Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"From Below" Christology

I love magazines and journals. Our home has always been awash in them--home and garden magazines, historical journals (the more obscure the better), travel magazines, current events, literary journals, you name it. In an effort to discipline my spending and to get a handle on the clutter, I have begun to let some drop by the wayside, even to the point of letting my 25+ year National Geographic subscription lapse. It seems NG has become all too issue-oriented. When I open a NG, I want to read about Paraguay and Bakhara and Upper Volta, not "issues."

One journal I continue to receive is the Stone-Campbell Journal. What, you say, is the SCJ? Well, my heritage church is part of what was commonly referred to as the American "Restoration Movement." As our scholars become increasingly uneasy with the implications of "restorationism," they took to calling it the Stone-Campbell Movement, after its two leading figures from the early days (that's early 1800s, in this case!). The SCJ is actually well done, with a number of timely articles and book reviews. Of course, I have moved on, as they say, but I still enjoy reading the journal to keep up with trends in the S-C churches.

Obviously, as an Orthodox Christian, I now read the journal with different sensibilities and insights. And I do not think I am being just knee-jerk critical, as the journal is still of interest to me. Yet, I had a real problem with a lead article (written by the editor, in fact), entitled "The Chalcedon Definition, Pauline Christology and the Postmodern Ehallenge of "From Below" Christology." Huh? I read the article, and then read it again. The best I can make of it is that the professor believes that the promulgations from the Council at Chalcedon are just, well, not spiffy enough for us hip, enlightened postmodern folk, and perhaps need to be replaced with "Pauline" language "from below." Okay. He writes:

...postmodern ways to understand and relate christology, especially as it relates to how Christ's humanity and divinity work are only just beginning.

Only just beginning????? Maybe the postmoderns are "only just beginning," but it seems to me the Church Fathers covered this ground pretty thoroughly some 1600-1800 years ago. Herein lies an inherent problem with the Protestant mindset: ever so often, they feel a need to reinvent the wheel.

He continues:

Many of these hold promise and should not be shackled by Chalcedonian language, much of which is rooted in its own period of history. As important as Chalcedon has been to Christianity, parts of it may no longer be the best representatives of biblical teaching for the coming era.

And where do we find that superior representation of biblical teaching? The SCJ, I suppose. Lord have mercy.

He concludes:

Those of us from the Stone-Campbell heritage have every reason to be in the forefront of these explorations since we have always been reluctant to embrace any "creed but Christ."

The irony here is that this passes for scholarship by some.

I enjoyed the book reviews somewhat better. One S-C contributor reviewed a biography of 20th Century Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov. I found his comments humorous:

Reading this volume transports one into the sometimes mysterious world of the Eastern Church. In contrast to the Lockeian simplicity of Stone-Campbell theology, Bulgakov's Russian Orthodoxy is complex and rambling. It is both speculative and richly philosophical. For spiritual descendants of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell who celebrate the simplicity of the gospel, reading Bugakov may remind us of the sometimes complex nature of Christian doctrine.

No kidding.

One review commented on a book entitled The Jazz of Preaching. Another reviewed Rubel Shelly's The Jesus Proposal, mercifully dismissing it as an "easy-to-read volume...that will simply be placed on the shelf and forgotten because it cannot be put into practice consistently..." Finally one review tackled D. G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism:

At the heart of this book, he notes that constructed evangelicalism cannot hold its center and is heading towards "deconstructing." This study should make scholars consider whether their endeavors have favored a movement and its inadequate forms over the church and its tradition. Also, scholars in the Stone-Campbell tradition should take heed as more segments of the Restoration Movement accept this "low-church" Protestantism.

Indeed. I think I'll read Hart's book.


Mimi said...

Wouldn't a good Orthodox history magazine be wonderful?

Terry (John) said...

YES! I would love it. I think the journal "Road to Emmaus" may cover some of that ground.

Jared Cramer said...

Herein lies an inherent problem with the Protestant mindset: ever so often, they feel a need to reinvent the wheel.


Steve Robinson said...

LHM 40x. A BEGINNING??? Not relevant to modern times???? One could chalk that up only to extremely poor scholarship and ignorance of the Church Fathers and Church history, OR modern narcissism. Or both....