Listening to Destitute Minds

I believe we suffer from a propensity to look at people with whom we disagree and say to ourselves, “That person can’t teach me anything. They are so wrong in how they think, so insufficient in their intellectual capacities, so distorted in their worldview, that I could not possibly see reality more clearly by interacting with this person.”

Think of the political divide. Republicans decry working with “the other side” as a compromise of values. In turn, Democrats seriously question the sanity and morality of those who disagree with their principles. Both sides react with disdain when anyone seeks a third way for moving forward.

Consider the culture wars. One side sees evil lurking everywhere.Government, the news, schools, technology–-all are trying to poison the hearts and minds of the faithful. The other side sees the forces of corruption, corporate task masters, and institutional suppression reigning supreme, preventing people from experiencing true liberation.

Think of what is now 500 years of theological division (non-Chalcedonian and Orthodox brethren aside, of course). For some, the Reformation was the moment of freedom, the removal of the shackles of theological corruption, the purification of doctrine and practice, and remains a cause for great celebration. For others, the Reformation was a grave mistake, a continued blight on the landscape of Christianity, a massive embarrassment, a destruction of unity that should be mourned, not celebrated.

The very way in which we talk to and interact with others is poisoned by the mindset, “You’re wrong. I cannot learn from you.” Too often, the logic is frighteningly simple: Someone is different than me. Since I’m right, that someone is wrong. Therefore, they have nothing of value to offer me or my tribe. Continue reading

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Book Review: Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)

Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)Every so often a book comes along and truly rewrites the paradigms of a field. Some twenty-five years ago, David Noebel penned such a book, titled Understanding the Times. In this 900-page tome Noebel outlined the clash between competing worldviews – ways of viewing and interpreting the world – which were occurring throughout in the late 20th century. The original edition of UTT was one of the most popular and influential books ever on culture and worldviews from a Christian perspective, transforming how many people understand the battle of ideas taking place in our times. But the contours of major worldviews have changed since 1991 and the world has changed along with them. To address this new worldviews context, Jeff Myers, in conjunction with David Noebel, undertook a substantial revision of Noebel’s classic work, now called Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Ministries and Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015. 510pp.). Continue reading

MHT: Principle of Clarity

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

The Thinker Auguste RodinEpistemological clarity constitutes the second vital component for historical theological work. This necessity arises out of awareness of the postmodern critique of knowledge. As noted above, the postmodern challenge argues that historians can only engage the past from their own necessarily limited and linguistically constructed perspectives, thereby limiting the applicability of any claims to assertions of relative perspective. The work of Foucault, Lyotard, and Berkofer rightly critiques assumptions of narrative meaning at work in historical reconstructions, that all perspectives are necessarily limited. However, less persuasive is the critique of narrative that accompanies the postmodern metanarrative. Recognition that everyone relies on worldviews which contain certain epistemological assumptions does not necessitate that those worldviews (and epistemologies) are invalid. Rather such recognition requires awareness of those assumptions and how they operate. Continue reading

Book Review: Why Church History Matters (Rea)

“Every Christian follows tradition. Whether we affirm the canon of Scripture, Trinitarian explanation or even denominational distinctive, we embrace tradition. This is true whether we call it ‘tradition’ or prefer softer terms such as ‘precedent,’ ‘custom’, or ‘common practice.’”

Why Church History MattersAs interest in history dwindles in our intensely technological age, reasons for studying the past are increasingly in need of explanation. This is especially true when it comes to the history of Christianity, where the intersection of emphasis on contemporary relevance and Protestant theologies which are summarily uninterested in the past have combined to produce generations of Christians who are illiterate when it comes to the faith of earlier Christians. In response to this growing trend, Robert F. Rea advocates the importance of studying Church History in Why Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn from Our Past (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014). Continue reading

Reflections on the Institute for Creation Research

Institute for Creation ResearchThe topic of “Creation versus Evolution,” at least in many circles, often elicits a good deal of debate, many times in rather a heated manner. The point of this post is not to provoke strong emotions in anyone, but only to offer a few thoughts about the Institute for Creation Research, an outspoken advocate of scientific “Creationism.” The integration of faith and reason in science has been an important consideration for many American Protestant Christians over the past 120 years. In the early 1900’s, intellectual change on a number of levels was sweeping across America, especially in relation to biological science. In 1925, the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN made Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection (first published in 1859) and brought a creation/evolution dichotomy to the forefront of American culture. Over the next few decades, the increasingly divided American Church responded to an increasingly secular scientific culture in a variety of ways. Many of the more “liberal” denominations acclimated to the changes in the philosophy of science, while many “conservative” denominations either fought against such changes or (more often) merely abandoned serious scientific inquiry altogether. By the 1970’s, the divide on creation and evolution was nearly complete, a divide that has directly impacted the nature of American Christianity on a variety of topics (scientific, theological, ethical, and political) since. Continue reading

Life at the Bottom

Life at the BottomVery often (especially among us academic types) we tend to read a snippet of news here, a blog post there, and maybe have a conversation with a friend about a topic and, suddenly, our minds are made up about that topic. There’s nothing more to learn, to additional evidence to consider. This is especially true when it comes to important issues like religion or politics: we want stability, so we grasp whatever affirms our worldview as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, its good to undergo a bit of “paradigm realignment.” That is, it’s good to engage sources that stretch (or even break) the limits of your worldview by forcing you to consider evidence outside the realm of what you normally think about. And for well-off Americans, one such topic is poverty. Continue reading

Book Review: Just Jesus (Wink)

Just Jesus

Just Jesus

“How does my autobiography affect my interpretation of Scripture? How has my theology come out of my experiences?”

These are the driving questions of Walter Wink’s memoirs, Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human (Image: New York, 2014). Penned as his reflections upon life and theology during his fatal struggle with dementia, Just Jesus reads something like a collection of reflections by a modern Christian saint, structurally and, at least at times, theologically as well. Compiled with the help of Wink’s wife June and Steven Berry, this work provides numerous insights into the life and thought of one of the most influential American Christian theologians of the 20th century. Continue reading