Tuesday, July 05, 2005

mclaren post coming

i haven't forgotten i said i was going to put down my thoughts on 'a generous orthodoxy.' i have to finish reading the book this week.

so far i've found a problem: his weird ideas on atonement and the revision of the TULIP. um...not so down with that. i'm not sure if he's de-emphasizing atonement because he's just chosen not to focus on it (it's his project so he can make any focal decisions he wants) or because he truly thinks that christ's atonement for our sins is really unimportant and unnecessary.

i find that strange. cuz, if that's the case, then what the hell's the point of salvation?

jesus wants to be my best friend?


Pastor John said...

he is out of his mind. Just a quickie on my part. Glad to see that you are reading him with a thinking mind.

ding said...

dad, you're just glad because i agree with you...

he's not crazy. most of what he says strikes a cord and his criticism of mainline church practice is valid. but, yeah, there are sticking points.

Pastor John said...

He does not speak with the authority of scriptures. He is seeking to gain another audience other then smart Christians. YUP! I was right. . . He Is Crazy! And I do love ya too!

ding said...

i think calling him crazy is an easy way of discounting some valid criticisms he has of the contemporary church. he's never professed to being theologically trained (as in from a seminary). he acknowledges he comes from academia. so think of him like the most of us - a seeking layman.

do you call most of your congregants crazy when they mispeak? (and don't forget i know most of your congregants, dad.)

but he also acknowledges that he is a christian and derives his fundamental thoughts on faith from his traditional judeo-christian background. from what i've read, i have no reason to believe otherwise. i think he is a christian, with a much more conventional idea of faith and what it is to walk the walk than most of his critics give him credit for.

now. as for points of doctrine, yes, there may be some...uh, weirdness there. not saying there isn't. however, that does not mean that everything he says about the church should be thrown out. (notice i said 'church' and not 'bible'.)

again, i think the problem with most fundamentalists is that we concentrate so hard on the seminary stuff we use that as a screen to deflect attention from the ways we're not really sticking to the mission of christ.

in other words, yeah, it's great y'all know the ins and outs of penal substitutionary atonement, but dude - what are you DOING for the kingdom of God? what are you DOING to embody the love of CHRIST here on earth?

THAT'S mclaren's point. and if someone wants to ignore that salient point because they want to ignore how they're failing in the mission, i think that's sad.

greg said...

I haven't read anything by McLaren, but there certainly exists a group of theologeans who dismiss the entire notion of "atonement." As I understand it (I'll just use the qualifer once - I am not an expert and so apologies in advance for any misrepresentation), their argument is based on a modern understanding of the evolution of humans and humanity over billions of years. If you buy this picture of how we and our world was created (I do), it implies that there never was a fall, because we were never perfect to begin with.

Basically, the ancient Israelites had the following picture of how evil came into a world created by a loving God (this is a major conundrum for anyone who believes in a loving God): perfectly created humans abused their free will, precipitating a fall from grace which necessitated Christ's atonement for our sins. Given the modern evolutionary picture of our origins, the ancient Israelite's picture makes no sense (which explains why the fundagelicals are attacking evolution so fiercely).

In the modern evolutionary view, our sinfulness is a natural consequence of our origins in the animal world. In this view, we are works in progress, always moving toward a better (though always imperfect) understanding of God. So our sin is not a direct consequence of our free will, rather it is an indirect consequence of our failure to use our free will to counteract our animal instinct.

This view actually resonates with today's reading from Romans 8, particularly verses 5-9: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." I read this as a recognition by Paul that the root of sinfulness and human-generated evil lies in our animal nature (although I freely acknowledge that Paul himself would not have viewed it this way).

Anyway, if you buy this picture, then Jesus significance lies not in any final "atonement", but in the roadmap which he constructed for how to evolve - how to move closer to God. Our animal instinct tells us to favor members of our own tribe over members of other tribes; to favor our blood relatives over all others; to seek our own security at all costs; to take from others if it provides us immediate gain; etc. Jesus taught that all of this is wrong. Rather than fighting to preserve our individual lives we should turn the other cheek; that our devotion to our families is *less* important than our devotion to God; that God is most readily found in the small and the weak and the quiet - precisely those that seem to be most at a disadvantage in the world of the flesh.

That these ideas are as radical and yet compelling today as they were 2000 years ago is all the proof that I need that Jesus was not just another prophet. Was he "God" in the triune sense? I don't know and I don't care. I believe that he had a clearer and more accurate picture of God than any human before or since (including Paul and the Gospel writers, btw), and so I call myself a Christian. Does this mean that nobody else (Confucious, Mohammed, etc.) has had exceptional insight into God? By no means. I am most familiar with Christian teaching because that is the tradition in which I was raised, and by itself it offers far more insight than I will ever be able to utilise and digest. So, I am a Christian, but don't believe that Christ is the *only* way to God. Just a very good way, and the best way for me.

Well, that's probably more heresy than you've had on your blog for a while. I apologize to your dad (and maybe to you), but as Luther said: "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders."