Lab Rat

My book has arrived and so far, I've read the Foreword by John R. Franke. And I'm getting that feeling that I get when I think I've actually had an original thought and then I pick up a Newsweek magazine and the thing I was thinking about is the cover story. Or is it more that feeling that I get when something just seems self evident to me, but there are lots and lots of people who don't agree with me and then I read something like the Foreword and I want to shout, "See! See! I'm not an idiot! Someone else agrees with me too! Someone important!"

Well, all that and more was going through my head as I read this opening section to A Generous Orthodoxy. Reading this, so far, makes me ask myself a question I often ask, "Why do people have such short memories?" "Why is that we think all of history started the year we were born?" I ask these questions because they seem to me to be the cause of the current conundrum that the church finds itself in as described by Mr. Franke. As he says:

Foundationalism refers to a conception of knowledge that emerged during the Enlightenment and sought to address the lack of certainty generated by the human tendency toward error and to overcome the inevitable, often destructive disagreements and controversies that followed.

Fear of uncertainty and fear of conflict. I see these as having been the driving forces behind much of the western church since the time of the Enlightenment. They fuel our fevered debates about biblical inerrancy, our theological differences about the relative divinity of Jesus, and the reliance on a Christian subculture to keep us "safe" from unwholesome influences. But this framework in which the church operates is largely invisible to most of the people in the evangelical and mainline protestant traditions. And, as McLaren writes in A New Kind of Christian, if you point this grid out to them, they won't be happy with you. Why do we need certainty? Why can't we learn to work through conflict without it harming our sense of personal safety? Why aren't our churches places where we can learn these skills?

And here's where I start feeling like a lab rat because it's like reading a scary-accurate horoscope when he says:

...strong ecumenical interests, a desire to move beyond the liberal/conservative divide, and a willingness to think through old questions in new ways that foster the pursuit of truth, the unity of the church, and the gracious character of the gospel.

Yep, that's me. And then I think, well if this seems self evident to me, and I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, how come it's not self evident to everyone else? Why does this stuff have to be so hard for church folk? It's crystal clear for the unchurched.

I think I'm also realizing that being emergent is a value. It's about going deeper and it is something that transcends the church. Finally, I'm reminded of a quote from the new movie What The Bleep Do We Know? that says:

The trick to life isn't being in the know. It's being in the mystery.


Mike said...

Wonderful site. I really enjoyed it. I am a huge McLaren fan. I have read many of his books and am inspired every time. I write a blog about postmodern Christianity and have used McLaren as inspiration for many of my essays.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Bill Arnold said...

In my case, people seem to think history started the year Fundamentalism was born. I'm with ya, Karen. This is one experiment this lab rat is dying to be a part of. By the way, are you going to eat that cheese?

Can you explain the comment about fearing conflict? It seems to me that evangelicals thrive on conflict with the dreaded liberals and such.

Karen Haluza said...

Hi Bill,
Yes, there's plenty of conflict in the church, but rather than learning how to live with the tension that conflict brings, our churches split and split and split until we are each in a faith tradition, a denomination if you like, where everyone agrees with each other. From there the goal seems to be to bring newcomers into line, from a behavioral standpoint, so that church becomes a "safe haven", a place without difficulties. We don't learn from the conflict - we only react to it. As a planner, I've found that working through conflict in a cooperative setting can have a very unifying effect, but it's a difficult process and one that many people would rather avoid or just argue about.

So, if learning to love God and love your neighbor is something we're supposed to be pursuing as Christians, then shouldn't we be able to learn how to either work through conflict, or at least accept our differences while being in community with each other? Wouldn't church be a good place to do this?

As for the cheese - yes, I'll be winding my way through the maze and collecting any treats that I find along the way.

Bill Arnold said...

Thanks, Karen. I guess I have in mind thye kind of conflict that people create unneccessarily. But you're right, if we could learn to learn from our differences that could be a very positive thing. Guess that's what McLaren's trying to do to some extent!