Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christian Tribalism: does God call us to stand up for the truth?

There seems to be a great deal of emphasis in Christian circles involving "standing up for the truth": affirming an unpopular but Biblical position regarding some issue that conflicts with contemporary Western mores. The latest flap is about Phil Robertson of the Duck Dynasty TV show, his interview with the magazine GQ, and network A&E's banning of Phil from the show. Conservative Christians are up in arms about censorship and free speech and most of all Standing Up for Biblical Truth.

What I see in all of this is a mindset I'd call Christian Tribalism.

Christian Tribalism is merely the religious version of a mindset shared by most people throughout history. It's basic form is encapsulated in the phrase, "Us vs. Them."  The basic idea is that We are at war, or at least in competition, with Them. We, of course, are the Good Guys, and They are the Bad Guys. Our job is to fight, or defend, or take a stand, for the Good Guys and for the principles that we believe in. We're looking to defeat the other guy, whether the weapons of our warfare are swords or guns or pens or tweets.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More on Rob Bell's "What Is the Bible?"

I have no intention of starting a running commentary on Rob Bell's "What Is the Bible?" series on Tumblr, but a couple of recent posts of his 1) answer some questions I had raised about how he was going to handle the Resurrection, and 2) provide a wonderful example of how not to do exegesis on Ephesians 1:9-10.

First, on the Resurrection. I had raised the question of how Rob would handle Jesus' resurrection, considering the fact that he had made a point of saying that the historicity of events in Scripture was beside the point. In his post #18 of the series, Rob gets to the Resurrection. And his conclusion is that, yes, literally, "Dude is alive!"(Rob is living in southern California now. And surfing a lot.)

So that's great: Rob and I agree that the Resurrection really happened. Rob gets there by an interesting path--he sees the discrepancies (or what he views as discrepancies) in the various Resurrection narratives and post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus as evidence that this was not propaganda and therefore really happened. (That it was women who saw Jesus first is additional evidence. A phony story would not have been set up that way.) So Rob manages to affirm the literal truth of the Resurrection while not having to affirm (or reconcile) the literal truth of any of the documents that document that fact. It all fits into his method pretty well.