24 04 2008

Every year there are 120,000 books published. Thats around 2300 per day.
There are thousands of radio stations, TV Channels, Movies, and Programmes on offer too. Then theres magazines; the countless array titles that pervade our local convenience stores. Not to mention newspapers. Finally we have the internet. The infinitely sprawling mass of information, opinion, commerce, and porn. Unfortunately for many the gospel has become entangled in all these media forms, and horribly diluted. Two idea dominate society today, one is current and the other a remnant from the enlightenment. They are rationalism and Post Modernism.

Rationalists believe that everything has a logical explanation, one can only know things through reason. Ultimately this leads to a belief that one must know everything before one can say they know anything. Then the other side of the spectrum, known as post-modernism, which says theres your story and theres my story but other than that theres not much else we can really know. Post modernism is often associated or confused with relativism. While relativists abandon the pursuit of meaning, e.g. everything is meaningless, post modernists look for unexpected sources of meaning, and see that meaning can come from anything. So we have to know everything, but we can’t, but we really know nothing, but we know something. Do you see the problem?

Lets apply these ideas to the Bible. The rationalist would say we have to know everything about this book, who wrote it, why they wrote, who they wrote it to, their intentions, the historical climate at the time, the precise meaning of the words, in hebrew and greek, and perhaps we should memorize it all too. Also heres a list of 40 commentaries you should read as well. We have to be able to rationalise God to our own way of thinking. The post modernist would say stop reading the bible and look around you theres so many other things that can point you towards God. Whatever you interpret from scripture is just your interpretation, it doesn’t apply to me. In fact nothing really applies to anyone other than yourself. So whatever conclusions you draw, keep them to yourself. 

To a rationalist knowing everything is the key to understanding something. But this line of thought runs into problems as soon as you start dealing with something that is beyond your realm of understanding. Like God for example. He is infinite and we are finite. We have no concept of infinity. For us infinity means a very long time. But actually infinity actually means the absence of time. If our lives are governed by time, how can we ever know what it is like to be outside of time. This view runs aground as soon as it comes into contact with the living God. To a post modernist seeing all truth as relative just does not fit with reality. Even the most hardened post modernist will cry foul when witness to a murder, or abuse of children. If all truth is relative then someone is lying. If all truth is relative and all that matters is my experience then on what grounds do we condem murder, rape, child abuse or theft?

These are the two extremes we have in the world and dare I say this thinking has invaded the church.
Clinging to these beliefs will undermine the heart and soul of the gospel message. With the sheer volume of information that Its little wonder that Christians have given up and “gone to the grandstands to eat junk food and hurl abuse”. The flaming arrow of Rationalism may be burning more people in the church than we think. We see evidence of this in the lack of biblical and historical literacy among Church goers these days; Many sufficing to hear a motivational speech that has more akin with a management pep-talk than the gospel. Perhaps the only way we have been able to extinguish the flame of rationalism is to give in to post modernity. Its easier to defend your position when you believe no one knows anything. Or so we have thought.

You see there are no new heresies in the Church today, only old ones repeated. Authors publish books claiming a fresh perspective on Jesus or Paul or whomever they choose, but they promise more hope than they can deliver. Lets look at that for a moment. The only way that there could be a fresh perspective on something in scripture would be if we discovered something new that hadn’t been there before. Say some new primary source of information such as a new scroll of the gospel. But everytime this happens, e.g. the dead sea scrolls, we find that they are remarkably consistent with what we already have.

For example, any Christian book that starts with a foundation other than “Salvation by Grace alone” will always regress into morality. A book I’m reading now about “The Myth of a Christian Nation” is no different. The fact that you can keep talking about God’s kingdom as mutually exclusive from His Grace is crazy. The only reason we are even here and can be part of Gods kingdom is because of His Grace.  If Gods kingdom somehow depends on me building it and my salvation depends on how well I’ve built this kingdom then what hope do I have? Why even bother? Again is it little wonder that Christians have retreated to the “grandstands to eat junk food and hurl abuse”. To be honest i’ve found myself in that position many times. Its not a nice place to be. Like my other posts about Churches, when we ignore Salvation by Grace we become moralists and insist on making others conform to our view of morality. This is completely and utterly against what Jesus came to do, and what he accomplished on the cross.

What we need is a call to the familiar and the tried and tested. For my next series of posts I am going to post the 5 points of Calvinism.




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