to watch how Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is leading this conversation). Speaking, as I do, from a perspective that leans left, let me share how the Gospel is showing itself to be so much bigger than a Liberal Agenda.

The Gospel is so much bigger than a Liberal Agenda. Click To Tweet

The Beatitudes Agenda

The Beatitudes are a classic example of this. As we read them, it’s easy to create in our minds an image of the person who is the opposite of the Blessed—they are satisfied, overpowering, selfish, unkind, seeking their own benefit. And the world loves them for it. We have plenty of examples in politics, business, entertainment, even the church. They’re the heroes of the world.

But, as we know, Jesus paints a picture where the heroes, instead, are the meek and mourning, the merciful and pure, those who hunger for righteousness and peace. As a result, they’re often persecuted and reviled.

I’ve heard this preached many times in a way that takes the world’s hierarchy and simply flips it. The marginalized were the outsiders and now they’re the heroes. In some way that’s encouraging. But it still doesn’t sound like good news to me in two ways:

If you’re marginalized, your freedom is dependent on the actions of others and until every person you encounter treats you equitably, you will always be oppressed.

If you’re in a place of privilege, you will always be two steps away from blessed. You feel you have to give away all your possessions and comfort before you can ever feel connected to God.

If you’re in a place of privilege, you will always feel two steps away from blessed. Click To Tweet

As a white woman, I find myself in both a marginalized and privileged place.

And neither feels like freedom. Or Good News.

Good News for the Privileged and the Marginalized

But there’s a better way.

Some of these Beatitudes describe circumstances beyond our control. But many of them are a chosen posture—hungering for righteousness, mercy, peace-making, purity of heart. We each—regardless of our circumstances—have a choice.

Those who are marginalized can find freedom now, before they’re ever released from oppression, when they find their hope in God. Those who are privileged can choose now to long for the things of God and right now—before they ever give up their privilege—they can be close to God.

But in the world’s eyes there are still ways this can be warped.

  1. For the marginalized it can sound like the opiate of the masses: “I shouldn’t long or work for freedom for myself or others because I have freedom in Jesus.”
  2. For the privileged it can sound like an easy out: “I don’t have to set aside my comfort to be good with God.”

Here’s where the salt and light passage—which immediately follows the Beatitudes—promises something hopeful.

Not only do we all have instant access, instant blessedness if we choose the right posture to God, whatever we learn in that closeness to God brings something radical to the world around us.

Here is Jesus invitation to us:

“You’ll come to be what I created, a living example of the world as it should be.

When you’re a child of the kingdom, you will begin to be something that will mess with everything the world has ever known.

Not only will you see yourself in new ways, you’ll open the eyes of others.

You’ll be a poor person who is generous, a wealthy person who doesn’t care about money. You’ll be a sick person who has joy, a healthy person who is willing to step into danger.

You’ll be an outcast person who is not lonely, a popular person who has no regard for approval.

You’ll be a weak person who is strong, a strong person who chooses weakness.

Your presence will give others a foretaste of God, a vision of God.”

Good News of the Kingdom

So here’s where this feels like Good News to me:

The marginalized can say: “Regardless of how the world views me, mine is the kingdom. If I am a child of God, I have nothing to fear from how others see me. If a human being who is still caught outside of the Beatitudes’ way of seeing treats me in a way that isn’t Blessed, I see differently. And not only do I no longer see myself as they see me, I no longer see them as they see themselves. I can say, ‘Hey, you may treat me that way but don’t you know I’m a child of God? Oh, and by the way, so are you!’”

If I am a child of God, I have nothing to fear from how others see me. Click To Tweet

This may not mean that oppression will ever change. In fact, it may bring more oppression upon us. And yet, the greatest hope I’ve seen in upending oppression has often come when the oppressed work for outer freedom from a place of inner freedom.

The privileged can say, “I have always worried I had too much, wondered how much I had to give away or suffer for the sake of suffering in order to be in God’s blessing. If I choose the posture of the beatitudes, I can have his blessing now—the blessing of his Kingdom and his presence. From that relationship I will certainly be challenged to sacrifice and suffer. But the good news is this: I don’t have to sacrifice and suffer as a work to earn the Kingdom. That was Jesus’ work. I can have relationship now and make myself obedient to every call to sacrifice that comes my way as I walk with him.”

