Saturday, August 23, 2008

A simple faith

I think some people have a sense that if a person has studied theology then their faith has become an academic construct that has no real-world application. I've been told, with apparent respect, that despite all of the efforts of modern theologians, simple faith is all that is really required of us. The implication is that academic and intellectual engagement with the Christian faith are ultimately, at best irrelevant, and at worst perhaps dangerous to the faith of the 'simple man'.

Firstly, let me say that I don't think intellectual capacity has anything to do with salvation or our ability to lead good lives. But I do think that a thinly veiled anti-intellectualism is alive and well in Christianity today - and that this is a futile misdirection of our energies.

I don't think it's likely that The Salvation Army is ever going to be overrun by academics. Our best trait historically has been a willingness to get our hands dirty. It's 'roll your sleeves up' Christianity and I don't think we need to change this - in fact, I think we need more of it. However, I also think that it would be beneficial to redress an historic imbalance that has left our movement behind in both practical theology and social research. If we are going to advance our evangelical and social missions, then we need to take both more seriously. We've been concentrating on tweaking the methods, without considering whether the entire framework needs some critical reflection and review.

And with that, he descends from his soap-box for the day...

7 comments:

Liam said...

Here, here!

I have spent a bit of time over the years with people from other denominations. I am always amazed when I hear similar ideas being spoken by Salvationists as to what has been related to me by people of other denominations. My amazement comes however not from the similar experiences across our denominations, but from the fact that the questions we are asking sometimes seem to be years behind other denominations.

Our 'tweaking of methods' has meant that we follow the trends of others rather than doing the leg work and coming up with our own. I fear that we have forgotten Paul's imploring not to be blown about by every theological fad. If as a movement, especially in this territory, we were to do some framework 'work' I wonder how often we would hire in consultants to teach us to be better at mission?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that seems evident in this anti-intellectualism is a lack of desire to question anything that is said to be of God. People seem quite willing to accept the type of stuff dished out by the likes on Todd Bentley and Michael Guglielmucci (google search them if you haven’t heard the recent news about them) without seeming to apply any measure of discernment. They trot off to Hillsong conferences and get fed a subtle diet of prosperity gospel without ever stopping to think about whether it really aligns itself with the message of Christ – as long as the music is ‘awesome’ and they hear about what ‘awesome’ lives God has planned for them the rest doesn’t really matter too much. I read many of these Salvo blogs and I fear for the future when I see the stuff that many current and future officers write – there is a real lunatic fringe out there that have little concern for anything other than perpetuating myths about the miraculous that are simply not true. I hope there are at least some training college staff who can bring some sound theology into the lives of the new cadets before they are unleashed.

JDK said...

Thanks for your comments. I had a feeling that this would resonate with a few people - though in some ways I wish that were not the case! Regards, JDK

David said...

In relation to Todd Bentley, folks might want to read this interesting atheist perspective

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/08/rise-and-fall-of-todd-bentley.html

Here is a quote which directly relates to this topic:

"Christianity is a subjective discipline, and one Christian cannot appeal to objective analysis of another without undermining their own claims to faith and knowledge of God."

A warning to Christians: be careful about subjecting your faith to critical scrutiny. You have been warned.

JDK said...

Hey David, just a thought - you mentioned in an earlier comment that you don't think Christianity has made the world a better place. How's debunking Christianity doing at this task?
Regards, JDK

David said...

If Christianity is a net contributor of evil in the world, then debunking it could help the world become a better place.

Remember, your faith is based on killing and/or suicide. That is, God either killing himself or being an accessory before the fact in the killing of His Son, or both.

And how about the following as a summary of a "simple faith":

"A cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree."

Not my words, but it summarises essentially what many "simple folk" believe.

Are you going to tell these types of Christians what they believe is nonsense, or will you just let them remain ignorant?

JDK said...

Hi David,

You're right, the Zombie stuff is nonsense and I tell people all the time. (This could explain my lack of popularity in some Christian circles) However, I'm also not convinced that Christianity is a net contributor of evil in the world and I'll continue to ensure that the balance falls the right way wherever possible.

Regards, JDK