Monday, May 25, 2009

Quote from The Lost History of Christianity

I wasn't expecting to find a quote that summed up my personal challenges -- as a Christian who interprets science for a living -- in a book about medieval history, but here it is:

"Historically, Christians faced the issue of whether to speak and think in the language of their anti-Christian rulers. If they refused to accommodate, they were accepting utter marginality…Yet accepting the dominant language and culture accelerated the already strong tendency to assimilate to the ruling culture, even if the process took generations. Although a comparable linguistic gulf does not separate modern Western churches from the secular world, Christians still face the dilemma of speaking the languages of power, of presenting their ideas in the conceptual framework of modern physics and biology, of social and behavioral science. To take one example, when churches view sin as dysfunction, an issue for therapy rather than prayer, Christians are indeed able to participate in national discourse, but they do not necessarily have anything to offer that is distinctive. Nor is there any obvious reason why believers should retain their attachment to a religious body that in its language and thought differs not at all from the secular mainstream. Too little adaption means irrelevance; too much leads to assimilation and, often, disappearance."

I think I need to put this up on my wall. For now my blog is just as good. :)


Anonymous said...

(Multi-lingual people think in all languages of their human interchange. The Jews, such as Joseph, Daniel and Esther adopted the language and literature of their captivity. Nebuchadnezzar trained and tested the captives in the language and literature of the Babylonian empire. Spain expelled or assimilated Jews and Moors. A Christian Moor was still a morisco: outwardly a Christian and inwardly a Moor. God told Elijah that he was not alone, but one among 7,000.
Truth in scientific work cannot produce false results (no lie comes from the truth); it takes spin and other forms of lying to engender what has not been observed. Our creator gave five senses and a mind to pull together what we observe. As one kind of scientist, I always strove for what was true from my data. I refused to let anyone report on my data before I did. When asked to falsify (in accounting), I first said, “I can’t.” When asked why, I said, “I was mistaken, I meant to say, I will not because I am the one who goes to jail when we are audited.” I was not liked, but gained respect, and was mildly feared.)
(If a foreigner refuses to learn the language of his alien nation, he condemns himself to marginality. There is a language that inoculates against assimilation. It is Scripture, not Scripture plus or Scripture minus. The source languages, Greek and Hebrew, are used by all of the Wycliffe translators’ in creating a new gospel or testament. They strive to produce the original text in the heart language of a people. About 4,000 NT’s are done. About 2,500 are yet to be finished. When cultural relevance dominates, assimilation must result. It is happening today at a dizzying pace.)
(Again, truth in observation produces good results. George Washington Carver prayed, “Dear Lord, my people are poor. We have only the peanut. Show me what is in your peanut.” Out of that he produced over 300 products of good use: lubricants, paints, and so forth. Christians strive to tell the truth as it is observed. Leave the conceptual framework for others. You must be testing hypotheses. If the facts don’t support the hypothesis, report it. Non-support is still truth. Drug companies keep records of all failed trials.
I have used conceptual frameworks to develop testable hypotheses. Sometimes the framework needs to be adjusted to accommodate facts. The reverse produces faked results which are abhorred.)
(CS Lewis wrote on ruling class therapies as brutal and unworkable cures for behavior of mind or body with which they disagree. Our message is Biblical. Sin invites judgment and will be punished. God loves all sinners and sent His son to be the propitiation for sin. Our “cure” is repentance, confession, forsaking sin and living a life pleasing to God. For all of this, we are promised that the world will hate us as it hated Christ. Karl Menninger, the former dean of psychiatry wrote, “Whatever Became of Sin.” In it, he said something like, ‘Sin is our only hope. Without personal responsibility for our own sin, there is no cure, no hope.’
(Full agreed here. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 still applies. But, our attachment will be to a body that is in conformity with Christ’s teachings. See 2 John 9, 10)
(Too many abstract nouns here. I adopt GAAP and my professional rules. I won’t issue false reports. Daniel did the same. Was he irrelevant? If there is no room in our lives for the Word of God and the work of the Spirit of God, we will be irrelevant, assimilated and disappear.
We are aliens here. Our inheritance is not here. This world is temporary. Our present age is passing. Judgment is coming. Christ will give to each man according to his work.
If we don’t fit in, neither did Christ. But he fits into the lives of countless millions who find
“in him” life, love, joy, peace and all the promises of God. What the world has always done to all who live godly lives in Christ is to persecute them. So, on this note, rejoice that you have been found worthy of His Name

BenMc said...

That's a lot to think about! Thanks for your comments on the intersection of history, science and faith. This issue of "translation" impacts many areas as your comments show, which goes right along with the tension Jenkins points out between assimilation and separation. I'll be thinking about it...