Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because even if it weren't that great, secular people are really stupid and immoral, especially those intellectuals

choose one

I am not ashamed of the gospel because...

a) non-christian intellectuals are actually stupid and terribly immoral.

b) it is the power of God for the salvation of ALL who BELIEVE, whether they vote green, have studied philosophy, are brickies labourers (and the power of God to unite them in Christ.)

Option a) locates it's lack of shame in a feeling of superiority, the superiority of the victim. It requires a ridiculing of the sinful opponent, which shows a deep seated unease with the gospel of grace for sinners, even as it speaks those words.

Option b) locates it's lack of shame in the powerful grace of God. Non christians may say useful things, may even have useful critiques of christians, but they have nothing that even comes close to the power of God to salvation. So even
when ridiculed by the world, it feels no need to return in kind.

The child who genuinely feels no shame in nakedness doesn't whinge about clothes, but runs around the house inn the nuddy.

sorry to those of you not in 4th year MTC, but we were given a sermon to watch as an example of cultural critique and engagement today, that I think employed option a).

Now I have to admit that I have never been tempted to doubt the intellectual firmness of Christian beleif. This didn't come from thinking that secular thinkers were stupid, but simply from a calm hope that whatever truth was in there claims would relate to the truth of God. So todays talk wasn't aimed at me. But we have to ask ourselves, who was it aimed at?
The original audience was a Moore College chapel. Now, last time I checked, not too many people there are too ashamed of presenting the gospel of Jesus, especially to uni students and 'intellectuals'.

So maybe it was an attempt to engage the wider culture. After all, thats how it was framed in our class. So lets have a think about how useful and persuasive an engagement it was.

The run of the argument was essentially ad hominem. Modern secularists pick on christians, but look how stuffed up their lives are. Bertrand russel picked on christians, but even secular people say his later journalism was crap. People pick on christians for their treatment of aboriginies, but secular people were worse. Even secular people recognise how stupid and immoral previous thinkers were.

Now, these may all be true, but this is touted as incisive cultural comment and engagement. It isn't. It is the equivalent of the schoolyard 'I know you are, you said you are, but what am I'. And this methods persuasive effect on those in the culture it derides is about the same as the school room taunt. It makes no attempt at understanding why it's culture might form the opinions it does, other than,'they are naughty sinful people'. Though it poses as a firm of engagement with culture, it is actually disengagement. Picking out some secular thinkers to deride assumes that the listener has some reason to identify with them. We lump them together as 'non christians', but the average non-christian feels no identification with the immorality of Bertrand Russel. Just imagine how we as christians respond to this kind of argument, when a teleevangelist falls from grace, we just say, oh well, I'm not part of their type. If this is what we do when we have a strong philosophical and theological reason to identify, why on earth do we think a non christian would give a toss what some other intellectual did with his genitals.
But that doesnt matter, because this kind of talk isn't about engaging the culture at all.
If we all took up this model, lets be clear what we would be doing. It wouldn't be engaging the culture around us. At best it would be encouraging some engineers to despise arts students, or if we used it against scientists, encourage arts students to despise science students. Or the media, or....... Or...... You fill in the blanks of who you would like your faithful converted to write off.

And this kind of thinkong spreads through a christian culture.
Speaking to one new student today, he was bemused at the idea that it wasn't ok to tear into someone in an essay.
'But what if they are someone who is leading lots of people astray, like Tom Wright'
'You still have to play the ball, not the man. Argue the ideas, but be careful of throwing the heretic word around'
'sheesh, how much of their work do i have to read'
The people coming out of our churches are essentially confused by the idea that you would listen to someone and engage them on their ideas. Instead people are given white hats or black hats and are fair game, because anyone who disagrees is a naughty bad person intent on destroying the gospel.
Without denying total depravity, this simply is not true all the time. In fact the white hat, black hat game is an insidious way of denying total depravity, within your select white hat group.

If we are going to reach Sydney with the gospel, we can't waste anymore time or emotional energy on this sort of bullshit


byron smith said...

Another rough day at the office?

Amen, by the way.

Mike W said...

actually, it was a fantastic day at the office, we've spent the last two days thinking about ethnography, sermons, our class' abhorrence of homogeneous unit principles, narrative identity, the transformative purpose of sermons, Martin Luther King, racism in Australia. I had a great day. This was just a familiar lowlight

byron smith said...

Ah good!

This is a pre-semester seminar of some kind? Sounds very interesting.

Matt Bales said...

Part of the course was using people's micro-cultures for evangelism. Then using the homogeneous unit theory to form churches within each of their groups.

If racism and a lack of Christians seeing beyond those 'like themselves' are significant problems for our churches. (also in the course) How does the HUP help overcome godlessness? And therefore what exactly are we inviting people to?

Was very fascinating watching Martin Luther King and his ability to paint pictures of the future. Need more of that ability in my preaching. Not sure how to go abot it though.

Matt Bales said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike W said...

@byron yeah a pre semester intensive.
It was quite good.

one of the things that struck me with MLKjr's speech was the sense of occasion and that something was happening. One of the things that struck me with our class response was the sense that this was not convertible to church. On the while, we don't beleive anything is happening in church, or that we are headed on a journey together.
I have a hunch that this is why church planters preaching is seen to be more attractive. It's not just the content or style, but the sense within the community and preacher that they are going somewhere, that God is up to something in their midst, so they had better feed from and cling to his word for dear life.

Irith said...

Mike, I think you've just answered your later post on 'why do people become liberals?'.....