A Few Different Things
ONE: Saw James Taylor in concert last night at the BJCC Concert Hall. It was his "One Man Band" tour, which is a misnomer because he had a piano player with him. The show was really good but pretty low key. If you weren't a James Taylor fan you might find it a bit boring. He had this screen and would click through pictures and stuff, talk about one of his songs and then play it. It was pretty great. The acoustics in the concert hall are great and so is James Taylor. You could close your eyes and swear you were listening to a recording. He sounds that good, even like he did when he recorded some of those songs almost forty years ago. My only complaint was that some people in the audience wouldn't leave him alone. They kept yelling at him, trying to shake his hand and have him autograph stuff. Evidently he's a pretty nice guy because he would indulge most of them. It was his birthday, so I guess he was in a good mood.
TWO: I'm having second thoughts about this Regents University thing. Surprise, surprise. What got me initially is when I received the information packet, opened to the first page entitled "A Message from the Chancellor" and saw Pat Robertson staring back at me. Yes. That Pat Robertson. Pat "America-Should-Assassinate-Venezuelan-President-Hugo-Chavez" Robertson. Also, it's pretty expensive. I don't know what I should do. I think I'm going to check into this online course offered through UCLA. I don't think they advocate anyone's assassination. Except maybe Pat Robertson's.
THREE: For a few different reasons I feel the need to defend/clarify/explain myself a bit in relation to some things I've thought, said, discussed, or posted here. This has pretty much grown out of that stupid theological quiz I took that many of you have now taken and some things I've read on other sites. Mainly, what I want to address are my comments on truth and knowing it along with the priority I have been placing on asking questions (though certainly not as an end in and of themselves; answers are obviously needed). I don't believe I've been able to articulate these things well so I will try to do so now.
I consider myself somewhat educated. I have two degrees in religious studies, have been a Christian for around nineteen years. I read the Bible, pray, study, etc. I know what I believe and why I believe it. This is not only important but Biblically mandated. Peter writes the following in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of his first epistle: "...but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that that is in you." I just don't consider the best defense to be a strong offense, to play off a common sports phrase. Please, don't ever misinterpret what I do or say as being weak in my faith or theology or playing the relativistic game of "you're okay; I'm okay; let's all be okay together."
Though I know what I believe and why I believe it. I can also tell you that I have been wrong before and certainly leave room that I may be wrong about some things right now. I just may not know it yet. But how can this happen? I've got the Bible, God's Word, the source of Truth. Yeah. But I mistook it. I've never been able to articulate this. Actually, I still can't. However, I found someone who can and has.
I'm reading a book my Dad sent me by a guy named Jack Deere. Deere is a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He realized some things he was wrong about as well. He explains this by how much we are influenced by are various traditions, whether we want to admit it or not. Traditions of family, church, denomination, school, region, culture, etc. The following is a quote of his:
"...when our belief systems move beyond the basic fundamentals of the faith (the deity of Jesus, justification by faith, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, and so on) to things that aren't as fundamental (the mode of baptism, the manner of taking the Lord's supper, or a particular view of the millennium) we are much more dependent on tradition than we realize. In these cases, [J.I.] Packer offers sound advice, 'What we must do, rather, is acknowledge that we are full of tradition, good or bad, to a much greater extent than we realize, and must learn to ask by the light of Scripture critical questions about what we have thus far taken for granted.'
Some, however, fail to acknowledge the significance of tradition and other factors in our environments for determining or shaping our views. Edward Gross asks why there are so many interpretations. His answer is that 'there are two simple reasons why there are so many interpretations; the lack of comprehensive study and the lack of following the simple rules of hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation).'
Next, he cites three hermeneutical rules summarized by Charles Hodge to the effect that Scripture is to be interpreted in its grammatical historical sense, Scripture must interpret Scripture and cannot contradict itself, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit must be sought to interpret Scripture. Gross concludes that 'employing these rules will assist us in determining the true sense of Scripture. If Christians would constantly unite a thorough investigation with these simple rules, differences of interpretation would practically disappear.'
I am sure there are others who sincerely believe with Gross that lack of study and hermeneutical differences can account for contemporary theological diversity. However, I do not think there are very many skilled theologians or knowledgeable interpreters of Scripture who would agree with Gross.
When I was at Dallas Seminary, everyone on the faculty that I knew would agree with the three hermeneutical rules summarized by Hodge, and we all believed in comprehensive study of the Word. Nonetheless, we differed significantly with the reformed theological position that Gross quotes throughout his book. Did we dispensationalists not study the Scriptures as comprehensively as the Reformed theologians with whom we disagreed? Were we inconsistent in our application of the three hermeneutical principles? The obvious truth is that a lack of comprehensive study of the Scriptures and dissimilar hermeneutical principles cannot account for the vast majority of modern theological differences." (Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 53-54; emphasis mine)
Ask questions. Pray and search Scripture for answers. Come to conclusions. Believe. But be prepared to be wrong sometimes. After that the question is how do you respond and move on. With pride and arrogance? With shame and guilt? Or with joy in the newfound knowledge of the Truth granted to you by the grace of Jesus Christ? I know how I'm always trying to respond.
Emergent/postmodern has such a stigma, and rightfully so. Many of their leaders, though I believe they mean well, act pretty irresponsibly. So, it peeves me to be labeled that on that stupid quiz. But, who cares really? If you remember from earlier posts, I hate labels. One way, though, that I do identify with my brother, Brian McLaren, is that I hope to have a generous orthodoxy.
And if you do have it all figured out and are completely right about everything, my hats off to you. You're a better man/woman/person than I. May God grant you the humility necessary to pass your knowledge on to others, myself included.