Postmodern theology’s age-old mistake

Brian McLaren’s lamentable book, A New Kind of Christian, argues that the Christian church needs to adapt its theology to keep pace with changing cultural values (i.e. postmodernism). He proceeds to demonstrate what he means by engaging in some of that revision himself. Of course, some of that work is helpful (he can only conceive of a modernist church as an alternative to a postmodern one, and so finding weaknesses there is a bit like the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel). However, he trims away far too much, including nearly everything that Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’.

Oliver O’Donovan’s Resurrection and Moral Order includes a passage on Karl Barth that reveals that this theological revisionism is not new and not clever: Continue reading

Holy Horror: The Levite and the Concubine

JUDGES 19-21

Horror movies follow a predictable set-up. They always begin with the most normal, wholesome scenes possible. It’s the picket fence, the high school, the camping trip. Of course, just as we become saturated with the calm, everyday familiarity, it becomes increasingly obvious that something is a bit off. Even though horror movies are usually the most fantastical genre, the better the viewer believes the normalness of the set up, the more terrifying the horror is when it finally splatters on screen. [In fact, movies that start off with unrealistic settings and circumstances are probably comedies, and if you find yourself completely incapable of suspending disbelief far enough, it's probably a chick flick.]

If the story of Micah’s Idols in Judges is divine comedy, the book’s conclusion with the much-maligned story of the Levite and the Concubine is holy horror (without hollywood’s sense of relish at the bloodshed). It covers a vicious re-enactment of the horrors of Sodom, the rape and murder of a woman, a grisly summons to war, and inter-tribal genocide. It is a story that is frequently misunderstood, meeting with criticism, for example, in Dawkins’ God Delusion, and some inarticulate gasps from skepticsannotatedbible.com. What critics seem always to miss is that the narrator shares their revulsion towards these events, and is passing comment on the moral depravity into which God’s chosen nation has sunk. Continue reading

Divine Comedy: Judges 17-18

This is a retelling of the story told in Judges 17 & 18, a passage dripping with irony and sarcastic criticism.

Divine comedy Act 1: 7th Heaven
The perfectly religious family

The scene opens on our hero and his mum. The man’s name, Micah, means ‘Who is like Yahweh?’, but if we were to update the story a bit perhaps we’d have to call him ‘Christian’. Mum had lost a very large sum of money. Being religious, she calls in God to do her bidding for her and curses the thief.

The thief is in fact her own son, Micah, whose conscience is pricked by the thought of being cursed. So he confesses and returns the money. Mum is delighted to have her cash back, and she can’t stay mad at junior, so she quickly pronounces Yahweh’s blessing on him to call off the dogs and cancel her divine curse. She is so thankful that God came through for her that she solemnly consecrates the money back to Yahweh. And, of course, how does one make a serious, deeply religious token of devotion to God? Well, Micah’s mum looks at her ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bracelet, and she decides to purchase some high-end idols to add to her son’s personal shrine, his ‘house of gods’. Continue reading