Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The same mistake

In other words, liberalism is, simply, the desire to be taken seriously by the academy and the willingness to find an apologetic that is relevant to the culture.
Several days ago, a friend replied to my 'bad, bad windows' rant. You can see his response here. I replied, and the above sentence is part of the response. The more I think about this sentence, the more I think it is both desperately hard and true.

It is hard because I work for InterVarsity's Graduate and Faculty Ministries. We're about the work of helping Christian grad students make it in the contemporary university and, on top of that, helping them to thrive as Christians and academics, as whole people, as world-changers.

It is hard because our modus operandi is sometimes for some of us driven by wanting to be taken seriously and wanting to find an apologetic that is relevant to the academic culture.

We want to be taken seriously. Who wants to be thought of as a buffoon? Who wants to think other people are thinking one is a supersititous, backwoods idiot?

And so, we want to be relevant. We want to find a bridge between the culture that we want to take us seriously, and the message we want to bring to that culture.

But, unfortunately, the sentence remains devastatingly true - at least of the thumbnail sketch of the development of continental liberalism I was taught. Schleiermacher wrote a book on Christianity to "his cultured despisers." A brilliant thinker, he bridged the gap. He developed a sophisticated, elegant, and convincing apologetic for the Gospel.

But, in so doing, he tamed the Gospel; he broke her back. The Gospel became a maidservant to the ideology to which she had been wedded. She was eventually eviscerated of her vital life and left as a shell into which people cast their images of God against the sky.

He wanted the Gospel to be taken seriously by the culture.

He was willing to fashion an apologetic to make it so.

And us evangelicals are perilously close to the same mistake, which is why I continued in my comment:
Well, those two things sound like most evangelicals, don't they? That's because we're only ever a hair's breadth away from making the same mistake as the continental liberals: wanting more desperately to speak TO our cultured despisers than ABOUT Jesus Christ.
We ministers have to be able to speak about Jesus Christ, even at the expense of looking foolish to our counterparts and colleagues. He is public truth, and his Revelation is knowledge, but if we ever put the cart before the horse, if we ever allow something else to become the subject of the sentence, then we have already capitulated, already lost the fight. One hundred years from now, "public truth" and "knowledge" will not be the terms in which we try to cast our faith, but He will always be its purpose, content, and goal. We are speaking about him to our cultured despisers. And may it always come in that order.

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