Him: ...you know that horrible taste of medicine?At which point we were interrupted.
Me: Yeh, I remember the first time I tasted it - I was like "What is going on! Why is this so horrible!"
Him: Yeh, that's our body telling us that that is poison.
Me: Hmm, maybe.
Him: Seriously, think about it.
Me: Pizza tastes really good, is that my body telling me that it's good for me?
Him: Exactly, things that are good for you taste good.
Me: So, pizza tastes so good because it contains a lot of nutrients. That's why you're not supposed to eat to much of it. Things that taste delicious should me eaten sparingly. Like candy.
Me: You know, from an entirely empirical worldview, there's no way to demonstrate that Why.
Him: Yes, I know what you mean.
Me: You can demonstrate using empirical evidence that the pizza tastes good and that medicine doesn't. But you can't go the next step and say Why? That's all speculative.
Him: I know where you're going with this. We've talked about this before. Well, it's a hypothesis. It helps explain a lot of other things.
Me: But what allows you to do that?
Him: You have to use common sense.
Me: Hmm. Remember how I said that I have some questions for Lewis?
Me: This is one of those questions. I don't think you can account for common sense. You have to be able to account for it to use it.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
It has frequently been argued, indeed insisted upon, that whatever we mean by the resurrection of Jesus, it is not accessible to historical investigation. Some have even suggested that it is not to be thought of in any meaningful sense as 'an event within history' at all. The archers cannot see the target properly; some doubt if it even exists. Over against this, I shall argue that the resurrection of Jesus, whatever it was, can and must be seen as at least a historical problem.
What, though, do we mean by 'historical'? 'History' and its cognates have been used, within debates about Jesus and the resurrection, in at least five significantly different ways.
First, there is history as event. If we say something is 'historical' in this sense, it happened, whether or not we can know or prove that it happened. The death of the last pterodactyl is in that sense a historical event, even though no human witnessed it or wrote about it at the time, and we are very unlikely ever to discover when and where it took place. Similarly, we use the word 'historical' of persons or things, to indicate simply and solely that they existed.
Second, there is history as significant event. Not all events are significant; history, it is often assumed, consists of the ones that are. The adjective that tends to go with this is 'historic'; 'a historic event' is not simply an event that took place, but one whose occurrence carried momentous consequences. Likewise, a 'historic' person, building or object is one perceived to have had particular significance, not merely existence. Rudolf Bultmann, himself arguably a historic figure within the discipline of New Testament studies, famously used the adjective geschichtlich to convey this sense, over against historisch (sense 1).
Third, there is history as provable event. To say that something is 'historical' in this sense is to say not only that it happened but that we can demonstrate that it happened, on the analogy of mathematics or the so-called hard sciences. This is somewhat more controversial. To say 'x may have happened, but we can't prove it, so it isn't really historical' may not be self-contradictory, but it is clearly operating with a more restricted sense of 'history' than some of the others.
Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past. To say something is 'historical' in this sense is to say that it was written about, or perhaps could in principle have been written about. (This might even include 'historical' novels.) A variant on this, though an important one, is oral history; at a time when many regarded it as carrying more authority than the written, history as speaking-about-events-in-the-past is not to be sneezed at.
Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussion of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic. By 'modern' I mean 'post-Enlightenment', the period in which people have imagined some kind of analogy, even correlation, between history and the hard sciences. In this sense, 'historical' means not only that which can be demonstrated and written, but that which can be demonstrated and written within the post-Enlightenment worldview. This is what people have often had in mind when they rejected 'the historical Jesus' (which hereby, of course, comes to mean 'the Jesus that fits the Procrustean bed of a reductionist worldview') in favor of 'the Christ of faith'.
Confusion between these senses has of course bedevilled this very debate about the so-called 'historical Jesus', the phrase being used by some to mean Jesus as he actually was (sense 1), by others to mean what was significant about Jesus (sense 2), by others to mean that which we can prove about Jesus, as opposed to that which we must either doubt or take on faith alone (sense 3); by others again to mean what people have written about Jesus (sense 4). Those who, as I mentioned, have taken the phrase in sense 5 have often rejected the Jesus not only of that sense but, apparently, of the previous 4 as well. Jesus and the Victory of God constitutes, in part, a response to this position. But what we must now face one very specific, particular and in some senses peculiar case of the problem. In what sense, if any, can Jesus' resurrection be spoken of as 'historical'?
