Monday, 23 December 2013

Making questions dangerous

I'm in a church of fundamentalist evangelicals. That's not meant to be pejorative, just accurate1. Fundamentalism is a kind of orthodoxy and it doesn't like dissent, but that makes it the perfect space to ask dangerous questions. Questions like:

What if God isn't omnipotent? That's not an attribute of God from the Bible, it's from Greek thought and part of the backdrop of most Western theology. So let's dig it out of our mental picture of God and see how things change.

What if pneuma isn't Spirit but spirit? The Biblical texts didn't use spaces, punctuation, paragraphs, and capitalisation as we do in English. Every time a translator has to deal with pneuma, they have to make a decision about whether to capitalise it. And if you think that doesn't matter, find a New Testament passage with pneuma, force the lower case s, and think about how we use phrases like "the spirit of the sentence" or "the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law." What does it mean to "live by the spirit" rather than "live by the Spirit?" What does it mean to "pray in the spirit," not "pray in the Spirit?"

Of course, very little of this has a bearing on the most important part of Christianity: Christ's command to love. In global Christianity, the heterodoxy of all believers still retains the common statement of faith that Jesus is the Christ and because of this we are united in obedience to the command to love.

What I like about the environment, though, is that the questions take on more power because they challenge the orthodoxy. In a liberal church, or a process church, these questions are good but have a different flavour. In the midst of fundamentalism, questions like these command our attention.


Notes
1. They adhere reasonably closely to The Fundamentals from 1910-15, so I call them fundamentalists2.
2. I wonder if you can have such a thing as a non-fundamentalist evangelical.

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