Tuesday, June 21, 2005

McLaren, Part 2

Jean-François Lyotard characterized postmodernisn as "incredulity towards metanarratives." To some, that's as helpful as defining "curling" as the "sport in which curlers engage." But what it means is simple. A metanarrative is a grand story that explains all the parts of life and history. Christianity can be seen as a metanarrative -- it stands above all the little stories (like those found in the Bible) and gives them meaning beyond their immediate context. Abraham's near-slaughter of Isaac is a great story, but it is far more interesting when you realize that Abraham's knife-stroke would have ended not only Isaac's life, but the entire redemptive plan of God. It wasn't just about Abraham and Isaac. "Incredulity" means skepticism or disbelief for such grand stories.

McLaren reveals his own distaste for such all-encompassing accounts of life and truth. For him, we cannot escape our own myopic viewpoints and somehow stand high enough to see the world the way it really is. This manifests itself in his understanding of Bible interpretation. We inevitably smuggle our own prejudices, ignorance and cultural conditioning into every Bible study. We cannot discover the true interpretation because there is no true interpretation. All interpretations are inventions, artifacts, or constructs.

On p.50, Neo and Dan continue their conversation about biblical interpretation. Neo eventually says, "the authority in not in what I say the text says but in what God says the text says." Hmmm. He continues his thought by saying, "Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about ourselves. They reveal what we want to defend, what we want to attack . . . " Neo believes that we shouldn't worry about discovering the "right" interpretation; instead we should worry about what our interpretations divulge about our hearts. For Neo, Judgment Day is really only Deconstruction Day.

I am compelled to admit that there is a kernel of truth to what he is saying. Our view of Scripture, and of the world itself, is always somewhat colored by our presuppositions. It is a challenge for honest Christians to approach the Bible with sincere objectivity and openness. We all want the Bible to say certain things. But to notice the difficulty in being objective and conclude that it is therefore impossible to be objective, or that there is no objective truth at all is a jump in logic. McLaren goes too far.

There are two reasons we must reject this approach. First, God is certainly not confused about his Word. When God says "x," He knows exactly what he means by "x." We seek to discover what God meant, and there is an answer to the question, even if we have yet to find it. So to think that there is no "correct" interpretation is to deny God's own coherence. Secondly, if there is no "correct" way to interpret the Bible, only culturally derived ways, then our theology is not based on the honest pursuit of objective truth through prayerful reason, but rather on the struggle for power and control over others, our subcouncious fears and insecurities, and the limitations of our own cultural idoms and language (deep breath). We can hold no confidence in a theology or a Christianity so derived.

I suggest an alternative. Let us admit our prejudices, our ignorance, our fears, and let us continue, in a spirit of prayerful humility, to ask God if He would help us discover His truth. Don't you think He wants us to understand Him? Is it presumptuous to suppose that we could understand God's mind? "For who has known the mind of the LORD, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ." (1Cor. 2:16) Truth is not hopelessly beyond our grasp, it is only so far as to require more than mere mortal means.


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