Ever since the time of Paul, people have tried to write about Jesus' resurrection (whatever they meant by that). The question of course, rebounds: were they thereby writing about an event in the past? Were they writing 'history'? Or was it all actually the projection of their own faith-experience? When they said 'Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day', were they intending to makes some kind of historical claim about Jesus, or did they themselves know this was a metaphor for their own remarkable new religious experience, the rise of their faith, and so on? This pushes us back to sense 1, which is the question at stake throughout much of this book: was the resurrection something that actually happened, and if so what precisely was it that happened? We do not seem to have had much polemic against 'the historical resurrection' in the same way that there has been angry rejection of 'the historical Jesus'.
There is no problem about predicating sense 2 of Jesus' resurrection. Virtually everyone will agree that whatever-it-was-that-happened was extremely significant. Indeed, some recent writers agree that it was very significant while continuing to argue that we cannot know what 'it' is. There are enormous problems about sense 3: it all depends on what you mean by 'proof', and we shall return to that question in due course. Sense 4 is unproblematic: the 'event' has been written about, even if it was all made up. But it is sense 5 that has caused the real headache: what can historians in today's world say on the subject? Unless we keep these distinctions clear in our minds as we proceed, we shall not just have enormous problems; we shall go round in ever-decreasing circles. [source]
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
|Ages of Man||Creation||History|
|1||Infantia (pre-verbal)||Light||Adam to Noah|
|2||Pueritia (speaking)||Sky/Earth||Noah to Abraham|
|3||Adulescentia (15-30)||Vegetation||Abraham to David|
|4||Juventus (30-45)||Galaxy||David to Babylon|
|5||Maturitas (45-60)||Fish||Babylon to Christ|
|6||Senectus (60-)||Animals/Man||Christ to End|
Sunday, January 6, 2013
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.Blessed Epiphany!
[Ephesians iii, 6]
Monday, December 31, 2012
During the Gospel reading this past Sunday, John i, 1-17, I couldn't help but think how, given historical context, the discourse on light and darkness seems so obviously in reference to Jews and Gentiles. The only problem I had, then, was my next thought was how regularly I found myself reading the New Testament as predominantly a commentary on the relationship between Jew and Gentile - so regularly, in fact, that it's a little bit suspicious. Note this line (Hays) from today:
In Romans, Paul cites Scripture not as a repository of miscellaneous wisdom on various topics but as an insistent witness of one great truth: God's righteousness, which has now embraced Gentiles among the people of God, includes the promise of God's unbroken faithfulness to Israel. Virtually every text Paul cites or alludes to is made to circle around this one theme.Is it not possible that the project of Hays, Wright, Inc are possibly guilty of flattening out biblical theology?
Monday, November 19, 2012
Late to the party, as usual, but I just want to chime in that, with your dad, I could affirm some, though not all, of the above. You spoke to many different issues that would be worth pursuing, but one came to the fore as I read your note: 'the true message of compassion, empathy, forgiveness and love for all humanity were the true underpinnings of the Christian faith.'
While I have no prior experience of the man, Bill Maher, I saw a clip where he claimed to love "Jesus the moral philosopher." This, to me, is asinine. If we are to in any way revere "Jesus the moral philosopher," I for one, renounce my faith immediately. Socrates was a moral philosopher. Jesus was a *Messiah*, an anointed Jewish King, the only true one, resurrected by the Father, and ascended to heaven. But he is no ethical mincer of words. The centerpiece of his vocation was the proclamation *of* his vocation - the Gospel he brought was that He *is* the Gospel. Any ethical claims he makes are not the patient reflections on the thorniness of moral quandaries - such as one might find in John Stuart Mill, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, or Peter Singer - rather, the ethics he declares is the offspring of his more fundamental ministry of declaring who he was and what follows from the mere fact of *himself*.
