God is a libertine

there was once a young lassy from jerusalem
whose mind was alive and not dim
give her 2000 years
and we'll calm all your fears
the lobotomy will make her less troublesome

okay, that is a little tongue in cheek, and of course I know that there have been wonderfully deeply thinking people in the Church from her conception until this very day. but the bee that flies around in my bonnet is not completely undeserved, I suggest.

I am writing an essay on how ministers, as educators, teach the church (which is why I haven't been blogging for a few days), the whole module talks about how we teach children, adults, people of different learning styles and capabilities and educational theory - both in church and in the wider context. and I can't help but feel frustrated.

when I went to theological college I discovered a veritable treasure trove of new (to me) thought about God, a mine of diamonds on why and how we believe the stuff we believe, how our brothers and sisters before us made the journey to now, and gained access to sources of thought that I had no idea existed.

why did I have no idea they existed?

is it something to do with the evangelical mindset that if any 'dubious' information is disseminated then the 'poor unthinking' masses will inevitably fall of the scale of 'sound' belief? for instance you can imagine my face when I discovered that there is a whole rich tradition behind our theories of atonement (yes, that's right, theories, not theory, more than one way of understanding the cross), I have to admit to feeling slightly, well, betrayed.

perhaps a bit melodramatic, but when all you've been taught is penal subsitution and suddenly your mind is opened up to the richness of the cross - which goes way beyond an individual mechanistic understanding - it is hard not to think 'why did no-one tell me this before!'

such fear about educating the masses is founded in a fear that they will hear something that will destabilise their faith, that we must make sure the 'weakest brother' is not made to stumble. of course I would not want that either, but I'm just not sure that the mythical 'weakest brother' is not just an excuse to allow the perpetuation of an elite group of theologians who decide what people can and should believe.

and I am a libertarian at heart.

it is those in control who decide that we can have this or that information, be given certain knowledge or only read particular books. for instance The Good Book Company (the name gives it away really) says this:

As a Christian book publisher, we recognise with Solomon that: ‘Of the making of many books there is no end, and that much studying is a weariness of the flesh.’ We do not want to simply fill people's bookshelves. The range of books we promote is therefore controlled by these criteria:

Is the book firmly based on foundation of the Scriptures?
Does the book promote or defend Evangelical faith and belief?
Will the book help an ordinary Christian to serve the Lord Jesus Christ more faithfully, skilfully or wholeheartedly?
Is there a similar book already in circulation that does the same job about as well?

I have no problem with points 3 and 4.

points 1 and 2 (particularly point 2 which makes me want to poke my eyeball with a stick) are awful and, I suspect, have controlled the learning of evangelicals in their congregations for far far too long.

so what will I say in my essay? that the evangelical wing of the church has engaged in a self-imposed lobotomy over so many years that it is going to take a little bit of rehabilitating?

well I suppose we'd better get started, I suggest starting with stuff like this:

velvet elvis, rob bell
sex god, rob bell
a new kind of christian trilogy, brian mclaren
tom wright's 'for everyone' series

materials that I suspect are not high on the list of 'promoting or defending the Evangelical faith and belief'.

if anyone has any suggestions for good learning material I'd appreciate it (you'll get a footnote.....)

No comments: