You will be disappointed. After a fairly long hiatus from writing beyond an occasional photograph, I choose a title sure to generate traffic. You clicked. My intent is to point out what is to come here on the blog.
Next week I will participate in a Blog Tour around the recent release of John D. Caputo’s, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps. My contribution will be to write about the first chapter, God, Perhaps: The Fear of One Small Word. All readers will wonder. Some will think I have lost my mind. Quietly, or not so quietly, you may think I have lost my faith. The truth is I have long thought there is much to learn from critiques of religion, even of Christianity. The Masters of Suspicion continue to influence those critiques that eventually produced what goes under the banner of Radical Theology. What Caputo will do in his recent book is describe a Radical Theology. Always interested in the play of words, Caputo, intentionally or unintentionally, opens us up to recognize that when people talk about Christianity, they may be describing a Christianity.
My fearful readers will no doubt find confirmation in that last line that I somehow believe there are multiple Christianities. A better way to get at what I suspect is that in Christian discourse, outside of our tribal confines, reveals to onlookers as if there are multiple versions of Christianity. The Christianity described by Joel Osteen would not be what many in my tribe would consider Christianity. The Western and Eastern Churches have long emphasized their differences in such a way one could suggest they are two different versions. We have not even begun to describe regional expressions in other parts of the world. The description does not negate, or invalidate Christianity, but it seems to equate to Lamin Sanneh’s description of Christianity as the translatable religion, not ethnically tethered.
Other readers will wonder what an Evangelical Southern Baptist pastor is doing reading the sorts of things that stir their intellect as well as their understanding that Christianity should not be less than materially lived. These friends would see the contribution of Radical Theology something akin to religious chemotherapy for a Christianity that is too other-worldly. In fact, this group would find it hard to understand Christianity and its lived expression as not less than political, and not in the partisan sense. Instead, Jesus charts the way for those whom Paul describes as new creations in Christ. These living human beings live out their faith in all relationships as people giving allegiance to a new Lord, not an old Caesar.
My friend Barry Taylor concludes an interview with, “Facebook is the new suburbia.” No explanation. No exposition.
We live in a community best described as ex-rural. According to some descriptions, Tuttle is a suburb of Oklahoma City. Maybe what Barry is getting at pertains to the way suburbia tends to be a place where broken lives are shielded by nice homes, manicured lawns, and evidence of expensive hobbies. The jig on suburbia has long been up. Currently the trend is back to the cities.
But, what Taylor may help us understand is that we have long desired to desire a better projection of ourselves. People compose their identities on Facebook in the same way a nice picket fence in suburbia shifted attention from those living inside to how things look on the outside. The issue is how we understand the self and identity formation. Who could deny we continue to miss these issues amidst the politicization of identity in our politics?
Enter Terry Eagleton. Ironically, a Facebook post by a young friend in Divinity school pointed me to Terry Eagleton’s, On Evil. Though I am not finished with the book, he describes original sin in greater breadth than simply a pointer to Adam’s fated choice in the Garden. Instead, in the lived experience Eagleton points human brokenness as a trace in our histories. He personalizes human experience in a way that reference to a first parent cannot.
Original sin, however, is not about being born either saintly or wicked. It is about the fact of being born in the first place. Birth is the moment when, without anyone having had the decency to consult us on the matter, we enter into a preexistent web of needs, interests, and desires – an inextricable tangle to which the mere brute fact of our existence will contribute, and which will shape our identity to the core.” (p.35)
I am interested to finish and work through my own understanding of Original Sin as bequeathed from what I suspect is an overly simplistic vision, strictly intended to target an individual without accounting for the world in which he or she will live.
Brad Brisco and Lance Ford‘s recent book, The Missional Quest: Becoming A Church of the Long Run, arrived in the mail compliments of IVP. I responded to the query to read their new release hoping to see what one virtual friend (Brad) and one real-time friend (Lance) describe. I am hopeful they have in mind something like Eugene Peterson’s, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, with the Church in mind.
My interest is beyond getting a free book. I am in my 20th year at Snow Hill. In Baptist terms, even Southern Baptists, that is a long run. And, I am not tired. It will be interesting to see what sort of parallels may be found between what I would describe as theorists, and that is not intended negatively, and a practitioner. We need those 30,000 foot thinkers. But, if there is not translatability at ground level, someone is wasting their time. I suspect Brad and Lance will not be wasting ours.
These Things and More
All of this is to come. The careful reader will know that blog posts on these subjects will have a measure of the eschatological to come. Amid best intentions there is always the regular work that comes with pastoring and sharing life with those in our congregation. When you witness the occasional infrequencies in the flow here at The Edge of the Inside, know that there is always the to come.
As always, thank you for reading and commenting.