That being the case, I think it would be misguided to assume that Christianity (even remotely distinctly) brings a message of "compassion, empathy, forgiveness and love for all humanity." Rather, the true message of Christianity is a sword. Reject it or embrace it, but call it what it is. Anybody who has tried to dress it up differently is either deluded themselves, or simply pandering to you.
As for God, showing his face in nature, I can't encourage you enough to read the book I gave you, Miracles, by Lewis. You will be impressed by the depth of both the similarity and dissimilarity of Lewis' understanding and your own. I'll give you the cliff notes. Everything hinges on the joining of Nature and Supernature in one person - the Incarnation. In Christ, the hospitality of God is revealed through his condescension to what is *not* God, that it may become *like* God.
On that note, good night.
Monday, October 29, 2012
My answer: I reject the premise, "we should minimize suffering whenever we can," not because we shouldn't, but because we shouldn't talk like that. Speaking in universal ethical maxims are the bread and butter of utilitarianism, and other sorts of fascism.
Assuming that the question of animal ethics is simply a matter of "minimizing suffering whenever we can" and its converse "maximizing pleasure wherever we can" leads to the worst kinds of cruelty. Bypassing real problems such as the separation of people from the means of food production (the hunter may be the most ethical meat-eater), it reduces cows, chickens, and pigs, to an economy of hedons and utils.
The economy of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain is the very economy that yields real animal cruelty because it strips animals of their ordered dignity, and replaces it with commodity. The utilitarianism to which the speaker appealed in order to save the animals, is the very thing which enables their violence. We shouldn't talk like that.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
6 + 1 would bring us only to the Sabbath, the 7th day, Holy Saturday, the day of rest/death.
But 6 + 2 brings us to the Future, the 8th day, Easter, the day of the resurrection and eternal life.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
In this descent and reascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to perfect embryo, to the living conscious baby, and finally to the adult. So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a reascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth - go down to go up - it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.
The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Rebirth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and reascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.
From this point of view the Christian doctrine makes itself so quickly at home amid the deepest apprehensions of reality which we have from other sources, that doubt may spring up in a new direction. Is it not fitting in too well? So well that it must have come into men's minds from seeing this pattern elsewhere, particularly in the annual death and resurrection of the corn? For there have, of course, been many religions in which that annual drama (so important for the life of the tribe) was almost admittedly the central theme, and the deity - Adonis, Osiris, or another - almost undisguisedly a personification of the corn, a 'corn-king' who died and rose again each year. Is not Christ simply another corn-king?
Now this brings us to the oddest thing about Christianity. In a sense the view which I have just described is actually true. From a certain point of view Christ is 'the same sort of thing' as Adonis and Osiris (always, of course, waiving the fact that they lived nobody knows where or when, while He was executed by a Roman magistrate we know in a year that can be roughly dated). And that is just the puzzle. If Christianity is a religion of that kind why is the analogy of the seed falling into the ground so seldom mentioned (twice only if I mistake not) in the New Testament? Corn-religions are popular and respectable: if that is what the first Christian teachers were putting across, what motive could they have for concealing the fact? The impression they make is that of men who don't know how close they are to the corn-religions: men who simply overlook the rich sources of relevant imagery and association which they must have been on the verge of tapping at every moment. If you say they suppressed it because they were Jews, that only raises the puzzle in a new form. Why should the only religion of a 'dying God' which has actually survived and risen to unexemplified spiritual heights occur precisely among those people to whom, and to whom almost alone, the whole circle of ideas that belong to the 'dying God' was foreign? I myself, who first seriously read the New Testament when I was, imaginatively and poetically, all agog for the Death and Rebirth pattern and anxious to meet a corn-king, was chilled and puzzled by the almost total absence of such ideas in the Christian documents. One moment particularly stood out. A 'dying God' - the only dying God who might possibly be historical - holds bread, that is corn, in His hand and says, 'This is my body'. Surely here, even if nowhere else - or surely if not here, at least in the earliest comments on this passage and through all later devotional usage in ever swelling volume - the truth must come out; the connection between this and the annual drama of the crops must be made. But it is not. It is there for me. There is no sign that it was there for the disciples or (humanly speaking) for Christ himself. It is almost as if He didn't realise what He had said.
