5.18.2008

An Open Letter

The Premise: Help improve this letter being written by an elder at my home church to our pastor.

It seems to me that the intellectual battleground of Christian thought today is not in the arena of salvation by works nor even in the arena of the inerrancy of scripture. These are virtually moot points to today's younger generation of Christians. Rather, the rising tide surrounding us all, and capturing the younger church, is mysticism. Since the Reformation the Protestant church has emphasized a scientific and rationalistic approach to understanding truth manifested in lower criticism, higher criticism, language studies, and exegetical rigor. The problem is that this emphasis has displaced an awareness or even acknowledgment of the mystical, the holy, or “numinous” if you like. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches thrive because they hold onto this sense, even along side their works righteousness. The rise of charismatic expressions and ever more emotive based church gatherings in our generation are manifestations of the yearning for awe, emotion, and an awareness of "God’s presence.”

A corollary drive for more communal, less doctrinally rigorous, expressions of the church fuel the emergent church phenomenon. The challenge of Biblical teaching today is not to deny and suppress these aspects of our knowledge and experience of God, but to properly exegete scripture to expound and manifest what is true and real about God including these dimensions. We seem afraid to go there lest we open a Pandora's box of horrors.

The Scriptures often make the emphasis upon God as transcendent, holy, unfathomable, awesome, etc. The point here, using David Brooks recent article The Neural Buddhists as an example, is that our teaching of the Word should not have “militant materialism” or “scientific rigor” as its essential methodology. Rather...

OK - so now we need you to pick up your blog pen and help finish the paragraph. What goes after the "Rather....???"

Alternately, are the original assumptions about the emergent conversation correct, or do they need reformed as well?

1 comment:

NancyJ said...

Andrew,

Although I do not have adequate words to continue this letter, I offer my thoughts to its content and the sentence…“that our teaching of the Word should not have ‘militant materialism’ or ‘scientific rigor’ as its essential methodology. Rather…”

It is my opinion that the author addressed the answer in the previous paragraph. Scripture interpreted through proper exegesis needs to integrate the actual experience of God, including perhaps mysticism.

I do not believe we need to fear “opening a Pandoras box” if we go forward in any endeavor WITH God. The article, “The Neural Buddhists” is interesting. If science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other regarding a subject such as self transcendence, how much more significant to open ourselves to transcendence with God--God within us giving us this enriching experience of union with Him.

But union with God may be different than what we may expect.

For me, this has been a great deal of letting go…

1. my own timing (requiring patience and endurance)
2. being right (requiring humility and listening)
3. my will (requiring that I may miss out on something)
4. all that I have (requiring the belief I will have enough)
5. all that I am (requiring the risk to be authentic)
6. all that I know (requiring a willingness to wrestle with God and truths)
7. the future (requiring a willingness to trust in darkness and the unknown).
This emptying process is not without pain and sorrow and brings me to a place of significant vulnerability.

But there is a surprising result: instead of self transcendence that may detach me from suffering, I am compelled to enter into others’ hurt and pain. Instead of protecting myself or my own interests, I have courage to risk and love deeply even though I know I will be hurt and know loss.

Allowing myself to be emptied to receive all that God is and has for me means I no longer need to defend divine law or revelation or myself. I can honestly say to the scholar, “teach me what you’ve studied from the Greek language” and I can say to the mystic, “Help me understand how you experience God.”

In closing, I want to say thank you to the author of the letter and I am grateful for your willingness to address these issues. It is clear that your heart is for God.