When we let ourselves be transformed by the way of Jesus, our old ways of seeing suddenly seem two-dimensional. When we are willing to receive the freedom he offers—now, regardless of our external circumstances—it becomes truly good news to us. And when we embrace that good news, we can be good news to others. We can describe a bigger, better story.

It’s no longer a story of power hierarchies. No longer the powerful oppressing the powerless, nor the powerless finding a strange kind of superiority in their oppressed state. Instead, we discover a story of a God who knows how to use every experience of brokenness, lowering, submission to reveal himself.

This new story reveals him because he is a God who is broken and submitted for those he loves. And when we follow him to those places, whatever we learn there we bring back to this world of hierarchies. To that world which understands only “oppressor or oppressed,” we reveal a new possibility: “free and blessed.” We become what that bland world craves—salt. We become what that dark world can only imagine—light. And once they taste and see the goodness of this God, they will never be the same again.

Not only does that sound like good news to me.

It sounds like something worth sharing.

We become what that dark world can only imagine—light. Click To Tweet
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31 responses to “Why Fundamentalism and Liberalism Are Two Sides of the Same Coin – Where All Emerging Conversants Must Go

  1. David,
    Thanks for posting again, I look forward to each in this series. I was reading Introduction to Racical Orthodoxy by James K.A. Smith last night and he was saying essentially the same thing that you are getting at. Except for perhaps parts of the reformed tradition, evangelicalism and liberalism are examples of what he calls (following Radical Orthodoxy) corelationalist theologies. Really, you two seem in close agreement. Have you read anything put out by the Radical Orthodoxy group? Honestly I tried, but found it very difficult going–very steeped in continental philosophy and committed to the resources of the patristic period. If you had any thoughts on the relationship of Radical Orthodoxy to what you are thinking I would love to hear them. Best wishes.

    Eric

  2. “I believe both EF & PL tend to over-personalize (toward narcissism) the individual nature of salvation in Christ stripping Christ’s work on the cross of its cosmic scope and power.”

    David, I have felt the same for a long time now. We need a theology where the cross is still central…but one that is so incredibly panoramic, that it startles our imaginations.The ” cross ” is metaphoriaclly a balance, the horizontal and the vertical. Christ is the center of it all, he hold heaven and earth in balance…all of creation in balance. The more we come to this reality of beyond the individual, to ” all ” of creation…salvation, redemption, community and realtionship will spill out and cover everything God the creator intended it to be. Anyways, thanks for stretching us to re-think. Peace…Ron+

  3. Dave,

    Interestingly, my copy of the Trinity alumni magazine came in the mail yesterday and it has an interview with Vanhoozer in it (he is also on the cover). The interviewer asks him about the role of imagination in theology and he says he thinks we need more imagination, not in the sense of baseless speculation, but in the sense of being able to see connections between things that analytical reason alone cannot show us. A lack of imagination strikes me as one of the major problems afflicting both PL and EF.

    PL seems to simply accept the end claims of secular modernity and its scientific-rationality lock, stock, and barrel, and then reduce the faith to what can fit within that box. EF on the other hand, ostensibly rejects the end claims of secular modernity and the accomodationism of PL, but still swallows its scientific epistemology and technological pragmatism lock, stock, and barrel, and reduces the way it envisions and speaks about the faith to fit within that box.

    It seems to me that recapturing a Christian imagination and imagining something beyond the strictures placed on us by secular modernity is one of the things we need to do if we are to avoid the pitfalls of either PL or EF.

  4. Both EF and PL want to keep Jesus personal and social justice detached from Jesus and the church.

    That’s a rather sweeping judgement. It’s certainly not a fair representation of the liberal view, and it isn’t even a fair representation of the best of evangelicalism.

    Yes, both believe that government has a role to play in effecting social justice (though they disagree on the content of social justice). But liberals certainly believe the church has a role and indeed a responsibility of its own, as do many evangelicals.

    EF’s exclusivisim, and PL’s universalism

    I’d like to know what “third way” you propose here!

    I gather that emergent churches accept non-believers in their midst. But what is your theological position: are those unbelievers in need of salvation and therefore perishing (as evangelicals would have it) or are they already members of God’s family no matter their beliefs or their lifestyle (as some liberals would have it)?

