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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Certainty, Shpilkis update, and Christianity Incorporated

1) Thunder Jones has a good post on certainty, to which I wanted to add an observation. (I mention it in a comment to his post, but I thought it warranted a post of my own.)

I find it peculiar how often people will say to me things like "We need to not make such a fuss about the Christian doctrinal tradition", along with some supporting line such as "it was only devised by the Empire to keep people in line." or "it only serves to exclude/ marginalize/ persecute people." or "nobody really knows." or "it's outdated." or similar sentiments. Or alternatively, the statement will be along the lines of "Well, God is really beyond our knowing, and completely mysterious and ineffable."

The peculiar thing is that almost invariably, my conversation partner will launch into a description of how "God" is found in all world religions, or is the same "God" in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, or we each need to figure out who "God" is for ourselves.

Now, I'm not willing to say that God is either exhaustively knowable, or utterly unknowable -- despite the philosophical conundrums involved (how could you know there is something that is unknowable?, how could anything entirely knowable truly be God -- or at least the Christian God?), either of these two extremes lets us off the hook much too easily. But the deeply troubling thing about my conversation partner's position is that in the same breath he or she tells me that God is unknowable, and then proceeds to tell me a story about who God is ("the same God...", etc.). Or alternatively, they say (in effect) that the Christian story is inadequate for depicting God, and then proceed to tell me another story about God. Of course, the latter isn't a self-contradiction like the former, but I think most people who make this move don't realize that this is what they are doing.

There is much more to be said about this topic of certainty and theology, but it will have to wait for another time. In the meantime, this is a start.

2) For those keeping score at home, I have an update on the doctoral program admissions process. (My last update was here.) Actually, I was going to outline the entire process and my thoughts about all nine schools to which I applied and my chances of admission, but I now realize I am very anxious/ superstitious about the whole process and I won't. Shpilkis, indeed.

I think I can say that I heard from Loyola University, Chicago, on Saturday and they have not only accepted me, but provided a very nice offer to boot. I will provide more details as they become available.

3) I have started reading a book by Michael Budde and Robert Brimlow entitled Christianity Incorporated: How BIg Business is Buying the Church. Thunder Jones recommended it to me in an earlier post. I know the work of Michael Budde a bit, and have had it on my shelf for some time. Since I am taking a continuing education day today, I thought I would plow through it. It is bracing, even alarming reading, and I have had to check my gag reflex a couple of times. I may blog some more about it later, maybe with some quotes, but folks: if you care about the church in North America, believe me, this is worth a read.

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