Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starbucks, Culture, Paradigms - 2

Let me begin by talking about the “old” paradigm that I see Horace operating under. To be fair, I myself operated under this paradigm for the first 12 years of being a Christian; I also am not saying this is a wrong paradigm. It arose in a particular context (Post-Enlightenment Modernity), and spoke well to that context. There are many characteristics that I could talk about for this paradigm, but I want to focus on just two: viewing faith solely as a belief system to be agreed with and defended against (this post), and an understanding that the Gospel is only about dealing with my individual sin so that I can go to heaven when I die (next post).

The tendency in this way of thinking is to view the Christian faith solely (key word there) as a system of beliefs/doctrines, the mental agreement of which constitutes one’s entrance into the body of Christ. Evangelism, or sharing one’s faith, usually entails employing a logical argument for why one needs to “accept Christ”. The “Roman’s Road” for example attempts to reduce the Gospel into a systematic and logical argument using 4 steps. After hearing the argument, the sinner’s prayer (a one-time event) shows one’s agreement with said argument, and secures one’s entrance into heaven.

Now, I realize I’m speaking in generalities here. However, I believe it to be the majority mode of evangelism and understanding of the faith in this paradigm, one that I shared, and one that I still see in operation in a lot of blogs, books, churches, dialogs, etc. One is now part of this new belief system. Those on the “outside” do not hold these beliefs yet, so the goal becomes convincing others, through the method of logic and rational argument, why they need to also subscribe to this set of beliefs. More could be said about this, especially how this is tied so much to Enlightenment rationalism, and its inherent belief that “knowing” involves mastery of facts by an objective knower…but that will suffice for now. So, if Christianity is a system of beliefs, and believing the right things is essential to defining who is and who isn’t a Christian, it makes sense to me why Horace reacted the way he did. When the perception is that the system of beliefs is challenged by Starbucks, Sponge Bob, or whoever, it is viewed as those on the “outside” degrading a belief system. The belief system, according to this view, is what constitutes faith, so any challenge to that must be viewed as an assault on Christian faith. If nothing is done to fight against this, so the thinking goes, Christianity is in jeopardy of compromise, of allowing the “competing” system of beliefs to go unchallenged. So the battle is between competing belief systems.

Until next time....stay cool, drive less, and enjoy the fruit of the vine.


divinesatisfaction.com said...

I think that when a person views Christianity simply as a belief system he/she runs the risk of becoming quite pharisaical (aka legalistic). It cannot be denied that Christianity is, in part, a belief system ("believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..."), and Christ made it abundantly clear in His teachings and parables that there are those who are "in" it and those who are "outside" of it.

However, Christianity, is not simply an intellectual exercise either. Christ also emphasized love as a major part of the "belief system" going so far as to say that Christians would be known by their love. Love for each other, and love for their enemies, something which is not natural unless you have some sort of "belief" that tells you that it's what you should be doing.

One big problem is that we allow our own feelings to adjust our belief system instead of letting Scripture define it. Had the Christians against starbucks people allowed Scripture to dictate their actions the result would have been a bit more Christ honoring and less legalistic I think.

I've enjoyed reading the last couple of posts...looking forward to the next one.

smokin joe said...

good comments, I agree!