  5. Both EF and PL want to keep Jesus personal and social justice detached from Jesus and the church.

    That’s a rather sweeping judgement. It’s certainly not a fair representation of the liberal view, and it isn’t even a fair representation of the best of evangelicalism.

    Yes, both believe that government has a role to play in effecting social justice (though they disagree on the content of social justice). But liberals certainly believe the church has a role and indeed a responsibility of its own, as do many evangelicals.

    EF’s exclusivisim, and PL’s universalism

    I’d like to know what “third way” you propose here!

    I gather that emergent churches accept non-believers in their midst. But what is your theological position: are those unbelievers in need of salvation and therefore perishing (as evangelicals would have it) or are they already members of God’s family no matter their beliefs or their lifestyle (as some liberals would have it)?

  6. Thanks for all these comments … Eric … I am very much enticed by radical Orthodoxy … my favorite of the whole series is Graham Ward’s Cities of God … and to q., I need to explain more why I argue PL wants to keep Jesus personal. All I can say for now is, Reinhold Neibuhr… just about any of his writings … is an example of what I am talking about … Thanks for the other comments … I am busy preparing for class tonite.. and a presentation for Consumerism and Christianity Conference in Minneaplois tomorrow … But I hope to respond more to comments next Monday … Blessings

  7. Interesting lines of thought David. I look forward to hearing more, because I’ve heard the accusation that the Emergent conversation is nothing more than a rehashing of old PL stuff.

    And I too long for embodied truth.

  8. Just to be clear, my point is that you’re lumping all liberals and all evangelicals into the same category. That’s what I meant by a sweeping judgement. Thus pointing to one example, or even several examples, doesn’t really respond to my objection.

    I don’t mean to sound hostile. I’m actually quite interested in what the emergent church has to offer; it’s bringing something fresh to the conversation. But I find there’s an air of superiority to other Christians which the rest of us are bound to find offensive.

  9. q … agreed on the point of your last paragraph … I’d always need reminding … on the “air of superiority” … on the “lumping” I think i am tryng to make a specific argument about specific ways of thought which have been often labeled evangelical fundamentalism and protestant liberalism. To the extent it is theological analysis, the lumping, or describing of “types” is for heuristic value. There will always be those who fall outside of the specific analysis or “lumping”. Thanks for contributing.

  10. i am still wondering, after all i have read and heard about how we postmoderns need “To escape modernity we must ground our faith humbly and without violence in traditions, embodied arguments, community and the church from which we participate in God’s mission and witness to the world. Only in this way can we display truth in noncoercive embodied ways that present the gospel as good news.”
    my reading of scripture tells me that the earliest christians, who lived in an environment not too, too spiritually different from ours didn’t give a rip about what people thought of them, viv-a-vis, am i too coercive. they moved as God directed and as a result most died violently. at least the ones who had a profound lasting effect on the community did. id anyone still willing to go that far, or are we supposed to nice people into the kingdom of God?

  11. i am still wondering, after all i have read and heard about how we postmoderns need “To escape modernity we must ground our faith humbly and without violence in traditions, embodied arguments, community and the church from which we participate in God’s mission and witness to the world. Only in this way can we display truth in noncoercive embodied ways that present the gospel as good news.”
    my reading of scripture tells me that the earliest christians, who lived in an environment not too, too spiritually different from ours didn’t give a rip about what people thought of them, viv-a-vis, am i too coercive. they moved as God directed and as a result most died violently. at least the ones who had a profound lasting effect on the community did. id anyone still willing to go that far, or are we supposed to nice people into the kingdom of God?

  12. Thanks for this post, David. It’s good to see these thoughts being expressed. We (as the Church) need to learn how to deal with criticisms of Modernity itself – simply using the old arguments that were developed to oppose different strands of Modernity will not do.

    pax et bonum

  13. Thanks john. Dwight, died violently? At whose hands? It seems to me the martyrs of the first two centuries exhibit exactly the kind of witness proposed here. martyrion means witness. And it is most certainly non-violent in that such martyrdoms refused to fight for truth by taking up arms, but merely witness to it under the sovereignty of God’s work in history through Jesus Christ ..
    Blessings …

  14. david,

    thanks for actually responding. the point i was making is that those very martyrs, it seems, didn’t spend much time entertaining the idea of palatability. they uncompromisingly preached jesus christ crucified and resurrected, lived as though they were convinced of no other “truth” and, although we have no record of them doing so, just like we have no record of them going to the bathroom, they probably spent much time walking with the ones who heard their message, and no doubt those who didn’t. they most certainly established a community centred around these themes and that community suffered greatly at the hands of a violent society. but i don’t think they ever tried ways of circumventing that violence by surreptitiously or overtly being christian cool. i am all for what i see the emergent church community and conversation is engendering as far as a renaissancce of genuine christian living, but emphases, not just participation, but emphases on the global issues concerning all humanity does not seem to be consistent with the spreading of the gospel, or might i say, with the gospel itself. be assured, i think those things are important; we are stewards of the earth and should scream out when we see our own community as well as those who do not respect God’s creation. injustice is rampant and doing justly and loving mercy are the way to the heart of God. no question. but in focussing on such global issues as a means of attracting others to God is different from inviting them to come through Jesus Christ.
    is it fair to say that the emergent church message risks being seen as taking asprin with sugar? i merely raise this question because i spend a lot of time walking with people who have bitten the apple before and found half a worm.

    again thanks for responding. few do.

    blessings to you,

    dwight

  15. david,

    thanks for actually responding. the point i was making is that those very martyrs, it seems, didn’t spend much time entertaining the idea of palatability. they uncompromisingly preached jesus christ crucified and resurrected, lived as though they were convinced of no other “truth” and, although we have no record of them doing so, just like we have no record of them going to the bathroom, they probably spent much time walking with the ones who heard their message, and no doubt those who didn’t. they most certainly established a community centred around these themes and that community suffered greatly at the hands of a violent society. but i don’t think they ever tried ways of circumventing that violence by surreptitiously or overtly being christian cool. i am all for what i see the emergent church community and conversation is engendering as far as a renaissancce of genuine christian living, but emphases, not just participation, but emphases on the global issues concerning all humanity does not seem to be consistent with the spreading of the gospel, or might i say, with the gospel itself. be assured, i think those things are important; we are stewards of the earth and should scream out when we see our own community as well as those who do not respect God’s creation. injustice is rampant and doing justly and loving mercy are the way to the heart of God. no question. but in focussing on such global issues as a means of attracting others to God is different from inviting them to come through Jesus Christ.
    is it fair to say that the emergent church message risks being seen as taking asprin with sugar? i merely raise this question because i spend a lot of time walking with people who have bitten the apple before and found half a worm.

    again thanks for responding. few do.

    blessings to you,

    dwight

  16. David, thanks for the very interesting post. Let me begin by saying that I really appreciate the sentiment of what you’re saying. And I largely agree. I’m wondering, though, if a ‘third way’ is really all that necessary, and if the distinction you’re talking about actually transcends any differences between modernity and post-modernity. So I’m responding to my peaked interest in point #1. This was the part that stood out to me:

    “The problem, in the world after modernity, is that reason is given and limited to contexts. Likewise experience is formed out of cultural and linguistic shaping.”

    The limited role of reason is hardly characteristic of the world after modernity. There were ancient, medeival, modern, and postmodern critics of the power of autonomous human reason. And, as several historians of the Enlightenment have demonstrated, the importance of context was anything but lost on philosophical moderns, especially in regards to morals. One such historian would be the late Roy Porter. Moroever, sensitivity to the cultural and linguistic shaping of knowledge seems also to transcend the modern – postmodern divide. I think the missionaries (some proto-anthropologists) of the early modern period began to grasp the fundamental linguistic problem, as well as the cultural relativity present in the world they were exploring. One such Enlightenment text might be Diderot’s Supplement au Voyage de Bougainvile. I don’t mean to suggest that postmodernity hasn’t offered much that is new and important (ie the ‘linguistic turn’), but rather that the significance of your criticisms might be a bit overstated considering the divide you wish to make between the modern and postmodern is perhaps a false one in terms of acknowledging the humbleness of human reason.

    I guess I’m wondering, in the end, if “we must ground our faith humbly and without violence in traditions, embodied arguments, community and the church”, if that really needs to involve any consideration of the modern/postmodern divide but rather a humble disposition in general.

