Thursday, September 20, 2007

controversies versus unity, my penance

Yesterday Darin and I were having a discussion of a philosophical, nonbiblical proof for God's existence offered by St Anselm. Unfortunately, we were doing it across the length of a table full of 7 dining companions. It seemed rather silly in that setting, although it was very mentally challenging (and therefore fun.)

Speaking of silly, I can manage to take almost any conversation down that path, most recently forcing the tragic resignation of the beloved Robotface Shumway from Scott's last blog thread. Mea culpa.

As a penance, let me propose a certain reading of Eph 4 that has grabbed me. No, it is not from NT Wright, just li'l ol' me. :-)

We usually think of this passage as being "about ministers." But the whole of Ch 4 is about the unity of the body, and v11 is just one component (and notably, one that does not make the list of "seven unities" in vss 4-6.)

v11: there are these "gift-people" (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher);
v12: their purpose is to promote works of service for the building up of the body;
v13: the twin-goal of which is UNITY in the faith-knowlege of Jesus;
v13: which equals attaining the fullness of Christ, maturity;
v14: THEN (when in unity) we will be resistant to deception and deceivers;
v15: and, thru increasing love we will be truly in his body;
v16: and the Body will truly work, manifesting the reality of God in the world;
v17-32: therefore, DO unity as follows...(maintain the bond of peace, v3)

Most of my bickering is on this one point: the church is too intent on defending God by enforcing doctrinal rectitude. I think Jesus presents a different picture of evangelism. I do not believe the Bible (nor common experience)teaches us that people come to faith by being logically cornered, nor do they abandon God because someone makes a more compelling argument. This view ignores the work of the Spirit and the witness of love.

Am I just rotten on this, or do I have a worthwhile point?

Oh, and sorry for being a jackass. Conversation just excites me.


Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

Great post. Amen.

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

Oh, and I unquitted. Unquitting is one of several rights guaranteed to all US Americans.

soebeck said...

Which was my point when Darin was going through the St. Anselm argument with me. Apologia has failed. There is a reason why there is that bit about clanging symbol vs. love. There are so few Dobson's and Hybel's out there. If you win the argument, the next move is for the one you are arguing with to call you an ass.

Joe B said...

I don't think apologia has failed, just that the model of yore either (a) has failed, or (b) is no longer the best approach. -- I tend to assume that the 1980's approach was effective in its time, or it would not have been so prevalent. Or it may have been futile reactionism. I'm not old enough to know. I think we are just living in the age of (dare I use the word) a narrative apologetic. Positive presentation instead of negation. The C.S. Lewis approach is now dominant, working from observation to meaning to faith to truth. Chuck Colson does this great, but he does not consider it apologetics.

scott said...

You know what's interesting... I think I went through McDowell's "Evidence that demands a verdict" video series back when I was in 8th grade, at church with Rog. Did you lead us through that, or was that someone else? All the drugs are affecting my memory.

Now, I see there are all sorts of web sites that exist purely to argue and debunk all of McDowell's points.

Whether apologetics "work" or not, I don't know. But it's just not how people come to know God.

Robotface Shumway (Big Doofus) said...

It might have been me that took you through that. Remember that I was making the purple Kool-Ade and had to sample it before passing it out to you stupid kids.

Anyway, I'm not sure that classical apologetics (which is what we're talking about) is a lost cause. I think you can use proofs and evidence to make a good case for the fact that you don't have to be a moron to accept the bible as truth. There are still people out there today that function this way.

But ultimately, it's the Holy Spirit that changes the person.

I'm ok with the narrative approach as an option as long as it doesn't throw out the notion of truth.

Go Colts.

Joe B said...

Right, right, and right.

I think that these days if you start out with a monopoly claim on Truth and use it to corner someone into faith then you are hosed.


I know that people of lower socio-economic status are much slower to adopt social change than higher SES folks. The truth is that among the lower classes all of the last generation assumptions work just fine. Emergies have no proposal that I've seen about conversing with them. Except to be kind to them. Which hardly any suburban church seems to manage.

Joe B said...


Am i whacky on that? Sometimes I just see what I wanna see. You know.

brian said...

Joe B is right on this one. After beating my head against the wall with nonbelievers on the Internet for years, I finally came to the realization that my arguments accomplish nothing to convince another person to submit their life to Christ.

In the end, the Holy Spirit quickens the simple Gospel message. Either the listener chooses to believe, or they don´t.

The Pharisees had all their theology and doctrine down, and Jesus was pretty harsh with them.

I´m not saying that apologetics is unwarranted, but I am saying that even the most perfectly formed argument cannot imbue spiritual life.

scott said...

I think the simplest way to state what we're thinking is this:

Apologetics is not evangelism.

Apologetics can be good, and I'm all for having some knowledge and being able to "defend your faith." But as everyone has pointed out, it's rarely going to turn someone's heart.

I think Brian needs to do a special guest post from Spain.

Joe B said...

Post it, brian, post it!

brian said...

Special guest post? I thought that I´d been grafted into the vine! ;)