Sunday, April 6, 2008

Post-Evangelical and Ambiguity

About two months ago I read Dave Tomlinson’s The Post Evangelical. I try to walk away with one clear thought from each book that I read. This is certainly no attempt to be a review of the entire book, but to share the one thought that has stuck with me. That thought is one hallmark of the Post Evangelical is his/her being more comfortable with ambiguity.

Such notions would have scared me as recently as . . . maybe two months ago when I first read his book. It struck me as a little odd and I knew it would require a few days of prayerful-thought, before I would accept it. But now, having given it a lot of thought, I think I too can subscribe to the concept. I realized that Dave Tomlinson and I may not be thinking the exact same thing though.

The thing that would scare a Christian at first glance is the confusion between Tomlinson’s idea of comfort with ambiguity and Post-Modernisms comfort with relativism, but there is a big difference.

Most of protestant traditions have roots that go back to the Catholic Scholastics (through leaders such as Luther and Calvin). The Catholic Scholastics had been deeply influenced by the writings of Aristotle (via the Spanish Moors). In an oversimplification, Aristotle believed that reason, the verbalization of logic, was the essence of being human, and it was perfect.

To make a long story short, from the Scholastics through our Protestant forefathers, reason was held up to an unhealthy level. I too believe that learning, reason and wisdom are of tremendous value, but it is not without being tainted by the Fall of Adam.

Therefore, I believe that the aspirations of some of our great protestant theologians—of reaching and maintaining perfect doctrine—are misguided. This does not render us as hopeless. We should strive for truth and indeed we can know truth, but we can’t know all truth all the time. We can probably know all the truth that God thinks that we need to know.

This is where this concept of ambiguity of the Post-Evangelical is very different from the Post-Modern relativism. To the Post-Modern truth is unknowable because it is relative. To the Post-Evangelical, truth is absolute, but God doesn’t tell us everything and the things that He did make clear (in scripture) are hard for us to figure out.

Starting with the Thirty-Years war (1618-1648), Christian’s have fought and disagreed on the truth that God had “shown them.” I think a big part of the problem, and the endless division within the Church, was this over-confidence that they could know the truth even with the most minuscule details of doctrine.

I’m going to share some of the areas of ambiguity that I am ready to be comfortable with (which would have terrified me with fears of becoming a liberal twenty years ago).

The Age of the Earth.

Many of my Evangelical friends believe that you can not be a conservative (or true in other words) Christian unless you believe that the Earth was created in six literal days, and the cosmos is only 6 thousand years old.

I personally find this insane. There is overwhelming evidence of the earth being much, much older . . . that the only way you can believe that the earth is that young is by living in the Christian fantasy that all evolutionists are stupid and evil (with an agenda to lie about the fossils).

I do believe that the earth is very old . . . but that does not solve all the problems. There are some scriptural problems with the old earth, trying to make sense out of Genesis. There are also theological problems, such as the death of creatures long before sin entered into the world.

At this point, I can suspend judgment and say that either my fallen reason cannot deal with this, or God never consider this problem as being an essential . . . or He would have laid in out in black in white.

Elect or Free Will

The other area is about God’s sovereignty (in choosing people to be Christians even before they were born) and what appears to be man’s free will seems like a paradox. There have been many Christians killed by opposing Christians over the centuries because where they come down on this issue. But a Post-Evangelical can say, “I’m not sure.”

Moral Ambiguity

I could go own and own. But I will leave it with one more arena and that is in the area of morals. Like with truth, there is also a big difference between the Post-Modernists’ view on morals. They believe that morals are personal and relative, but, the Post-Evangelicals’ view morals as absolute but not always clear.
I could give many examples of this . . . but I will refrain

No comments: