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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ack. Some Followup.

I started out responding to Camassia, who mentioned what I wrote in a post today, and realized I was writing a post of my own.

I think part of my reservation about such programs as "Living the Questions" (LTQ) -- and I must confess I have not examined the curriculum in detail -- arises in the slogan Camassia quotes: “Wisdom is asking the questions for which there are no answers” I agree with Camassia that the focus on the questioner is something of a problem. I would ask, is it just another means of self-preoccupation? Don't we have enough of that already? And can't the church offer something more than that?

But I also wonder if there is an ideological use of "questions" too, which then can avoid talking about, say, the incarnation or the trinity and so forth, move away from talking about the "tradition" or "the church" or "religion" or what have you and talk more about "spirituality", some nebulous human trait divorced from the particularities of one group or another. Conceived thus, it seems like one more way of underwriting a radical individualism ("We each have to find our own answers.") If that is true (and that LTQ is doing so is only a hypothesis), then I find it a highly suspect move. If it is true, I don't mean to claim that there is any malicious intent, my calling it "ideological" notwithstanding. But I think there are all sorts of reasons to consider this division dubious.

I'm also not sure that wisdom is "asking the questions for which there are no answers." First off, it sounds way too sloganized to be anything approaching wisdom. "Wisdom doesn't have a slogan" might be a better slogan.But I also certainly don't think that there is any particular wisdom in asking a question -- there might be penetating intellect, and that is certainly to be commended, but it's not the same as wisdom, is it? It seems more like wisdom is knowing when the answer to a question is insufficient, or (even better) living in the absence of a sufficient answer to a good question without giving up. Or maybe I just don't know what the heck wisdom is; I am skeptical that is can be made into a slogan though. (Gosh, I wonder how much bandwidth I'll burn up when I actually read LTQ?!)

And I should hasten to add that I am just as familiar with the Alpha Course as I am with LTQ, which is to say "not", beyond second-hand accounts, so this is not a back-door endorsement of Alpha. Part of my entire point in riffing on Camassia's original post (and so many of the other rants, ahem, thoughtful posts I have put on Gower Street) was to point out the wide-ranging similarities between liberals and fundamentalists, and in the process, hopefully, encourage us to get over it and move on to something else more helpful.

If on the other hand, the emphasis in LTQ is simply on "questions" as a way to get people exploring together, and to respect the mystery of God, and not lay out the theological story in a way that (in effect) dissects God and lays God out on a gurney for examination, I'm all for it. (That is very dull theology, too, and I'd hate for people to be turned off of one of the most amazing things in the world.) Lee expressed this great sense of mystery succinctly in a reply to Camassia's post, saying
It may be worth pointing out also that the classic dogmas of the church (Christ’s two natures, the Trinity, etc.) Don’t actually purport to give all the answers. They do remarkably little in the way of explanation about how everything is supposed to work. Instead, they set the boundaries for how Christians are supposed to talk about these things, which leaves a lot of room for mystery. In fact, mystery is insisted upon.

Read, learn, mark and inwardly digest. (Also check out Lee's blog here.)

Shucks, as usual I've run off at the keyboard. Please understand that I blog partly to clarify my own thoughts and partly to enter an ongoing conversation. But I'm not ever trying to nail anyone to the wall, flame anyone, or even sound snarky (well, unless I can be snarky and make it sound funny).

(Every once in a while I look at something I've written and wonder if I come off sounding like an apologist for fundamentalism or something: no one has ever said so, but if it has crossed your mind, gentle reader, let me assure you I am not. Fundamentalism is every bit as much a child of modernity as theological liberalism is, and I find them both, simultaneously, quaintly passé and too trendily newfangled. I do hope, though, that I always interact with proponents of either perspective -- or any other for that matter -- with charity and respect.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Thunder Jones said...

So when are we going to break down and buy the dang thing so we can see what it's about instead of postulating what it may be about...

We sell it here at work and I'm trying to get my supervisor to get it in here so I can review it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I've thought about this and my previous post about (the name and slogan associated with) LTQ, and I have decided to place my hand over my mouth. I am beginning to realize that the space on Gower Street is larger than the several square inches between my ears, and so spinning off ideas from some small detail associated with something larger has the potential of growing far beyond what I ever intended. The sort of critique that I'm doing -- or that it might seem like I'm doing, rather than free associating -- really requires close familiarity with the work, not passing comments. So I am putting my hand over my mouth on this topic until I can look at the curriculum in detail.

That said, Thunder, when will I be getting my free review copy? (-:

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Sarah Dylan Breuer said...

Good idea. There are very different skill sets involved in writing a good curriculum and marketing it effectively, so I find it's almost never helpful to judge a curriculum based solely on how it's marketed.

Blessings,

Dylan

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 3:55:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Dylan:
Just so.
But that distance between marketed identity and actual reality bothers me (not about LTQ, about everything ). An item (say, a can of soup) is marketed so that I can make a decision about it (I want this can of soup rather than that one), yet the information/image conveyed by the marketing seems less and less connected with the underlying item. (I'm sure there's an analogy with contemporary philosophy of language lurking close beneath the surface here, but I'll leave it for now.)
I wonder if we might cultivate a sort of simplicity, as Christians, that would discourage that distance? I know we wouldn't end up being very savvy in our communications; we would be pretty out of step with the advanced capitalist systems of communication, and would possibly sacrifice some rhetorical traction in communicating with others. Would that be a sacrifice worth making? I don't know. We'd probably also end up with a cheesy nickname like the WYSIWYGs, too, so maybe it is too high a price to pay! :-)
Anyway, I know my response is pretty far afield from what you said, but thanks for the reminder, it bears out my own uneasiness about the direction my post seemed to have taken. -JF

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 4:53:00 PM  

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