Thursday, December 29, 2011

McLaren, Bell, MacArthur

Somewhat accidentally, I have recently encountered an essay by Brian McLaren, portions of Rob Bell’s farewell address, and half a chapter of John MacArthur discussing changes in the church. All three referred in rather general terms to other Christians who had disagreed with them or criticised them. In each case, I thought “Y’know, those people don’t put it like that. They have a better argument for what they do and why they do it.”

In each case there were additional comments available – the Amazon book reviews for MacArthur, the comments sections for McLaren and Bell. As these things go, those in agreement were more prominent in all cases, and they in turn were even more pronounced in misreprenting what “those other” Christians believe. But those in disagreement were no better. In all cases, the references were not to individuals, where one could perhaps discern whether the quoted person was indeed central to a Christian group or movement, or even – mad thought - track down an actual quote. It was vaguer than that: the evil old way or new way or other way of seeing things. And we’ve got their number. We can display why they are wrong in just a sentence or two.

Do we all do this? Render ourselves unable to give an accurate summary of other *POV’s, and embed ever more comfortably in our own nests?

*shouldn’t that be P’s OV? That is accurate but strange-looking. What is that acronym's protocol?


karrde said...

There is probably a continuum ranging from arguing vigorously against a straw man to arguing against a position specifically stated by a recognized leader of the movement.

However, it is easy to being with Our People are right and end with Their People are deluded/stupid/evil, skipping the important question what do Their People assume that we don't assume, and how does it affect their Position?

Because, far too often, the different beginning assumptions are the reason the two groups have different ideas.

But it is much easier to strengthen one's position inside Our People by bad-mouthing Their People than it is to ask why They do what they do.

Sam L. said...

I think this is typical behavior, that some of us work at avoiding. You do pretty good at it, AVI.

Texan99 said...

It so often comes down to fighting two evils at once, and differing in the priority to be accorded to one or the other. High Church? The danger of idolatry. Low Church? The danger of irreverence. Emphasis on tradition? The danger of stagnation and clinging to a form that's lost its substance. Innovation? The danger of drifting from proven truths to untested fads.

A character in a science-fiction book I like ("Courtship Rite") argued that rituals are answers to problems we've forgotten. Sometimes the problem has gone away in the meantime, and you can safely abandon the ritual. Sometimes, when you abandon the ritual, the forgotten problem comes right back. It's a good idea to remember the problem that some other group's incomprehensible canon was intended to address.

Texan99 said...

PS, I was thinking of the example of what has been reported to me as a Lutheran prohibition of "praise music." In looking this up, I find that it's more of a warning against a particular variety of contemporary service music with vague or even doctrinally unsound lyrics -- and I sure know the type. Anyway, while I was poking around in sites reading about this, I found to my surprise (I am not well informed about doctrinal differences among Christian churches) that I'm an Arminian. -- I actually find it very difficult, often, to understand the nuances of the quarrels between the denominations. Often I feel people are arguing over which side of a line I should land on when I don't even draw the line.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"A character in a science-fiction book I like ("Courtship Rite") argued that rituals are answers to problems we've forgotten." Wonderful line.

I have been thinking I would like to teach an adult Sunday School discussion class based on science fiction short stories. Not that anyone will let ever let me teach such a thing, of course, but it is fun to think about.