Moment of Silence for My Children
Almost two weeks ago I told my wife I would be off social media during our vacation. I would be using the time to read, write, and pester our children. I don’t think she believed me but it’s worked okay so far.
The first thing you recognize when going offline is the “radio silence.” There are suddenly fewer sources of information. Everything you learn arrives a day or two later than normal. There are also fewer people in your “life” needing serious correcting as they respond to the news you’re missing out on. The second thing you realize is how much time you spend pandering your own correctness to these incorrect people (and their tribe ... and your tribe). The two issues are clearly related to one another. And the second is near impossible to accomplish without the first.
We are only now approaching the first full week of our vacation. The kids did great on the long 13 hours on the road to Memphis. And they handled the 8 traveling hours to Oak Ridge like seasoned champs. And yet still, they remain children aged five and under. There are arguments. And there are fights stemming over who is right in many meaningless arguments. Parenting on the road has involved many attempts to “talk” to the back row in these cacophonous situations.
All of this made my audiobook selections more ironic. I finished Bart Erhman’s How Jesus Became God before we hit Dallas. It was roughly 5:15 am when the book ended. I quickly switched over to Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology. It had been over six year since my last reading (an early Barth book for me) and I desired to return to it.
Based loosely on lectures Barth presented at Princeton Theological Seminary, the first chapter deals with “The Word.” More explicitly, God’s Word spoken in Jesus Christ and the Gospel as the true foundation of “evangelical theology” - that is human response to the logos of God.
Barth had a number of essential qualities for evangelical theology. But the one that brought a ironic smile to my face was that against all other theologies which worship false gods, evangelical theology does not prance around declaring its correctness. It is the job of false and petty ideologies, philosophies, and theologies to spend its time asserting its correctness. True evangelical theology is built on responding to God via response to His Word. For evangelical theology that Word is the subject (distinct from object) but it is also the audience of the response.
In theology, the pleasing of man leads to false theologies. We are tempted to declare “They Are” of our dogma in place of God’s “I Am.” We’ve sometimes twisted “objective truth” to mean eternal truth and thus created a deity of our dogma (eternality is meant solely for God). Thus, theology can go the way of all other false ideologies or philosophies in its attempt to create its god and assert its great name.
Like my little children arguing in the back over who is right, being “correct” is far superior in importance to the ramifications of being correct (e.g. orthodoxy placed above orthopraxy). In fact, the reason for and resulting judgement of “correctness” is irrelevant to them. Being deemed “correct” absolves them from any learning how they could have handled the situation better. They sit in the back arguing (sometimes pleading for parental intervention) while their parents attempt to communicate the greater truth beyond mere correctness.
Yes, Barth hit on something solid in his criticism of modern theology. We have spent more time focused on arguing about who is right and not the truth itself. “Debates” often do not exist to glorify God but to glorify our denominational tribes. We are like little children arguing in the back seat while God desires to commune with us via His logos.
It is not theology we practice when we argue over our dogmas so much as it is practice at inflating our egos. True theology reflects on equal submission to God’s word in spite of disagreement and does not prioritize its correctness above God’s authority in revealing Himself. Only in this state can it proclaim the gospel as witnesses to the gospel and not our own dogma.