Thursday, April 19, 2012

Off-the-Cuff: "I am a Concerned Nazarene"

I'm not sure how much good this will do, but I feel compelled to offer a few thoughts, if only because my brother-in-law asked me what I thought about this article.

So, here are my off-the-cuff remarks:

- Crux Probat Omnia. The cross calls everything into question. Doctrine should always be "under attack," lest we be so presumptuous about who God is. But perhaps Jaroslav Pelikan says it best, "What the church of Jesus Christ believes, teaches, and confesses on the basis of the word of God: this is Christian doctrine. Doctrine is not the only, not even the primary, activity of the church. The church worships God and serves mankind, it works for the transformation of this world and awaits the consummation of its hope in the next. 'Faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love' - love, and not faith, and certainly not doctrine. The church is always more than a school; not even the age of Enlightenment managed to restrict or reduce it to its teaching function. But the church cannot be less than a school. Its faith, hope, and love all express themselves in teaching and confession ... The Christian church would not be the church as we know it without Christian doctrine." As Pelikan says elsewhere, It is about continuity and change.

- Because of this I kind of hope we will become who we have never been.

- Continuity and change applies to music as well. (Are we still having this debate?) Hymns or praise songs? If ever there was  false dichotomy. Perhaps the better categories should be beauty and poetry. We just might rid ourselves of the problem before we have to deal with it. I say let the Psalms be our guide. Just try and categorize the scope of the Psalms into either "hymn" or "praise." I dare you to find a place for Psalm 88 and 150 and 33 and 118 and 78. Perhaps the question is not what music should we play but where are the artists can play the music?

- Witch hunts are bad. That's just Being Human 101. Rather than try and argue for the place of a generous and intelligent theological conversation where we love even our enemies, not just the ones who pass a litmus-test, I think I'll just bend down and scribble in the dirt for a while. I hope we rub off on each other.

- Right, mutual respect

- "Missional" does not solve our problems, but it might be a way forward. How can we know what the mission is if we cannot talk about God? What we say about God matters, absolutely. But since God is love, there is a way of being in relationship with God, and therefore one another, where we begin to look and act like God (we share God's character) even before we know exactly how to talk about it. Even still, doctrine is not about narrowing down our words until we arrive at the final, definitive explanation of God and faith. Perhaps theology is more about getting the first words right rather than the last ones. Perhaps the first governing, centering, orienting word is love.

Okay, I'm finished. I thought the spirit of the article was right, of course I would probably nuance it differently, which I hope began to show in this brief reply. What'cha think?

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