The records, in fact, show us a Person who enacts the part of the Dying God, but whose thoughts and words remain quite outside the circle of religious ideas to which the Dying God belongs. The very thing which Nature-religions are all about seems to have really happened once; but it happened in a circle where no trace of Nature-religion was present. It is as if you met the sea-serpent and found that it disbelieved in sea-serpents: as if history recorded a man who had done all the things attributed to Sir Lancelot but who had himself never apparently heard of chivalry.
There is, however, one hypothesis which, if accepted, makes everything easy and coherent. The Christians are not claiming that simply 'God' was incarnate in Jesus. They are claiming that the one true God is He whom the Jews worshipped as Jahweh, and that it is He who has descended. Now the double character of Jahweh is this. On the one hand He is the God of Nature, her glad Creator. It is He who sends rain into the furrows till the valleys stand so thick with corn that they laugh and sing. The trees of the wood rejoice before Him and His voice causes the wild deer to bring forth their young. He is the God of wheat and wine and oil. In that respect He is constantly doing all the things that Nature-Gods do: He is Bacchus, Venus, Ceres all rolled into one. There is no trace in Judaism of the idea found in some pessimistic and Pantheistic religions that Nature is some kind of illusion or disaster, that finite existence is in itself an evil and that the cure lies in the relapse of all things into God. Compared with such anti-natural conceptions Jahweh might almost be mistaken for a Nature-God.
On the other hand, Jahweh is clearly not a Nature-God. He does not die and come to life each year as a true Corn-king should. He may give wine and fertility, but must not be worshipped with Bacchanalian or aphrodisiac rites. He is not the soul of Nature or any part of Nature. He inhabits eternity: He dwells in the high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture. One day He will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the 'divine spark' in man. He is 'God and not man': His thoughts are not our thoughts: all our righteousness is filthy rags. His appearance to Ezekiel is attended with imagery that does not borrow from Nature, but (it is a mystery too seldom noticed) from those machines which men were to make centuries after Ezekiel's death. The prophet saw something suspiciously like a dynamo.
Jahweh is neither the soul of Nature nor her enemy. She is neither His body nor a declension and falling away from Him. She is His creature. He is not a nature-God, but the God of Nature - her inventor, maker, owner, and controller. To everyone who reads this book the conception has been familiar from childhood; we therefore easily think it is the most ordinary conception in the world. 'If people are going to believe in a God at all,' we ask, 'what other kind would they believe in?' But the answer of history is, 'Almost any other kind'. We mistake our privileges for our instincts: just as one meets ladies who believe their own refined manners to be natural to them. They don't remember being taught.
Now if there is such a God and if He descends to rise again, then we can understand why Christ is at once so like the Corn-King and so silent about him. He is like the Corn-King because the Corn-King is a portrait of Him. The similarity is not in the least unreal or accidental. For the Corn-King is derived (through human imagination) from the facts of Nature, and the facts of Nature from her Creator; the Death and Rebirth pattern is in her because it was first in Him. On the other hand, elements of Nature-religion are strikingly absent from the teaching of Jesus and from the Judaic preparation which led up to it precisely because in them Nature's Original is manifesting Itself. In them you have from the very outset got in behind Nature-religion and behind Nature herself. Where the real God is present the shadows of that God do not appear; that which the shadows resembled does. The Hebrews throughout their history were being constantly headed off from the worship of Nature-gods; not because the Nature-gods were in all respects unlike the God of Nature but because, at best, they were merely like, and it was the destiny of that nation to be turned away from likenesses to the thing itself. (pp. 179-186)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
This is a popular book. This is not a book written for review in academic journals. It is through and through pastoral both in scope and style (though ironically written by a philosophy professor). So, those who are looking for the titillation of robustly scholastic vocabulary, or the rollicking back-and-forth jab between theologians of various schools and traditions, or pages covered in footnotes - people like that - people with whom I relate a good bit - will be disappointed. This is a more relaxed, accessible read.
The book is broken into 10 chapters and reads like a very accessible version of D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism. Released nearly 2 years ago, it has already been amply reviewed. What I want to offer here is the text in miniature, a teaser of sorts, which includes one paragraph from each chapter that I found exemplifies the chapter as a whole, along with some minor commentary for context.
