Loving wisdom is the primary motivation in philosophical talks. A recent discussion with an evangelical theologian made realize the need for loving wisdom. This person was very concerned about two issues. The first was the continued evangelical support for Donald Trump. The other issue was the historical value of miracle stories. I am concerned about the first issue. But not so much about the historical importance of miracles. In the first case, History matters. In the second case, it does not. It takes a dedication to wisdom to understand why.
Not Loving Theology
Evangelical theology is little more than apologetics. The doctrine must be defended first and foremost against any challenge. Philip Yancey once claimed evangelicals believe the narratives of the Bible “happened in history.” The actions of the stories must be believed and proven. The problem is simple. Such history relies on inexact sciences like Anthropology, Linguistics, and Archaeology.
The apologetic issue becomes another work of belief. If something is proven, it does not require faith. If one demands unequivocal proof, then one lacks faith. The evangelical theologian is concerned if the miracles were not historic facts then there was not point in faith. I understand why he has a problem. His worldview is modern and binary.
He questioned me about accepting marriage and ordination of LGBT persons. I could not help noticing the conversation changed even though he did not appear to notice it.
Wisdom As Method
The binary worldview of evangelicalism blinds many to the evil influence of Donald Trump and Christian/White nationalism. The culture war is a binary approach to the question of how people should live. There is no “gray area.” Whatever “it” is, it is either right or wrong. Donald Trump makes correct statements according to evangelicalism. And therefore everything he says is correct. Trump says the politically correct words of evangelicalism. Other problems are easily swept away.
True wisdom knows this is the pitfall of the binary approach. Wisdom sees the method is deeply and disturbingly flawed. The evangelical theologian believes “explaining away” the miracles destroys faith. Granted many attempts to explain the miracles are ridiculous. But, one must understand, the explanations are intended to uphold the basic message. There is a better method. A way of thinking that is better. Progressive theology is that way.
Basic Truth Loving
Loving truth and wisdom arise from the spiritual practice of humility. The book of Proverbs begins “Reverence for the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Evangelical theology/apologetics are attempts at spiritual heroics. Grandiose illusions about bringing revival or proving the superiority of faith are behind most attempts at apologetics. Evangelical ministries often use the names of individuals or claim to provide “answers.” When answers can not be found, denying problems becomes the norm with accusations such as “You are lacking faith” or “won’t accept the Bible.”
Basic truth loving requires us to accept we may never have all the answers we want. Doing this means we accept out mortality. Death is the ultimate limit of this life. The writer of Ecclesiastes urges us to accept that limit so that we may enjoy living. Sadly, too many Christians talk about death in a way that does not accept mortality. The primary question for them is “where will you go when you die?” Such a question implies not having a ready answer is somehow wrong.
Humility requires us to be teachable. Progressive Christianity is teachable. We do not worry that someone may corrupt our faith. We are concerned about someone enslaving the minds of others. Love is teachable. I am willing to let another show me where I have done wrong.
Where Are We Going?
Evangelicalism was always going to lead to Trumpism. Any thought of being a hero implies the need for a hero. This is the problem. Evangelicals want to be heroes of the faith. And they forget Henry VIII of England was given the title “Defender of the Faith.”
Progressive Christians hold the values of democracy. They inform and are in turn supported by our faith in Christ. Authoritarians and tyrants rely on intellectual control. And we despise any attempts to control the minds of other people.
Can evangelicals find the humility and the courage to walk away from their assumptions? They will not lose their salvation. They will find it.