Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prelude to a Larger Post: Oswald Chambers on the Whole and the Particulars

From the December 9th entry of Still Higher for His Highest:

If you take all the manifestations of God given in the Old Testament you find them a mass of contradiction--now God is pictured as a Man, now as a Woman, now as a lonely Hero, now as a suffering Servant--and until we come to the New Testament these conflicting characteristics but add confusion to our conception of God. But immediately we see Jesus Christ, we find all the apparent contradictions blended in one unique Personality.

Oswald is here hinting on a point that I hope to expand on in the very near future. One of the objections that our post-modern world has against absolute truth is that if there really was an essential, absolute reality to things, then things would be simpler. As it is, the presence of complications and complexities negate the possibility of any such essential, absolute reality. The particulars are too vast for any whole to encompass them (I dealt with a similar issue last year).

The big mistake that Christianity (esp. Emergent Christianity) has done in response to this claim is to agree with it and then try to maintain (re: redefine) the Christian Faith in the midst of it. I'm telling you right now, it cannot be done: essential, absolute realities are absolutely essential for Christianity to be Christianity. Take those away, and Christianity goes away as well. What is left in such a situation is slightly moral, incredibly trendy, and boasting a "Christian" veneer. It is not, however, the Christian Faith whereby men can be saved.

What Oswald points out (and what I plan to greatly expand on later) is the groundwork for a truly Christian response to the post-modern objection. That response is this assertion: Complexity and "apparent contradictions" amongst the particulars do not necessarily negate the presence of an essential and absolute whole. This is because the whole is great enough to encompass all the myriad of particulars into itself. The error that modern/post-modern types make is assuming that the essential, absolute realities or qualities are necessarily simple. I believe the proper Christian response is to assert that they are not simple; rather, they are infinite. The essential whole is just as vast (if not more so) than the various particulars.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

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