In light of the last few posts about one reason or another as to why systematic theology is on my shit list, I feel it would be good for us to look at a post from Michael Spencer about the dangers of certain approaches to theology, appropriately entitled “I Hate Theology“. This is a lengthy read, but well worth it. It is representative of my own feelings about the enterprise of theology.
While theology itself is a noble calling and it certainly has a place in the Christian life, there are many approaches to theology that are not good and have no place in the Christian life. Spencer enumerates several such approaches: Theology that lacks humility. Theology that gets in the way of real ministry. Theology that, in the name of confessional precision, sets itself up as the enemy of simple personal devotion. Theology that passes itself off as divine revelation rather than fallible human effort. Theology that must swat away every error (whether actual error or merely perceived as error) in sight. Theology that ignores our humanity.
This has been my primary issue with systematic theology in the examples I have cited in prior posts: That it ignores and even sets itself up as the enemy of our humanity. That it sets itself up as the enemy of a perfectly good holiday celebration (Halloween) because a case can potentially be made that some elements of said celebration have historically pagan roots. That it sets itself up as the enemy of an entire class of people created in God’s image, people for whom Christ died, by placing itself in the service of those who wish to uphold oppressive power structures in the Church by reviving practices which reinforce these structures.
Read: I Hate Theology by Michael Spencer
If you’re looking for an example as to why systematic theology, at least as practiced in the Neo-Calvinistic evangelical world, is on my shit list, here it is. Today I give you Al Mohler’s Halloween week podcast, in which we see that he is sounding increasingly like Jack Chick (kids and those of you from outside evangelicalism: Wikipedia), albeit a more scholarly and refined version thereof.
With this being a podcast, he hits on a couple of different vignettes. First, we see that he is against Halloween (no surprise there) because it has pagan roots, and he is all up in arms about the apparent resurgence of cultural interest in Halloween. Our culture is increasingly secular, in his way of looking at things, yet at the same time spiritual in the sense of being pagan and occult and even satanic.
Since when is the Wolfman satanic? Since when are zombies satanic? Oh I’m sure there is a historical connection between all these things and the pagan, occult practices of old and of course if one connects all the dots according to the Neo-Reformed way of looking at things it all adds up to anything even remotely connected with Halloween as satanic and therefore to be avoided like the plague by any and all who profess the name of Jesus Christ.
Mohler then goes on to hit on a couple of other things, including a student organization at Georgetown, a Catholic university, which is under fire for promoting Catholic teaching with respect to marriage. I will not address this except to say that I would bet you good money there is more to this story than Mohler is letting on.
People, the whole point of Halloween is that Christ defeated death and all the evil powers of this world. Because of this, we can mock them with impunity, even to the point of dressing our kids up like ghosts and ghouls and other such things because they have no power whatsoever.
So walk under that ladder. Adopt that black cat. Break that mirror. Put on that zombie costume and scream “SUCK IT MOHLER!!!!!!!!!” Because Christ has defeated death and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to mess that up.
ICYMI: Yesterday Arizona senator Jeff Flake announced that he would not be seeking another term. That announcement was embedded in a remarkable speech which speaks truth with moral authority to the buffoonery currently in power. Though some are critical of Flake for leaving the battlefield, as it were, this article takes a different view of things.
When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.
Would that we could all have the courage to speak the truth in this moment in our nation’s history.
Here is Senator Flake’s speech in its entirety, along with a video.
Today I direct your attention to a post from Fr. Stephen Freeman. Freeman is one of the largest and most influential Eastern Orthodox bloggers, and he blogs at Glory to God for All Things.
In this post Freeman addresses the subject of knowledge. His big idea is that it is not enough to know things; one must also know what to do with the knowledge. Knowledge is useless unless it is an answer to a question that you or other people are asking. You can gather information all day long, but unless it answers a question you are asking, you don’t really know it–why would you bother with it?
Orthodox Christianity is not a topic to be mastered. If it is rightly understood, the Orthodox faith is an account of “everything.” It is not a subset of religious knowledge or a compendium of doctrines. It is the whole of existence, created and uncreated. Most of the faith cannot be spoken. The less of the unspoken that surrounds any given statement, the more likely that statement is to be wrong or distorted.
St. Ignatius of Antioch observed: “He who possesses in truth the word of Jesus can hear even its silence.” He also noted: “The more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him.”
All this, of course, comes as a stern rebuke to someone who has written over 2,000 articles. I will say, however, that my greatest accomplishment is in what I have not written. It is perhaps only there that I shall find salvation.
Read: What To Do With What You Know by Fr. Stephen Freeman
If I were to set up a Google feed on Pat Robertson, this blog would write itself.
Not surprisingly, Robertson has weighed in on the presidentially-manufactured controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He ties it together with the Las Vegas shootings, general criticism of Donald Trump, and just a general air of disrespect all around:
Violence in the streets, ladies and gentlemen. Why is it happening? The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places. There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system. All the way up and down the line, disrespect.
Contrast this with his remarks just a year ago at about this time, brought to you by the good people over at Right Wing Watch:
This is representative of how Robertson spent much of the Obama administration. Apparently, radical socialism and control over every aspect of every American’s life, imposed by a small group of political elites who supposedly know more about governing than all the rest of America is perfectly OK in his alternate universe, as long as it is our guys who are on top of the heap.
Let that sink in, people. That is worthy of pondering.
Today I direct your attention to this opinion piece at CNN.com. For those of you who missed it, there was a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this weekend to protest the proposed removal of Confederate statues. One white supremacist used his car to murder one young woman and injure several others who were there to protest their actions. Donald Trump, in his statements this week, made it abundantly clear that he is with the white supremacists.
But why? Why has Donald Trump gone out of his way to make it clear that he is with white supremacists? Commentator S. E. Cupp offers his opinion: Donald Trump has them confused with his base, the largely white and economically disenfranchised voters from the flyover states. In Cupp’s opinion, Donald Trump will not change course until/unless an overwhelming majority of his supporters yank their support and let him know he is wrong.
Those of you who are not millennials or otherwise well-versed in the ways in which millennials express themselves via texting/social media have probably never heard the term “ghosting” with respect to interpersonal relationships. But you can get an idea what it means: To vanish like a ghost, suddenly and inexplicably, from another person’s life.
As noted in the previous post, today’s political/religious climate demands 100% agreement with every item of your respective party’s ideological platform because there are numerous special interests out there to enforce this and ensure that you feel the consequences if you dare to deviate. In many parts of conservative evangelicalism, one of the consequences is “ghosting”. This has been perfected to an art, long before ghosting ever became a thing in the broader culture or took on that name. If you dare to deviate from your faith community’s party line on whatever issues are deemed to be of paramount importance (like gay marriage, abortion, or women in church leadership), it is not unheard of for close friends to cut off contact with you and vanish like ghosts from your life. Some of you probably have stories to tell about this.
Today we are going to look at Benjamin L. Corey’s story. Corey blogs at Formerly Fundie. Corey was “ghosted” by his best friend and the Christian community of which they were a part. It was a conservative, fundamentalist church community and Corey had begun to shift toward some positions which were at variance with the community’s ideology. They couldn’t handle it, so they left him, and of course he was left having to deal with it himself and explain it all to his children.
For those of us who have tried to live out the Christian life while being open to allowing new information to shape and stretch what we believe, the reality is that at one time or another, we have friends who will ghost us.
Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.
And so, when theological agreement is not in harmony, there’s always at least one family who feels like some evil magician made their life disappear without notice or even a preemptive “abracadabra” to give us a bit of warning that life is about to change.
While we can’t control the actions of others, I do think we can do two things:
We can refuse to be the ones who do the ghosting.
And when it happens, we can practice praying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t have the slightest effing’ clue as to the damage they’ve done.”
Read: Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About by Benjamin L. Corey