One of the most frustrating things for me is when people who should know better participate in the same diversion tactics in which people who don't know better engage (thus, emboldening the stupidity of those who don't know better).
I say this because I occasionally read one of my former professors (who will remain nameless) blogs and am so frustrated by what has obviously become some need to "get back" at evangelicals who harmed him by retreating to his constituents behind the emerging movement's wall and lop "your close-minded and intolerant in your traditions" grenades over the wall at as many evangelicals as possible.
I read a post he wrote a bit ago where he accuses evangelicals of being a closed group that feels threatened by questions, which is the common caricature of evangelicalism by liberals. Of course, church is nothing but questions. The issue is that he doesn't like the answers, or that there are even answers provided in the first place with any certainty behind them (evidence of being completely consumed by the postmodern monster with all of its atheistic assumptions).
But let's get this very clear. No question is heretical. Not one. Only assertions are heretical. That doesn't mean that you can't be heretical by putting an assertion together in a rhetorical question. It means that if you are really asking a question, then it is not heretical to do so.
As I've said before, every church I have ever attended, and I have attended churches within multiple traditions, even going outside of evangelicalism for that matter, wants questions asked. The issue isn't questions. The issue is answers. My former professor doesn't like the answers. That's fine. I don't always agree that they are accurate either. The problem is that if you paint your opponent with broad brushes, he'll do the same to you, and all you have left is name-calling and division. If you want more dialogue, then engage the answers, not the person. That's called an ad hominem.
Let's say for a moment that the evangelical church was absolutely close-minded. So what? Does that mean that its answers are wrong? If my doctor is close-minded about the fact that I need to remove a tumor in order to deal with my cancer, does that mean he's wrong?
So what does this sort of caricature and name-calling accomplish? Well, to be honest, it's probably pseudo-therapeutic, some lame attempt in which we all seek some sort of catharsis from wounds given to us by our opponents. I don't like liberalism because I see it as sub-human and an enshrinement of the religion of the self in our culture, but another reason I don't like liberals is because liberalism destroyed my family and friends growing up, and I perceive those who advocate it as destroyers of the innocent. That's why I have a pretty nasty bite when I deal with people who have a more liberal view than I do, usually in terms of their rebellious attitude toward biblical ethics. I'm not as lacking in generosity toward you if I perceive you as trying to give yourself over to the Lord in understanding something (even if your views are more liberal), as long as you evidence an attitude that is sacrificial of the self. But if I only engage in name-calling, instead of primarily dealing with arguments, then everything is just pure emotion and nothing sound and logical. What good is that? So you get an angry mob and feel some community with those who want to lop off heads with you. Whoopie!
But what really frustrates me more than this, as I read my former professors blog, is how many errors he makes in his argumentation, and how hypocritical he is when addressing his opponents, and how unaware he seems to be in making those mistakes. And I think this is the case for one primary reason: when you are hurt or angry or bitter, you can't think straight. We say stupid things when we're hurt. We just want to lash out at those who hurt us, and that makes our thinking rather sloppy, even about things with which we would normally have some clarity.
For instance, he makes this statement that the Bible is about an unfolding history, not a rule book to live by, an obvious attack on evangelicals, and all orthodox Christians throughout the ages btw, who seek to get clarity on what they should believe and do in life from the Scripture. But this is a false dichotomy and clearly isn't the Bible's take on itself, nor is it Christ's take on the Bible, and Jesus is supposedly his whole paradigm for interpreting the text. As an example, are we to believe that the guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath was killed by God because God is a fundamentalist who doesn't understand how to interpret His own Bible, since He used it to convict the man by a single rule given by which he was to live? He didn't judge him for not living within the unfolding narrative. In other words, God judges men throughout the Scripture for not obeying individual rules He laid down in Scripture, so does God not get it now either? Is God misunderstanding that the Bible is just a history book about redemption? And does Christ, the very One about Whom the Bible is centered, not get it either? After all, doesn't He condemn the Pharisees for putting aside the Scripture for their traditions, and by that He's not referring to the redemptive story, but the single rule of honoring father and mother (in fact, an application of that rule that was never even explicit in the text, thus showing that we are to make rules from the rules). This false dichotomy between the Bible as a rule book and the Bible as story is sloppy thinking that does not let the Bible, or God for that matter, define what it is for itself.
As another example, on one post he'll show that it's OK for the biblical authors to use midrash in their exegesis, because he's hitting against evangelicalism that thinks it's not OK, but then he'll turn around and talk about the only way to get to the truth of what the Bible teaches is to examine in within its contextual environments (i.e., the historical-grammatical hermeneutic is the only way to achieve the right interpretation). Which is it? I would say that both can be used because theological presupps guide the interpreter, not the methodology of inquiry.
Which leads me yet to another example. On one hand he continually slaps evangelicals down for using their theological traditions as contexts for what the Bible says, and then turns around and says that evangelicals don't understand the legitimacy of apostolic/2d Temple interpretation because they had, not a methodology, but Jesus as their goal (i.e., a theology of Christ that guided their hermeneutic much like modern evangelicals who guide their hermeneutic with those same types of theological goals).
Of course, what is said of the evangelical being in a box can be said for any human group, simply because that is the nature of culture. You need transcendence to fight cultural boxes or your just going to be fighting one fallen culturally-limited, philosophical box with another; and that is why the Holy Spirit with us is mandatory in the age of interpretation and teachers that has seen the passing of the age of revelation and prophets. But I don't see much of the necessity of the supernatural/metaphysical element mentioned in these rages against the machine. All they do is take one box to smash another, never breaking their own current box, just ones that they may have lived in once and others live in now. That's the trap we're in. To act like only your opponent is in it, and you have a way out, and can grow beyond it, is nonsense without a transcendent revelation and interpretation. But that's for another day.
I'm mainly just frustrated because I feel like he gave up on orthodoxy for nothing but to get even, because I don't find his reasons reasonable, and that makes me think they aren't coming from the mind but from the gut, and we all know that when guts are spilled, there's a lot of refuse and nothing worth salvaging there.
In any case, I will continue to pray for my professor in the hope that he will stop trying to burn down the world that did him harm and regain some balance in his thinking.