Today I read the introduction to The Mosaic of Christian Belief by Roger E. Olson, which arrived on our front porch today. The introduction is part of the assignment to complete session 1 of the Bible.org “The Theology Program” “Class Introduction” to the first course “Introduction to Theology”. My spouse has not read it yet. She has read the first chapter of Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology which I wrote about in the last post.
In the first session video, “Class Introduction” to the first course “Introduction to Theology” the lecturer makes the observation – if we look for classes where everything the teacher presents perfectly agrees with everything we already know and everything we feel passionately about, we will probably think the class is great and the teacher is great but we won’t learn anything.
I don’t think the rest of the book The Mosaic of Christian Belief will perfectly agree with everything I already know and everything I feel passionately about but, while reading the introduction, I commented to my spouse, “Wow, this guy is saying things I have been saying for years.” I do hope I learn something.
For years I have been saying many divisions in Christianity are one group’s OVERREACTION to another group’s error or the other group’s OVER EMPHASIS on some small point of secondary doctrine. Here’s how Roger E. Olson spells it out
…many Christian theologians…believe…the Roman Catholic Church over reacted to modernism in its ranks in the nineteenth century by making papal infallibility a dogma…Similarly, some Protestant groups have overreacted to the perceived threat of modernism by developing a doctrine of strict biblical inerrancy. Often such overreactions give rise to opposite overreactions.
Moving on, on page 12 I found a great sentence.
Too many Christians identify “authentic Christian belief” with one narrow slice of Christian thought.
Of course, this reminded me of my favorite quote which happens to be from a fiction book…
I found it again at last! Page 156 – 157 of My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells.
Dr. Dylan Foster is thinking to herself while searching through literature on snake lore.
“Then there was all the mystical stuff. Once again, the dearth of comparative religion in my theology training nearly skunked me. Four years of sod-busing in seminary had taught me exactly nothing more than what I already knew–in grander proportions, of course, and to near-microscopic levels of minutia. In the end, I got out of there with a solid hermeneutical method, an encyclopedic understanding of dispensational theology, and the ability to conjugate verbs and deconstruct participles in Greek and Hebrew–all notable skills–but without even passable knowledge of anything outside one extremely narrow strip of theological territory.”
“When it was all said and done, I’d spent four years and trainload of money to get indoctrinated, not educated. Lousy planning, if you ask me.”
On page 13 Olson laid out a definition of evangelical as understood in the United States today. If I drop where he repeats “evangelical” in his definition, I think I should show this definition to the Director for Missionary Discipleship in my Roman Catholic Diocese and I would get an agreement about this definition being what the Roman Catholic Church is finally moving to.
…evangelical…describe especially that form of (mostly) Protestant Christianity that…is generally conservative in theology, conversionist and evangelistic, biblicist, and focused on Jesus Christ as God incarnate, crucified Savior, risen Lord, and returning king…emphasis on the importance of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” through an experience of conversion involving repentance and faith and a daily life of discipleship to Christ that involves prayer, Scripture reading and seeking by God’s help to emulate the Savior.
I guess the growth toward an evangelical emphasis in the Roman Catholic Church would fall into this “(mostly)” in the first line of this quote.
On page 18 I found two sentences which sum up a discussion of trends in most of the Christian church, particularly in North America, as Olson states. He wrote about these trends from the bottom half of page 17 almost all the way to the end of page 20.
What “feels good” an”provides comfort” is often the main criterion by which grassroots Christians decide what to believe and how to practice their spirituality. The church becomes a support group rather than the communal bearer of a tradition that values truth.
I am so sick of sentimentality!
While working with teenagers and their parents preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, way too often I’ve listened to teens and their parents describe the total of their lived experience with Jesus Christ with something to the tune of “I am so glad He is there for me when I need him. He gives me such comfort.” This an example of a part of what Christian Smith, sociologist of religion, and the coauthor of the book Soul Searching called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
That’s fine but it shouldn’t be all there is. Unfortunately too often it is all there is. This is serious because we are at war and Jesus Christ is our Commander and Chief. He’s not just Savior. He is also Lord. He’s not at our beck and call. We are at His. He owns us, not the other way around. We have been bought with the price of His death on a cross.
There is more I’d like to comment about but I’ll hang it up for tonight.