Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fuzzy Liberalism
My friend Doug, who has served as rational backboard to my wildly thrown rim shots on more than one occasion over the past couple decades wants to know: "What is open source theology? The short definition, please.If it's not biblically based, it won't have any success in blunting the evangelical right. If it's fuzzy, liberal theology, no one on the right will take it seriously, and that's who we need to be talking to. We need to be giving the religious right some theologically conservative interpretations that contradict the politically conservative interpretations they've been force-fed for years."

I suppose one should be judged by the links one keeps, and this case is no exception. I like Andrew Perriman's site first of all because he is just the sort of thinking evangelical that Doug is: able to wrestle with the big questions and do so in a way that is intellectually and spiritually honest. Second, I love the idea of Open Source Theology. It is Protestant in its very essence. And though I dearly love the smells and bells of high church liturgy, I want them as unemcumbered as possible from the Roman dogmatism to which they are usually attached.

OST really presents a way of doing theology that is true to the Protestant ideal of the Priesthood of all believers. It allows the people of God to work through the kinks and knots of orthodoxy without abandoning the gospel.

A couple of Lents ago, I made it my Lenten discipline to spend a portion of day in the Nicene Creed, using it as a lectio divina, a divine reading that would help me meditate, not just on the words of the Creed, but the Word on which the Creed is formulated. That process caused me to realize that I don't really believe the Nicene Creed as it is written. Neither do you.

I think that the term "eternally begotten" is gobbledygook no matter the theological cartwheels that have been done in an effort to justify it. I don't believe Jesus came "down" from heaven, since I don't believe in the the three-tiered universe that Eusebius and Athanasius and the Nicene Council believed in. I struggle with the Virgin Birth, though I suppose it is no more miraculous than in vitro fertilization at the corner fertility clinic. I don't believe that Jesus sits on a throne in a heavenly throne room that looks suspiciously like the throne room of Caesar. Or Queen Elizabeth for that matter. I don't believe that Jesus always sits on God's right side when they dine at the heavenly banquet table, which I don't believe is literal either. I understand the Eastern Church's Biblical objections to the filioque clause ("Who proceeds from the Father and the Son") but I'm willing to grant the Western Church the benefit of the doubt on that one. I don't even know what the hell the resurrection of the dead is, though I am reasonably sure that it is not the re-animation of my increasingly mortal-feeling body. The world to come--well I doubt that looks very much like the Adventists' paradise Earth or a spirit world that has more to do with neo-Platonism than Judeo-Christian tradition.

Now, does that mean that I am not an orthodox Christian? No, because I do believe the Creed, just not literally. I think that the words and concepts of the Creed are time-bound in the fourth century, and while they served to define "orthodoxy" for the past seventeen centuries, I am not convinced that they have much meaning to 21st century believers. That might make me a fuzzy liberal, but I'd prefer to think of myself as an honest Christian, struggling to make sense of faith in a faithless world. Like Andrew Perriman, I believe in a Creating, Loving God, a fallen humanity, the death, resurrection and "ascension" (though not "upward") of Jesus of Nazareth, and the reconciliation of the universe with God.

Open Source Theology is only one tool to help me and other fuzzy heads get less fuzzy. That way we are in a better position to contradict the religious right without denying the truth and uniqeness of Jesus. Perriman's project is an apologetic of integrity. We can win the battle against the Christian jihadists, but if we lose against the rational secularists, we still lose.

I love you, Doug. Thank you for being the best friend I ever had, other than Jesus. In whom I believe. Literally.

2 comments:

Matt Humm said...

Well said. It is treasonous to allow the mystical to become systematic, but it is "our" eyes which are on God, and systematic is all we've got. Rumi speaks of how a craftsman looks for the emptiness, like a carpenter who approaches a house with no door. We do whatever we can to be within that emptiness, and fill it up, or let it fill us up.

Deacon Tim said...

My BA in that old and irrelevant discipline "systematic theology" comes to mind. Treasonous is a good term.