Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A New Kind of Christian, initial thoughts.

Recently, I lent my copy of "A New Kind of Christian" to a friend, but it turns out, I never actually got past the second or third chapter, even though I really liked what it said. So yesterday I got the book back, and I started reading it, which wa convenient, because I had just finished reading another book and was wondering what to read next. So I'm reading this book, and it really gets me excited. Seriously, the struggle this guy is having with the transition the church is going through is really cool, because I've thought so many of the same things. And now I'm at the point where I can't even stand church in the old frameworks, but when I imagine a church immersed in different ways of thinking, I actually get teary-eyed. There is something in me now, and I think it has grown in me since even before college, that yearns for a different kind of experience.

Heere's some words from the book that I liked:

"It's not just burnout. It's more like I'm losing my faith - well, not exactly that, but I feel that I'm losing the whole framework for my faith. You know, I keep pushing everything into these little cubbyholes, these little boxes, the little systems I got in seminary and even before that - in Sunday school and summer camp and from my parents. But life is too messy to fit."

"Most modern people love to relativize the viewpoints of the others against the unquestioned superiority of their own modern viewpoint. But in a way you cross the threshold into postmodernity the moment you turn your critical scrutiny from others to yourself, when you relativize your own modern viewpoint. When you do thi, everything changes. It is like a conversion. You can't go back. You begin to see that what seemed like pure objective certainty really depends heavily on a subjective preference for yur personal viewpoint.

A quote from C.S.Lewis:

"It would... be subtly misleading to say, 'the medievals thought the universe to be like that, but we know it to be like this.' Part of what we now know is that we cannot, in the old sense, "Know what the universe is like" and that no model we can build will be, in that old sense, 'like' it.... There is no question here of the old Model's being shattered by the inrush of new phenomena. The truth would seem to be the reverse; that when changes in the human mind produce a sufficient disrelish of the old Model and a sufficient hankering for some new one, phenomena to support that new one will obediently turn up. I do not at all mean that these new phenomena are illusory. Nature has all sorts of phenomena in stock and can suit many different tastes."

Another good spot in the book, a girl is speaking after hearing a lecture from "Neo":

"I don't really have a question, but I just wanted to say that everywhere in my life except here and at church, I think I am postmodern. But I think when I go anyplace religious or Christian, I just sort of switch. It's like I click into my parents' way of thinking for an hour, and then I switch back. It's really cool to think that I might not have to keep switching back and forth and could just be one person all the time."

And one of my favorite spots, which I have tried to say to people with a fraction of the success of this great paragraph.

"I protested: 'Neo, I never said that my interpretations were infallible. I'm just saying that the Bible itself is.' He responded, 'Well, I'm wondering, if you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretations, right?' I was nodding again. Yes. Of course. Neo kept talking. 'So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say, right? So the real authority does not reside in the text itself, in the ink on paper, which is always open to misinterpretation - sometimes, history tells us, horrific and dangerous misinterpretation. Instead, the real authority lies in God, who is there behind the text or beyond it or abovie it, right? In other words, the authority is not in what I say the text says but in what God says the text says.'"

the thought continues in a later paragraph

"He continued, 'what if the real issue is not the authority of the text down on this line but rather the authority of God, moving mysteriously up here on a higher level, a foot above the ground? What if the issue isn't a book that we can misinterpret with amazing creativity but rather the will of God, the intent of God, the desire of God the wisdom of God - maybe we could say the kingdom of God?"

These are rich ideas here, but you might need to read the book to really know what i'm saying. Just understand that it's a lot like the woman at the well asking about the debate over which mountain to worship on. Jesus response is at first glance not very helpful, but it is incredibly insightful and very important. He basically makes the case that the argument you're having doesn't even translate into the will of God, because it's God's intention to dwell in your hearts. We take a lot of our disagreements over this little theological tidbit or another, and I think God's often telling us, no, the real issue is greater than that.

So I like the book, and I hope I stick with it this time. I don't exactly know how I came to be here in this place where I find all this talk about transition exciting instead of threatening, but i've been here a while, and I expect it to only get better from here.

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