Thursday, July 8, 2010

story proves nothing

Spirituality is concerned with the particular rather than the universal. It holds that the subjective-self narrative is integral to the expression of authentic faith. Religion, in contrast, is consumed with accounts of the universal human condition. As a result, people reject religion not because they don't believe but because their individual stories are overlooked and their voices not heard.
Burke and Tayler, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, pp 59-60

First, my apology for the lengthy delay in posting. It's been a busy time, and I've been doing other things.

Now, to the substance...

I suppose this is an attack on the big postmodern bugaboo called the 'metanarrative', which is what I think they mean when they refer to "accounts of the universal human condition".

Now I suppose it could be of interest to point out that these writers attack metanarratives by employing another metanarrative. In order to attack the metanarrative of "accounts of the universal human condition", they must employ another metanarrative of "people reject religion...because their individual stories are overlooked and their voices not heard".

This is a very postmodern thing to do. A few minutes ago, I was listen to a sermon by Rob Bell and Shane Hipps on Chris Rosebrough's "Fighting for the Faith", and at one point Bell says that he doesn't want to engage in debate or argument with those who are critical of him, but instead speaks of an adequate answer to them would be something like people gathering around a water cooler and them telling their stories about how they have experienced God. The sermon they preached was filled with attacks on correct biblically-based beliefs, instead substituting some kind of "big Jesus" that is present even in the ungodly practice of transcendental meditation. For them, story validates, not correct biblical beliefs and interpretation.

But what does story validated? It seems that throughout my times in church, there have been people 'giving their testimony', as it was sometimes called, relating to the people of the church how God has been blessing and helping them. Far from overlooking the individual's story, they would likely have welcomed them.

But that doesn't mean they would have uncritically accepted those stories. If, for example, someone had told of how God was blessing his affair with a woman he wasn't married to, that would likely have not been acceptable. And rightly so. A good story of how someone thinks God's blessing a sinful sexual relationship does not validate that sinful sexual relationship.

Stories are fine, and testimonies can be very effective, but story is far from enough. There is a man who has written books about what he calls "Conversations With God". The one time I read a part of one of his books, I came away knowing that whatever he had been conversing with, it hadn't been God, because his 'god' had nothing in common with the God of the Bible. People may give testimonies of how a new-age guru like Eckhard Tolle has helped them, but Tolle's teaching are directly counter to Scripture, and so even if they were helped, that help was a lie, and their testimony does nothing to validate the teachings of Tolle.

Finally, there is simply the wholesale reject of any claim about the "universal human condition". But are there no truths that can be said about that people as a whole? If so, than to reject them is unwise, even foolish. If it is true that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God", a statement about the universal human condition, then it cannot be good to reject it simply because one rejects such statements. And if it is true, then no story that says differently can be true.


taylot said...

you are so unbelievably off base. please start reading biblical scholarship and stop listening to fight for the faith/way of the master watered down dispensational, proof-txting silliness.

- read n.t. wright and you will have a better picture of where the apostles creed affirming, resurrection believing, jesus-centric rob bell is coming from. it's exhausting reading what you've so clearly not researched well..

jazzact13 said...

How am I "unbelievably off base"? What have taken out of context? Did not Bell and Hipps mock the missionary imperative, taken from Jesus' command to take the Gospel to the whole world, in that sermon? Remember "lift with your legs, not your back", which Bell repeated several times? Did not they claim to know a man who says God was communicating with him while he was practicing transcendental meditation? What do they mean by "big Jesus" and "big church" but that their church claims to find Jesus in other religions?