Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Theology behind [insert topic]

There's a part of me that bristles a little when I hear something like, "People don't realize the theology behind [X]." In so many words, "If they knew the theology behind [X], they would stop doing it."

To me, there is a skewed assumption here, namely, that thinking and ideas are the bottom line behind our actions and practices. It assumes that the fundamental basis or the fundamental bedrock of ethics is a system of ideas.

But there is only one fundamental basis for ethics: "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Everything else is the playing out of this intention in the light of concrete consequences and implications. Ethics is not based on a system of ideas. It is the interplay of intentions and consequences.

Now, ideas come into play insofar as they represent our intentions or impact others. But there is an all too common Platonism in Christian-speak, as if the ideas are fundamental and the world simply a shadowy embodiment of them. But Plato was a screwy nut-ball. Our ideas are shadowy representations of the real world.

As an example, should we have an American flag on the pulpit? It's an odd thing to be sure. Are we saying that our love of the US is in some way comparable to our love of God? Are we even saying that we worship America in some way as we worship God? What are our motivations for putting the flag on the pulpit?

I suspect they are usually innocent and the consequences not too significant, which is why this is not usually that big of a deal to me. However, the confusion of country with religion as an object of love can come to have bad consequences or embody bad loves. At that point, the confusion may need to be addressed in concrete terms.

Sure, you might say that this discussion is exploring the underlying theology of flags on pulpits. I bristle to put it that way. I would rather say we are exploring our intentions and attitudes. We are exploring our loves.

Let me at least say this. You may not win a lot of arguments with lead practitioners using the "theology behind" argument. Idealists make for good martyrs, but most of them don't change the world much. Most just end up really disappointed.

Talk motives and consequences. Them I've heard of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't tell this to John MacArthur!