    I realize there is much to offer from a postmodern perspective to get out of the traps of the bifurcated world of left and right, conservative and liberal. And I hope you’ll take my comments as friendly questioning from an interested observer/participant in this discussion, even though they are focused on an aspect that is less thant central to the point you’re conveying.

  17. Kenny,
    My only comment to you is that I find your argument well articulated and I find very little to disagree with. In fact one of the most faithful responses to modernity and its maladies is a return to pre-modernity that in some way accounts for what has happened in modernity and its current malaise. This I take to be what some of the Radical Orthodoxy folk and A. McIntyre among others are doing.
    To Dwight …
    Thanks for continuing …when you say … “those very martyrs, it seems, didn’t spend much time entertaining the idea of palatability” … I agree. And of course in no way am I suggesting we seek to make our theology palatable to the postmodern world. What postmodernity does is reveal the inherent weakness and gaping holes in the way we have gone about being “the people of Christ” in this world. There is no particular building block in postmodern culture or philosophy that I would seek to build a theology on although its analysis might help. What I am suggesting is a way to go forward, a third way that avoids the pitfalls of EF and PL, that have been revealed in the field of postmodern culture and analysis. The idea of “christian cool” as you call it is equally repulsive to me as it seems to you.
    Thanks for talking … DF

  18. I think your views here are another example of what happens when an EF person gets exposed to PL ideas for the first time. What happens is you get excited about the fact that you’ve missed the point your whole life but you can’t exactly throw away a lifetime of EF brainwashing. I think that instead of looking for a new alternative 3rd way, you should simply learn more about the PL ideas so that you can embrace them and dump the EF ideas. You’ve missed the point of the PL camp. It sounds like you want to let go of the EF ideas but you are afraid that without those “fundamental beliefs” you won’t have any sprituality left. It is ok my son, run to the light (just kidding).

    The 3rd way you are looking for is PL theology without the PL attachment to lithurgy and out-dated and lazy orthopraxy.

  19. david,

    fair comment. i shall ponder.

    p.s. i appreciate your candor while discussing the place of praise and worship. i, as a musician and team leader, wonder if that is not the area of the greatest potential, good or bad, in the emergent church, since it has been the arena of battle in the past.

    dm

  20. david,

    fair comment. i shall ponder.

    p.s. i appreciate your candor while discussing the place of praise and worship. i, as a musician and team leader, wonder if that is not the area of the greatest potential, good or bad, in the emergent church, since it has been the arena of battle in the past.

    dm

  21. furthermore . . . since i’ve been reading some of your other musings, particularly the discussion of the question of homosexuality, it occurs to me that something is amiss in all this discussion of the embodiment of jesus by the church, a wonderful emphasis of the emergent community. forgive me if i sound muddled, but it’s late, i’m in costa rica, and i can’t sleep (poor me.) let me begin by reminding us of the story of jesus’ healing of a paralytic who was brought to him by some friends, true enough friends to destroy someone’s roof to help a buddy, and jesus response, both verbal (theological) and physical. “relax, my son, your sins are forgiven.” then he healed him (some other stuff happened in the middle) much of the current discussion in the church community, EF, PL, Emergent, is about embodying jesus. but little of it is devoted to embodying jesus as he embodied God in power. it seems to me that much of jesus’ authority and popularity (in the sense that people actually followed him around)was due to the fact that he walked around healing the sick and raising the dead and feeding masses with someone’s lunch. maybe if we were doing that kind of thing then the world would stand up and take notice ; maybe then we could really speak with authority; maybe then when we said, “God loves you,” it would resonate with the world and it would be said of our experience, as it was of his, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” is there room in the room for that type of discussion? i’m not talking benny hinn here. i mean genuine, no denying, the power of God. then you can march in front of the Pride Day parade with your fuchsia banner that says “God really loves these people,” and you’d be welcome. and that stuff in the middle. it seems as if jesus is saying, “why do you think the two are separate, healing lives and forgiving sin?!” because the same God who said DO NOT MURDER, LIE, STEAL, CHEAT . . .etc., also said LOVE ONE ANOTHER, FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. as we seek to avoid a disingenuous appeal to the world to come to the knowledge of christ, perhaps it would be of assistance if we actually (pun intended) moved in the power of God as opposed to just reminiscing about it. the things that keep you awake at night!! i am only asking.

