Orthodoxy and ignorance

Orthodoxy and ignorance July 7, 2011

Mike Todd, writing about Rob Bell’s Love Wins and the (over)heated condemnation it has received, offers an insight into this fierce defense of rigid orthodoxies that collides neatly with our most recent Tribulation Force discussion. In particular, he explains why it is that real, true Christian heroes like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams cannot learn, change or grow.

Here’s Mike, writing about “Love Hell, Conciousness and the (Current) Impossibility of ‘Church Unity‘”:

If your spirituality is based on “believing the right things”, there is going to be trouble.

If you believe there is a concrete list of “right things” to know, and if you happen to believe that you, in fact, know these things, then the very idea of growing, thinking differently, of evolving, is by definition heresy. If we want to sound religious we call these right beliefs orthodoxy, and we declare ourselves its protector, and the keeper of the faith, as if somehow God needed a bodyguard.

The “orthodoxy” of the heresy-hunting fundamentalist that Mike describes reminds me of Elbert Hubbard’s “recipe for perpetual ignorance: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.”

Roger Olson writes about the same tribe, responding, like Mike, to their heated reaction to Rob Bell’s book. Olson responds in turn by citing a remarkably timely passage from the great Reformed theologian Karl Barth:

One question should for a moment be asked, in view of the ‘danger’ with which one may see this concept [viz., universalism] gradually surrounded.  What of the ‘danger’ of the eternally skeptical-critical theologian who is ever and again suspiciously questioning, because fundamentally always legalistic and therefore in the main morosely gloomy?  Is not his presence among us currently more threatening than that of the unbecomingly cheerful indifferentism or even antinomianism, to which one with a certain understanding of universalism could in fact deliver himself?  This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ.  Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.

Or, as once I realized in an epiphany following a long night trying to remember all the words to “Pancho and Lefty”: “If there is a God, then God must be, by definition, bigger and more merciful than Townes Van Zandt.”

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