Thursday, July 7, 2011

Truncating and Reducing

From his classic 1979 work Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace gets us to think about the problems with mainline churches who have too readily accommodated the fallen value systems of secular humanism as well as those with evangelical churches that have tended to react so strongly to such "negative" cultural movements that "orthodoxy" has sought to be preserved in "fairy-tale kingdoms" rather than the world that God made and calls us to live in.

Lovelace goes a step further and criticizes the tendency for some evangelicals to simply dismiss the substantial pursuit of doctrine by emphasizing purely Christian experience and the life of the Spirit, forgetting that sometimes the Spirit empowers the intellectual engagements of God's people as a key method to cutting holes into the darkness; yet, at the same, time there are still other evangelicals who emphasize the importance of biblical doctrine utilizing "biblical building blocks" to the point of neglecting the Spirit's role to effectively guide the Christian life.

I think what Lovelace gets at here is that among all expressions of Christianity as well as particular tendencies within the evangelical world (of which I am a member), the human heart tends to truncate and reduce Biblical truth, i.e. the Gospel's truth. Why do we do this? Well, I think simply because to do so makes life manageable rather than too big for us. Yet, doesn't the God of Scripture call us to live lives of dependence rather than independence, to get us to worship our way through life rather than manage it?

Consider the following Lovelace quotes. They are quite good:

"In the present century (20th century) the theological power centers of many larger churches have become so intimidated and mesmerized by ... humanism that from time to time they have been reduced to echoing its social moralism. Other leaders who have longed to remain faithful to historic orthodoxy have sought to isolate the realm of faith from the realm of scientifically verifiable history in order to make it invulnerable to the critical erosion of the biblical base and the shifting cosmologies of secular systems. In doing so, however, they have found themselves rulers over a kind of fairy-tale kingdom of meaning beyond history in which the world is not strongly motivated to join them," p. 182.

"Some Evangelicals have been genuinely obscurantist, addicted to experience and dismissing doctrine and any informed use of the mind as irrelevant to spiritual maturity. In our quest for the fullness of the Spirit, we have sometimes forgotten that a Spirit-filled intelligence is one of the powerful weapons for pulling down satanic strongholds. On the other hand, we have often assumed that the theological task was simply a matter of digging out biblical building blocks and building up logically from them by the exercise of our own inherent brain power, forgetting that only the Holy Spirit can effectively guide us in wielding the sword of the Spirit.

Recapturing the biblical sanity of the professing church is an immense task. So is the projection of a sane theology in a way which will arrest the intellectual decline of our culture. We are not about to achieve these goals without a very close dependence on the Holy Spirit. But if we do attack the task of theological integration with the Spirit's guidance, we are going to succeed. The Spirit will enter into the sanctuary of our minds in fullness and power, and we will lift from the church and Western culture some of the fog blanket of intellectual darkness which has been oppressing us since the late nineteenth century," pp. 183-84.

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