    dwight

  22. furthermore . . . since i’ve been reading some of your other musings, particularly the discussion of the question of homosexuality, it occurs to me that something is amiss in all this discussion of the embodiment of jesus by the church, a wonderful emphasis of the emergent community. forgive me if i sound muddled, but it’s late, i’m in costa rica, and i can’t sleep (poor me.) let me begin by reminding us of the story of jesus’ healing of a paralytic who was brought to him by some friends, true enough friends to destroy someone’s roof to help a buddy, and jesus response, both verbal (theological) and physical. “relax, my son, your sins are forgiven.” then he healed him (some other stuff happened in the middle) much of the current discussion in the church community, EF, PL, Emergent, is about embodying jesus. but little of it is devoted to embodying jesus as he embodied God in power. it seems to me that much of jesus’ authority and popularity (in the sense that people actually followed him around)was due to the fact that he walked around healing the sick and raising the dead and feeding masses with someone’s lunch. maybe if we were doing that kind of thing then the world would stand up and take notice ; maybe then we could really speak with authority; maybe then when we said, “God loves you,” it would resonate with the world and it would be said of our experience, as it was of his, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” is there room in the room for that type of discussion? i’m not talking benny hinn here. i mean genuine, no denying, the power of God. then you can march in front of the Pride Day parade with your fuchsia banner that says “God really loves these people,” and you’d be welcome. and that stuff in the middle. it seems as if jesus is saying, “why do you think the two are separate, healing lives and forgiving sin?!” because the same God who said DO NOT MURDER, LIE, STEAL, CHEAT . . .etc., also said LOVE ONE ANOTHER, FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. as we seek to avoid a disingenuous appeal to the world to come to the knowledge of christ, perhaps it would be of assistance if we actually (pun intended) moved in the power of God as opposed to just reminiscing about it. the things that keep you awake at night!! i am only asking.

    dwight

  23. Hello All,

    I really enjoyed reading the stuff above. Thank you David for facilitating this discussion. I was just talking today to one my pastors about how all this theology stuff annoys me (usually/almost always seems non-essential to Life in the Spirit). Reading this gave me a clear “Daahh, hello!” thought on the matter. Often those who I spend the most time around don’t seem willing to really dive into the issues (or they just don’t do it, for whatever good and/or bad reason, depending on the reason and the circumstances), and then it is just this buried elephant in the room (I guess that leaves a big lump in the carpet 🙂 So, ironically, I started the day expressing to my Pastor how annoyed I am with theology in general; and now I’m ending the day relieved at it’s presnece. Hhmm.

    Anyway, I wanted to address a few things that came up that don’t seem to have been addressed as far as the small tid-bits I have to offer.

    1. Q, along with everyone else to some degree, seems to still be left with a question as to what exactly IS this “third way”. The idea was mentioned of going back to a pre-modern way of relating to reality, but what does THAT mean? No one has mentioned the idea of IMITATION. It is the little annoying fly on the wall when, as BOTH OR EITHER PL’s or EF’s, our ideas about relating to reality are founded on universalizable criteria found in autonomous individual subjects.

    My professor once said to an older student (who was in 5th yr. when I was in 3rd yr.) something indicating that he was imitating something or someone else. The student, “naturally” (really it wasn’t natural at all but learned from his modern teachers – everyone he’s ever known) responded defensively, “I’m not an actor!” Interestingly, my professor’s response was, “Then, what are you?” The answer, at that point, is either, “Well, I guess I’m an actor after all,” or, “I’m a god.” Which is it?

    If we decide we are in fact actors, with human limits in this world who don’t really have the power of an “autonomous subject” (a god), then the question then becomes, WHAT or WHO is it that we happen to be imitating!? The answer, if we are Christians, would then “naturally” be JESUS!! Which then de-centers the picture off of US, the autonomous subject (and all of the various little arguements between the various autonomous subjects who attach themselves to various little human camps), and RE-centers it on GOD Himself.

