The micro narrative and the macro narrative of faith.

T. M. Luhrmann wrote an op-ed which appeared in the New York Times today that is worth mentioning.  In this piece, the question is essentially raised as to whether perceived ultra modern churches (described as "experiential") run the risk of diluting the truth of God.  This juxtaposed against the supposed risk that somehow God will be sidestepped entirely in modern culture if we cannot somehow make Him relevant.  A Hobson's choice of a watered down God or no God at all - neither representing attractive options.  All this discussion brought upon by Joseph Ratzinger's recent observations on several traditional Christmas images (singing angels and livestock).

The reality is that God exists independent of perception.  There is no danger that God will somehow be cosmically morphed because of us.  Many thoughtful people have struggled with the fear that the use of the imagination somehow impacts a correct understanding of what God is. And perhaps it is out of a sense of divine respect that some fear the anthropological tools of "active" learning that Luhrmann mentions.

The piece makes note of comments from Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "My first concern is not with the God we are looking for, but the God who is.”  Mohler's position is described as a belief that imagination may lead us to drift quickly away from what he would call truth.  That somehow imaginative faith cannot appreciate the relationship between judgment and grace.  The reality is that essential truths can be and often are glossed over.  But this is not necessarily the fallout of "experiential" faith, it is the result of anemic and unmoored faith.  God does not need to be made more compelling.  He is compelling.  We are often intellectually and spiritually lazy.

We have in some ways bought into a curious extension of the enlightenment myth.  That all truth can only be understood in a defined way (usually, "rationally" defined by some component of establishment), i.e., God must look this or that way, that there is little color in the black and white of His text.  This may represent a mischaracterization of the unique relationship between faith and reason, wherein some may narrowly mandate the confines of God's narrative for others.  Without question, we avoid the suggestion that there are not absolute truths in our faith.  We are not God.  He is.  The greatest commandments are fairly simple to understand if one is willing to earnestly seek them out.  We are to grow in our capacity to love Him and our neighbors, to seek justice, truth, and compassion.  

Despite any argument that imagination is a new marketing tool, we know that the use of imagination has deep roots in the faith.  Ignatius Loyola's vivid spiritual exercises come to mind and one would hardly charachterize the Jesuits as frilly new-age lightweights.  The suggestion that the only alternative to an imaginitive faith is no faith at all is without merit.  We should embrace the use of the micro narrative and imagination in unpacking the spectacular and mind boggling macro narrative of our great God.  God voluntarily reveals Himself to us, through Christ.  We come to understand as much as He allows, solely as a result of His divine will, matched with our willingness to seek Him.  

We are not faced with a mere choice between an imaginative faith and no faith at all, as Luhrmann perhaps suggests. 

The great fear is that we will not seek Him.


Popular Posts