I just read a great post over at AKMA (see “No Popular Culture” from May 28/06) from which I’d like to quote briefly: “If the church were a more congenial ecology for learning and critical reflection, the ‘popular culture’ topos might bring to the surface more interesting issues….” On this estimation of the church’s attitude towards learning I think Dr. Adams might be on to something (though I certainly don’t think that this ethos has permeated the western church alone…but that’s a post for another day). One of my concerns is that church leaders tend to underestimate both the level of interest and the potential for understanding in the average Christian person. It is too much to present complicated thoelogical problems or to investigate the greater political and ethical repercussions of our beliefs. All of this is looked on as “theological hair-splitting.” This is unfortunate because in fact it is these issues that will determine the role of the church in both the world of today and of tomorrow. I would suggest that our understanding of God’s will matters, that the way we think of God’s relationship with the future matters, that a knowledge of what grace and faith might be matters greatly to our own engagement with the possibilities and problems of the world in which we live.
I realize that there will be many people in any given group of Christians (or people of any other faith for that matter) who have no interest in the intellectual component of their religion/faith system, but this does not mean that these will be the only kinds of people preset, nor that they will be in the majority (as though only the concerns of the majority mattered to church governance anyways…again, a post for another day). I would be stunned to discover that any given congregation of people did not have among them some for whom supposedly esoteric concerns are important and interesting. I am not advocating that we turn regular worship services into academic exercises, nor that we neglect teachings with practical ends in mind. I would only suggest that there are many times when attempting to teach only things that are “practically applicable” has the potential to create a faith that differs only insignificantly from many entirely non-christian approaches to the world (I’m not opposed to such systems out of principle, but in a church the aim is to be not of this world). Additionally I would say that a great many topics that might be seemingly arcane in fact have great practical implications for the living of the Christian life. I would agree with whoever it was that suggested we must let Scripture read us, setting the agenda for conversation (as much as such a thing is possible) and not the other way around (I’m not sure who it is that I’m [mis]quoting here, someone from the post-liberal vein, Lindbeck maybe).
I guess all that I’m saying is that we need to have a little faith. In people’s interests, in their capacity and also in the importance that some slightly more complex issues might have on the nature and future of Christianity in the western world.