Saturday, May 20, 2006
"Doctrine Divides but Christ Unites" (Another dose of Schaeffer)
Tired cliche phrases that put down theological/doctrinal enterprise and exalt a sort of autonomous personalized "spirituality" are used frequently in evangelicalism. After reading Francis Schaeffer's "Escape from Reason" I find he does an excellent job in catagorizing such attitudes. What it really boils down to in Schaeffers assesment is a giving up on reason, this is why faith is often viewed as an irrational leap which Schaeffer also refutes. (see: "Faith" vs. Faith) Schaeffer does an excellent job displaying the "irrational leap" in numerous areas. An example of this would be Atheistic ethics. There really is no rational reason to live an ethical moral life in an atheistic universe, yet most atheists do so and even defend ethics from an atheistic standpoint. This is simply irrational. In order to maintain morality in an atheistic universe one must make a leap into non-reason, or give up on reason.
Similarly, in an evangelical sense we can see a giving up on reason with blatant statements like "Doctrine divides but Christ unites." In my own experieces in multiple churches I have on numerous occasions been exhorted basically to not worry about doctrine but simply experience God. This is a clear cut leap into non-reason. Trust in mystical experiences forget about seriously studying the bible and its meaning. The obvious problem is that one can have all the "experiences" they want but is it the God of the bible they are worshiping are they worshiping in spirit and truth? C.S. Lewis gave a good analogy of the syntheses of experience and doctrine as he described doctrine to be as a sort of oceanic map. Now a map of the ocean is really useless unless one plans to explore the ocean (experience). Like wise it would be a foolish endeavor for one to set sail from London with Hong Kong for the destination with no map to guide (doctrine).
The exhortations of those who emphasise that we needn't worry about doctrine but have "God encounters" are partly right. However, Christianity is not an irrational mystical religion, it is a rational mystical religion. (By mystical I mean Christians personally experience God) When we divorce reason from our pursuit of God, the scriptures really loose authority. That is the odd thing about much of the emergent Christian spirituality, there are really no direct heresies being taugh. Rather, in the vacuum left by not emphasising biblical/doctrinal teaching, we find that spirituality has become so personalized (subjective) that doctrine (objective) really has little place. Thus, indirectly, sola scriptura is eroded and in its place stands "My personal experiences with God." In such an environment we are now in (see David Well's "No Place for Truth").
To wrap up, in light of Schaeffer's assesment of leaps into non-reason and Well's assesment of the privatization of faith. I think we need to reestablish the fact that we need objective truth. It is this that sets us apart from our postmodern counter parts we as Christians have the truth. It is contained in 66 books. The bible has all the answers modern man lacks. It is by returning to a biblical emphasis in our converstions that we will be culturally relevant because the bible's message speaks to all cultures. Thus instead of mimicing our culture we as Christians should have a message that is counter cultural.