The book is written with the sort of moral courage and backbone that its opposition often lacks - and because of that, it is bound to raise objections at some, if not many points. Even though I would recommend the text without reservation, it's worth mentioning that there are some places where I might have some quibbles. But those are few and far between.
Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart
A very different kind of spirituality comes to us from the revelation of God in holy Scripture. It frees us to develop our own thoughts and feelings, since we don't have to look for God within our hearts - which is where we are most vulnerable to self-deception and technologies of manipulation. Instead, we can find him in his faithful word. So once again we have doubly good news, about self-knowledge and the knowledge of God. The good news about self-knowledge is that it's okay for your feelings and thoughts to be our own, not the voice of God. For the good news about God is that he makes himself known the way a real person does, by speaking to us from outside our hearts. And precisely that external speaking, when we take it in by faith, gives a new shape to our hearts, conforming us to the image of his Son. That's how our thoughts and feelings and inner voices become a new thing, not merely a product of consumer culture. (p. 14)The first chapter of the book lays down the premise for which every other chapter is merely an explication: there is not even a hint in Scripture that anyone, anywhere should look inside their hearts to find God AND anyone that would believe that they should look inside their hearts to find God, bring a horrible burden upon themselves: they come to look toward their faith rather than to Christ, the object of our faith; they lose any concept of themselves as responsible moral agents; and their decision-making is often skewed in the direction of evil as it is molded by the culture in which they live rather than the Spirit. But Cary writes to bring good news: you don't have to believe that.
Why You Don't Have to Believe Your Intuitions Are the Holy Spirit
According to this biblical account of the work of the Spirit in our hearts, we won't get a sanctified heart by listening for the Spirit, but by listening to God's word. Knowing the Spirit therefore does not depend on recognizing some special feeling or intuition as the presence of the Spirit. It means knowing Christ through his word, the gospel - a knowledge which is the fruit of the Spirit working in us. And the result, indeed, is that our feelings and intuitions are different. They are still human feelings and intuitions, but they are the feelings and intuitions of a sanctified heart. That is where the work of the Spirit in our hearts is headed. (p. 32)Human intuition, inklings, hunches, feelings, nudges are wholly helpful, meaningful sources of wisdom. They are the result of a well-trained mind - but they are not to be confused with the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks to us through the audible, external ministry of the Preached Word. ("Faith comes by hearing...") Through ritual reception of biblical exhortation, the Spirit works and reshapes our hearts, our intuitions. Through time, our intuitions can become described as "sanctified," that is "made holy" - which is to say, through time, our own intuitions and discernment has been so shaped by the ministry of the Gospel that it can be said to have been shaped by the Holy Spirit. Any student of the opening chapters of Genesis can tell you that the Holy Spirit is not one to circumvent natural processes - as if to be "supernatural" meant simply "unnatural" or "not natural" - rather the Spirit works with, on, and through creation for the sake of creation (if Genesis 1 is to be trusted). Therefore, it should not surprise us that listening to the Spirit, for Christians, doesn't have to mean something mystically interior ("spiritual"). Rather, we should rest assured that the Spirit sent from Christ works not to replace our feelings and intuitions, but with, on, and through them for their sake.
Why You Don't Have to "Let God Take Control"
I don't think there's any way this makes sense, and I can't tell you how glad I am that I was never forced to believe any of this stuff myself. It looks to me like an awful psychological game, one that really twists you up inside. The only way you can play the game well is to get really good at fooling yourself, while not noticing that's what you're really doing. You have to work very, very hard to convince yourself that you've succeeded in getting God to do everything by "letting" him. An essential part of the trick is to make sure you don't realize how hard you're working to pull it off - because if you're working at it, then you're still just trying to do it in your own strength. (p. 51)Here, Cary takes issue with the theology underwriting the expression "Let go and let God," an idea that Christian faithfulness consists of only acting with a heart that is purified of any will of our own, as that will may interfere with the will of God. Cary contrasts this theology with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew xxv, 14-30), a parable that compares Christian obedience to the work of a steward. In the parable, the steward who refuses to work because he fears frustrating the work of his master, is the disobedient servant who reaps destruction for dishonoring his master. Letting God "take control" is precisely the opposite of obedience. It is the steward saying to the master, "No, you do it. I don't want to mess this up." Rather, the Christian honors God by taking the talents given him, and shrewdly using them to reap blessings for the Kingdom of God.