    2. Someone mentioned the idea of the “Truth” of Christ in the world and their aggrevation at the Emergent Church’s attempts at sugar-coated aspirin (I think it was Dwight). This for me also comes back to the question of the autonomous subject and the actor who seeks to “be like the Holy Ones of Isreal.” Of course, sugar coated aspirin, if that’s what anyone is really doing (and I think it’s easy to do), won’t help anything. But I just wanted to mention this idea in this context, which I don’t think was really done above. I would like to see in the church the “truly” healing power of Christ, free of the modernized, abstracted, over-arching conception (in the mind of the autonomous subject) of some “actually” undefined (and impossible to define) “Truth”. I would prefer to avoid the Plato/Aristotle debate at this point. Seems fruitless and and ultimately irrelevant when it comes to a question of what we has humans are doing here on earth.

    3. I appreciated Kenny’s insightful and perspective-giving comment on the need for a “humbleness in general” rather simply a more narrow humbleness specifically in circumstancial reaction to modernity, helping us to remember that the poostmoderns weren’t the the first to raise questions about the role of reason, and helping us not to forget that the moderns also didn’t just given themselves to reason like a bride on her wedding day. In that context, however, I would just like to guard against the loss of the essential posotive shift that actually is occuring through conversations like this one. An essential shift from the autonomous subject operating on reality in whatever “mode” he so chooses to the mortal human on earth with two eyes in the front of his head who tries his best to imitates what he can see to do so (discipleship). Something did happen at the turn from ancient to modern, and something is in fact happening now. I guess no one’s really disputing that, but…I don’t know, guess I just didn’t want to loose or misplace a gift in a shadowy corner somewhere.

  24. Has anyone here read Robert Greer’s book, Mapping Postmodernism? His discussion of modernism’s absolute truth and Christianity’s appropriation of it is quite interesting and seems to me to fit in with this discussion and maybe will add to it.

    Bob

  25. jason …excellent comment …I think the de-centered nature of our subjectivity is a primary insight that we gain from the criticizers of modernity. The humility thereby gained is not what I characterize as the false humility of modernism … where we must be careful to speak about God because God can only be at best a personal and private belief … it is a humility grounded within the historical outworking of God in a people … this is part of the third way which does have a resonnance with medeival confidences in the authority as worked out in the historical church. Although this too has been chastened and changed to find new focus upon local communities. This is alot and maybe too nuanced to make sense in such a short space. But I am encouraged by your words and think we both are headed in similar directions …

    Peace … DF

  26. Yes I like Thomas a Kempis. He rocks, to use the contemporary lingo.

    David, I AM VERY INTERESTED in hearing more about this nuanced articulation that needs more space!!!! Now we’re getting somewhere. Pushing the envelope of Jason’s comfort zone (in terms of knowledge he’s easily familiar with)…”it is a humility grounded within the historical outworking of God in a people … this is part of the third way which does have a resonnance with medeival confidences in the authority as worked out in the historical church. Although this too has been chastened and changed to find new focus upon local communities.”

    Is this grounding in history something that was just implied in Medieval theology (sort of like how Augustine’s Confessions is a story of his life), or was it articulated in any ways similar to the ways in which it is being articulated in the postmodern discussion by folks like Focault? If so, by who? Was the communal aspect of a whole people’s history present more in the archeological remnants, or also explicitly stated in stories that Jason doesn’t know or hasn’t read IN THAT WAY yet, since he was not aware enough?

    Who has recently been taking the lead in the transformation of this idea into one that focuses on local communities? Is that movement a circumstancial reaction to the contemporary situation that really comes out of a laziness in view of the work required to carve out an identity for a people, or is it simply because “a people” doesn’t exist the way it obviously did for ancient people’s of say, Medieval times? Is there no people “simply” because our king is the market (a fact which itself has much history)? Or is there no “people” because of our modern epistemology? Does the shift to the idea of a local community having a history REQUIRE specific TEACHINGS on a new epistemology grounded in history and God rather than the autonomous subject? Or do you just need to with a group of friends clean the elderly neighbor’s bathroom, and there you have a new epistemology as well?

    Thanks!

    Jason

  27. Jason …
    … wow … Let me just recommend you start with Alasdair mcIntyre’s book After Virtue … have you read it? Best place to start …

    Blessings on your journey … DF

  28. David,

    I have not read that book. I will now. Thank you. A blessing has blessed me (you said “blessings on your journey”).

    Jason

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