Monday, August 1, 2011

Towards a Post-Doctrinal Church

Over the last while, I have been gradually coming to a realization that is changing the way I think about everything.

Christianity is not about issues.

Christianity is not about throwing rocks at society (or at each other) and defending our right answers. It's not about hammering out the metaphysical truths of the universe to the minutest detail (fun as it sounds). It's not even about ascertaining conclusively what every last verse in the Bible means.

I think the very nature of scripture itself is a revealing clue that is often overlooked. Whatever else the Bible is, it is not simple, clear, and harmonious, and it is futile to continue forcing it into a systematic, cohesive structure.

God could easily have written the Bible in such a way as to make all issues abundantly clear and forever staunch discussion, but He didn't. As Lesslie Newbigin writes in his book The Household of God:

It is true that Christ gave to His disciples His word and sacraments. But He did not give them naked. He left no written code which should keep inviolate for all time the essential message, and the essential requirements for the due observance of His sacraments. A vast amount of scholarly labour has been spent in trying to discover precisely that thing which the Lord Himself did not choose to provide. What He left behind was a fellowship, and He entrusted to it the task of being His representative to the world...

What this means is that we have to figure out together what it looks like to be the Church, in motion, with a pieced-together, ramshackle record of what God has said and done in the past. The truth is happening, and we need to find ways to participate in it. A living dog is better than a dead lion.

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” -Jesus

One verse occasionally cited to indirectly justify theological narrow-mindedness is Matthew 7:14. However, this reading requires that "way" be interpreted as "system of thought," and it bears pointing out that the gate leads to life, not to mere correct-ness.

It ought to go without saying that this is not a thoughtless life. Anyone who knows me knows I bristle at anti-intellectualism. We should live a life that thinks, and even loves thinking. But first we should live. (See prior post: Truth is a Verb.)

Also, there will and should always be theologians ministering to the intellectual health of the Church, as well as apologists recommending the beliefs of the Church to those outside. I only reject the notion that this intellectual work is supposed to be the primary function of the Church.

What we need today is not more theological posturing and debate. What we need today is a post-doctrinal Church that is incarnating Jesus to the world.

Anyone interested in a stack of theology books, cheap?

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