November 25, 2006

the Christian intellectual tradition

Over at Les's Blog, in a discussion regarding homosexuality, where I was a rare voice suggesting that homosexuality isn't always a sin, one of the commenters suggested that the Bible was simple.

That is one of my annoyances with the modern conservative church--the intellectual decline. Perhaps I am influenced by Noll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind but this argument that the "Bible says what it says and means what it says" is damn near a nonstarter. This faith, say what you will, is a complicated and difficult one. Turning it into a simplistic faith has not helped us. Elements might be relatively simple, but overall, it is complex.

Simple was the way to avoid tradition, training, intellectual rigor, etc. No need for "book learning" and all you needed was a lay preacher who could read the Bible. Wow, that has really served us well, hasn't it? Given us slavery, segregation, anti-feminist rants, capitalism masked as faith, and even a cottage industry eschatology that has spurred a horrible foreign policy.

Ideas are not everything, nor is intellectualism. I am not suggesting that. But Christian thinkers used to influence more than the faith. They were respected as thinkers by others. CS Lewis comes to mind as the last one I can think of. Christianity has turned to their own versions of Deepak Chopra or insular notions of theology that are never read outside.

I really think we need Christian thinkers now more than ever. We need people to grapple with global poverty, environmental problems, and the issues of wealth and capitalism. Where are they?


Anonymous said...

this argument that the "Bible says what it says and means what it says" is d*** near a nonstarter.

Affirmative, I have to agree here. Though I poorly presented many of my arguments, this is the one that got ignored. Even as a conservative Christian, "the Bible says it, I believe it, period," does nothing much for me.

In most cases that attitude leads to spiritual arrogance, belligerence, and intellectual dishonesty. I feel it is correct to stand on and have a firm reliance on the Scriptures, but there are better arguments (though I know at the end of our discussion I resorted to that argument, but your question left me nowhere else to go; "the sources of authority" appeal).

Though I like to think of my faith as fairly simple, my theological method is not. I approach it with a more philosophical/logical bent, which again, that got pretty much ignored over at Les' blog.

I appreciated our discussion out there.

Streak said...

Tony, I saw that in your exchange with Debbie, and thought you would enjoy this post.

P.M. Prescott said...

There are many, like yourself, that recognize the complexity of faith, but well thought out and reasoned arguments don't make good media sound bites. Simplistic jingoism rules today impoverishing us all. Did you see the last episode of Bill Maher, Richard Dreyfus was so eloquent and even had Maher squirming.

Wasp Jerky said...

this argument that the "Bible says what it says and means what it says" is damn near a nonstarter

If the Bible was as black and white as such a view suggests, then Christians would pretty much agree about everything. The entire history of Christianity is proof that the opposite is true.

Bootleg Blogger said...

Hat's off to you in your attempt to carry on discussions such as the one at Les' blog. I haven't been in the mood to be so tolerant lately.

My favorite essay on this topic is at Homosexuality and the Bible by Walter Wink.