February 25, 2007 Commentary:
"The Question of Tolerance"
This isn't some new postmodern idea, though. The Enlightenment philosophers were fond of saying that all religions are basically the same when it comes to what really matters - that is, love and good deeds. Immanuel Kant, in fact, sharply distinguished between "pure religion," which is basically morality, and "ecclesiastical (or church) faith," which is basically Christianity. Inward piety and spiritual experience were in while external creeds and formal rituals like preaching and sacrament were out (sounds a lot like church today, only now they call it postmodern). So when we hear professing believers today saying things like, "I'm spiritual but not religious" or "Being a Christian is about a personal relationship, not joining a church," they aren't saying anything we haven't heard for about three centuries or so now.
There are good reasons why people would want religion to be restricted to private feelings. After all, when the church makes public claims it's often tangled up in social and political pronouncements and programs to force the culture to mimic a supposedly Christian civilization. We wouldn't want a power-hungry church to stay on its own reservation.
But however we've messed things up as a church, the point remains: Christianity stands or falls as a public claim to truth. Since it prosecutes this claim by the Word rather than the sword, Christianity (at least true Christianity) is the most tolerant religion on earth today. No one will be put in jail for denying Christ. Yet, since its claim is public, and universal, it's also the most intolerant religion in the sense that it identifies other saviors and other lords as idols. As Paul announced on the first-century equivalent of the Oprah Winfrey Show, God will judge the world and has given proof of this by raising Jesus from the dead and he now calls everyone everywhere to repent. There is no other name in heaven or earth by which people can be saved.
In this program, we'll tackle head on the issue of tolerance.
February 18, 2007 Commentary:
"The Emergent Church"
A spade of similar arguments has been produced by McLaren, and now there's a somewhat loose coalition of younger pastors and youth leaders who advocate a new kind of Christianity that involves: 1) A heavy emphasis on community in contrast to modern individualism, 2) Diversity, in contrast to party lines, 3) Practice over doctrine, 4) An eclectic borrowing from various ancient sources in contrast to the post-Enlightenment attack on tradition, and 5) An emphasis on faith as a personal and communal commitment over against seeing faith as dependent on rational arguments and foundations that can be readily intelligible to outsiders.
Emergent movement leaders will tell you that the gospel is chiefly about redeeming society, culture - indeed, the world - and this happens not via the communication and defense of ultimate truth claims, so much as being attracted and belonging to a loving community of people who follow Jesus. At the end of the day, it's a movement that acknowledges (as few movements do) its own ironies, tensions, and contradictions. That's in its favor. That will help them point some of those contradictions out. But even as we do, we share many of its criticisms and concerns: reconnecting the individual to the community, personal salvation to the redemption of creation, its call to take seriously the practical claims of discipleship, and the rejection of a so-called neutral reason that has its own naturalistic agenda without acknowledging it. I hope this opens up an opportunity for us all to be challenged in our own ways.
February 11, 2007 Commentary:
"Postmodernism: Friend or Foe?"
At the same time, postmodern criticism often shows itself to be as much a part of the problem as the solution. Like modernity, it starts with the self rather than with God. In fact, in many ways postmodernism is as much the consummation of the modern quest for independence from God as it is a protest against modernity's idols.
Since learned tomes can't seem to agree on any single definition of postmodernism, we can hardly provide one in this program, but we can at least touch on some of the issues that make this a critical question for the church's faith and practice today, especially with respect to the question of truth.
February 4, 2007 Commentary:
"Narcissism Gone Wild"
Now, of course this situation isn't entirely new, although we have a lot more money and gadgets to feed the beast. In Hosea, God brings his lawsuit against Israel: "My people," he says, "are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Truth lays slain in the streets." The American Jewish philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "Truth is homeless in our world. We suffocate for lack of honesty. As a result, man dies even while he remains alive. Though idle he remains convinced of his achievements. Even as he lies dying he persuades himself that he is alive." We'll be continuing our theme, "A Time for Truth," in this broadcast as we take up in this program the theme of "Narcissism Gone Wild," the war between truth and self-worship.