Why You Don't Have to "Find God's Will for Your Life"
"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).Numerous authors have written about the deeply vexing false doctrine of "God's perfect will for your life." For those unfamiliar, the doctrine teaches that, in addition to God's sovereign will and moral will, there is a third will, the perfect will. The perfect will is the special individual will that's custom fit to every decision in your life; it is God's unique, handcrafted goal for your own personal greatness and glory, and you must find it, not miss it, or you are missing God's best - and so it goes. It's deeply private and only attainable if you "listen to the Holy Spirit" - and it's a doctrine only fathomable in the most narcissistic of civilizations. Not only does this novel doctrine cripple the self-aware and the honest, but it baptizes every questionable decision made by the deluded so that their deepest desires and inclinations are unquestionably Divine.
Those are wonderful words of assurance, and we are right to see that they apply also to us today. But let us pay attention as well to what they do not say: they do not say exactly what God's plans are, nor do they tell us that we are supposed to find out. God knows his plans, and that is enough. He assures us that his thoughts are for our good, and we can trust that. We don't have to find out the details. That is far beyond our ability and he never tells us to try it. (p. 60)
Why You Don't Have to Be Sure You Have the Right Motivations
Repentance is the healthiest way for a sinful and deceitful heart to focus attention on itself. But the rest of our moral growth comes mainly by looking away from ourselves, which is what loving hearts naturally do. This should not be confused with the attempt to be "unselfish," as if it were a way of denying our own desires and needs. On the contrary, it is the only real way to fulfill our desire for happiness, joy, and delight. For we delight in the people we love, which means the idea that love is all about being unselfish fundamentally makes no sense. (p. 90)Here, Cary shows that the Christian view of the good does not exclude self-interest or delight. Rather, the Christian seeks the good because it is delightful. The question "What can I do without impure motives?" is a vexing question, vexing because the answer is "Probably nothing." We should take for granted that all our desires contain a mixture of good and bad, confess it, receive our forgiveness, and then look out toward the more important question of "What is right?" We do not do the right because we know we are right, but because we love the good.
Why You Don't Have to Worry about Splitting Head from Heart
So here's the odd thing. It seems obvious to me that thinking about your feelings is a way of bringing thoughts and feelings together. And yet it's precisely when you're thinking about your feelings that people really start worrying that you're splitting your head from your heart. It looks to me that what they're actually afraid of is that the thinking itself is what will split your head from your heart. They seem to have the notion that when there's too much thinking going on in your head, it's somehow a threat to the feelings in your heart. If that's what they're worried about, then what the warning about splitting head from heart really means is: don't think too much. It's not really about bringing head and heart together, but more like trying to protect your heart from your head - by cutting off your head. (p. 99)Much of what Cary writes causes us to carefully examine what exactly we are thinking and feeling and saying when we "listen for the Holy Spirit" or "let God take control" or "try to find God's will for your life." Cary explains that this very process of self-reflection, the process of thinking rationally about Christian faith and practice is often met with a criticism: this process is "splitting head from heart." Cary turns this criticism on its head. The act of thinking about feelings is intended to bring head and heart together. To criticize this as splitting our emotions from our thoughts is, in truth, a covert way of saying "don't think too much."
Why You Don't Have to Keep Getting Transformed All the Time.
The new evangelical theology is a form of consumerist spirituality, which is why it joins in the game of making you feel guilty for not being transformed often enough. Like self-help books and celebrity magazines, it offers transformations that are pretty shallow - a string of "life-changing experiences," each of which lasts only until the next life-changing experience comes along. But of course convincing you that you always need the next life-changing experience is the real point. To be the same old self, untransformed, would mean to want the same old thing, and consumerism can't stand for that. (p. 120)Cary chalks up the new evangelical theology to the consumerist culture in which we live. This confused spirituality reduces every call and act of the Christian life to a call to "experience God." Emotional intensity becomes the measure of every act of the Church and those things which do not provide the individual with such emotional intensity ("the experience of God") are demeaned. Rather than written prayers, for example, ex tempore, spontaneous prayers become preferable because they are "from the heart." Moving music is more fundamental than ritual worship since ritual seems bereft of transformative value. Most contemporary worship movements have more to do with capitalism than biblical principles.
