Ed on The Parish and Christianity as Abstraction

kinnon —  March 26, 2007 — Leave a comment

I haven’t linked to my friend, Ed Brenegar, as often lately. That is more a function of my Scattered Mind than it is of the link-worthy material Ed is writing. (I should note that if you follow my link blog, you would find regular links to Ed’s stuff.) Today, Ed does he own Riff on The Post-Christian Parish that the iMonk riffed on this past weekend. Read them both. From Ed:

….Christianity has become an abstraction, ….it has lost its reality in experience for many people. This is clearly the case for our blogger Greg. (Writer of The Post Christian Parish.) I think this is not simply an existential crisis, a la Kierkegaard. At that time in the 19th century, we had not entered into a post-modern era of reaction to the reductive-abstraction nature of the Enlightenment era. Today, the existential quest goes much deeper, and I believe marks a turning point that can be traced back 2300 years to the distinctions in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

Plato was the classic dualist, articulating what came to be the basis for Christianity’s understanding of the separation of reality into the ideal and the shadow of the ideal. That dualism in the form of neo-Platonism has been the “coin-of-the-realm” ever since. Aristotle on the other hand, the first great philosopher/scientist, was much more grounded in a reality that did not separate the abstract and concrete worlds into separate entities. For Aristotle, reality is concrete, and discovered in action.

The result of Platonic dualism in the 21st century is that it has brought the church to a point where Christianity is more a set of abstract theological/biblical beliefs than it is a specific way one lives. The shift that I see, for example in the missional movement, is one away from Christianity as beliefs to ascent to to a way of living that models that of Jesus in the Gospels and the early church in Acts.

When the church is treated as an abstraction, we the people are in control. We determine what is true, good and acceptable. Of course, we claim that the Bible is our rule, and we end up proof-texting Scripture in order to demonstrate that we are correct. This isn’t to say that there are not specific beliefs that are true statements about the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, salvation, etc. It simply means that managing correct beliefs is not the work of the church. That is the church as abstraction.

Note also that Ed engages in the discussion on Greg’s post. Greg has written a polemic – creating lots of blogosphere discussion. I find myself agreeing with some of what he has to say, disagreeing with much – but wanting to stand and cheer at this:

I am overwhelmed by this story of Jesus. I’m captivated, sorry Mr. Eldredge, by this borderline lunatic, this fringe-dwelliing hippy, this painfully human man, this visionary who believed we are capable of being better than we are. I can’t help it. So, in answer to several questions about Jesus I’ve received lately. I can’t help but believe that he was something more than us, and I can’t help but believe that he rose from the dead, and I can’t help but believe he did something cosmic on the cross in terms of exposing and overcoming the powers. That requires I believe in resurrection and in God. It does not, however, require that I believe the Church is what he came to start or that it has been the best medium for the transmission of that message or that it has embodied an ethic that looks anything like Jesus. In fact, I’m convinced that more often than not, the church has been and continues to be antichrist. So, call me a post-Christian. But I can’t let go of that guy. And there is an experience I will tell you about next time. Peace.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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