Why You Don't Always Have to Experience Joy
Meanwhile, we must wait in hope. And in our waiting we have no authority to speak like Job's friends, blaming the afflicted for complaining too much, trying to make them pay the price for our worldview - as if it were their job to make our faith easier by talking as if their suffering isn't that bad, really. We must hope indeed that all is well, even with the afflicted, even now. But hope that is seen is not hope (Rom. 8:24), which means we cannot see how all is well - not yet. In the company of the afflicted we are in no position to rejoice now, but must weep with those who weep. We have absolutely no authority to torment them by demanding that on top of their suffering they must try to rejoice and experience deep inner joy. (p. 153)In line with the consumerist call to entice oneself is the utter equivocation of "joy" with the "Christian experience." But as proper as the joy in Christ's resurrection is to the life of the Christian, so is the call to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's suffering." This is to be practiced in our own life as well as in our relations with others. We must imitate the silence of God, at times, as he is as much the God of Holy Saturday as he is the God of the Resurrection.
Why "Applying It to Your Life" Is Boring
It makes all the difference where we look. Preaching the gospel gets us looking at Christ and finding ourselves in his story, rather than looking at ourselves and trying to find Christ in our lives. For our Beloved is someone other than us and if we want to see him, we must look away from ourselves, just like the shepherds and the prophets and the disciples. What makes practical sermons boring is that they insist on turning our attention in the wrong direction, as if the way to find our Beloved was to look at ourselves. (p. 162-3)I once shared an extensive excerpt from a commentary on Leviticus. A well-meaning friend replied with a litany of questions about it, the chief of which was, "How do you apply this to your life?" The gist of my reply was, "I 'apply' it by 'believing' it." That statement reflects a fundamental principle I aspire to in all my engagement with Scripture. Scripture is not primarily about us, though it addresses us. The proper mode of reading it, then, is to hone in on what it says to us about Christ, and then after we have duly meditated on the richness of what is revealed, only then are we to ask, "Where do I come in?"
Why Basing Faith on Experience Leads to a Post-Christian Future
It used to be that you could say liberal Protestants tried to base faith on experience, but evangelical Protestants tried to base their faith on the word of God. But the difference is not so clear anymore, as the new evangelical theology that I've been describing in this book keeps getting a firmer grip on the life of American evangelical churches. Although the underlying motives are not exactly the same, evangelical Christians do seem eager to make the same mistake as liberal Protestants. Just think how many Christians you know would answer the question, "What is your faith really about?" by saying something like, "It's about experiencing God working in my life." It's an answer that does not require Christ or mention his name. In a church where that is the expected answer, Christ is in the process of disappearing from view, so that the experience they're talking about is becoming less and less Christian with every generation. (p. 182)Here, Cary repeats D.G. Hart's in thesis in Deconstructing Evangelicalism, suggesting that while evangelicalism is poised vocally against the liberalism of the mainline churches, it stands strangely in line with it as it becomes increasingly overcome with the new evangelical theology. Cary ends with a prophetic warning.
The gospel is good for us in all the ways the new evangelical theology is not. It is good for our psychological health because it is good news, tidings of comfort and joy. And comfort and joy are not trivial things, for as the proverb says, "By sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken" (Prov. 15:13 KJV). This does not mean believers in the gospel will always feel joyful, for there are times when we share Christ's cross deeply enough that affliction and anguish are all we feel. Yet even in those times the gospel is still a joyful word, joyful in itself though it may not be joyful in us. At all times the gospel is objectively joyful, you could say.(p. 195)The antidote to the new evangelical theology is Christ and his gospel which dwell in our hearts by the outward grace of faith. To the extent that we look away from ourselves and instead toward Christ, to that extent can we find joy - not the giddy joy of a child at an amusement park - but joy with the depth of God because God himself will be the source of our joy.
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