Posted by: rogermitchell | May 10, 2012

Trying to keep the Kenarchy Course simple!

All you friends and visitors to this blog, thank you for your interest and comments! Please keep them coming. Before proceeding to the next stage of the course outline I thought it would be helpful to give some advice on the comments and discussion. The good thing about Kenarchy is that it is stirring up interest at a number of levels. I really welcome very down to earth comments and quite academic ones. So can I encourage comments at both these levels, and in between? This means that when you read the comments, just skip the ones that don’t connect for you. But please don’t let them make you feel inadequate or thick and decide the course is not for you. The main text of the last two posts is giving a good idea of the course level. If you can handle that, fine! The course will not require a theology degree!

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Responses

  1. Yes, please Roger. I realized, re: my comment in response to Chris that I may have offended some of the folks who are ardent about the theology. I was thinking about this the other day as I read through responses on this blog. I realized, forgive me, that I do not care much anymore. I know that sounds awful, but it bores me. Terribly. I guess, for me, at this moment, the issue is not to resolve our theology – an impossible venture anyway – but rather to get the discipleship right. What does it really mean to follow this man/god who determined to love us to the cross? What does that demand of me beyond how I live now? Am I anywhere close to him at all or simply playing dress-up with Christianity? My Christian clothes are not so nice anymore. I haven’t been to church in eons, I can’t bear to listen to most of what is termed worship music, I spend my time mostly with muslims for some reason (they are my fellow employees and students and now, I am not at all attracted to Islam), reading about what Christians think and do in the news sends me reeling with horror most of the time as the level of hatred (for the planet, women, other species, other people, everything!) appears to have nothing to do with Jesus at all despite their claims. So please keep the course simple, that will be challenge enough for me as I try to figure out what this means for my life now and in the future. c.

    • I don’t know if this helps, Cheryl, but I did not take your comments as anti theological. Perhaps that’s because I am know that the things that I was driving at are theological, not anti-theological. And I’m glad that contribution here does not require a theology degree, because that allows me in!

      There is something about the ‘view from beneath’ that is very appealing to post-modernism (and to me). You made the point in your response that we will never get the divinity of Christ fully sorted out and that the disciples seemed perfectly capable of functioning without such a systematic understanding. Which is exactly the point.

      It seems to me (and it is meant in support of Roger’s thesis) that we need to develop an awareness of when we are thinking or reading scripture through the lens of later systematic dogmatics and to question what this does to our perception. What is the point, for example, of being able to tick the ‘Trinity’ box and missing the implication of what Jesus said in his farewell to his disciples, “I go now to my father and your father” or when he spoke of “my God and your God”. The top down view of the trinity will cause us to miss the promise embodied in those sentences. More controversially, what is the point of being a fully signed-up modern trinitarian if you become incapable of reading John at all as a result!

      All this is being played out, in terrifying detail, on post-ost right now. One of the odder contributions yesterday from one of the odder contributors tried to make the point that the phrase “God is love” does not tell us what God is, but we need to discover God in order to understand what love is. (A fine example of someone who has learned the rhetorical trick of mirroring and then used it, as I did in my last post several times, to bad effect) Well, I hope I did not use it to bad effect, but I did use it. But I think this idea is twaddle. It is a view from above. Of course the phrase is meant to tell us something about God. We know, to a certain extent, what love is and, because of this phrase, what God is. That’s what I mean by a view from beneath, where the result is nearly always simpler that its alternative.

      But I have another reason for citing this example. The view from above gives us a fine system for defining love. It usually resorts to the vastly exaggerated distinctions between various Greek words for love. How many Christians are there who have their ‘agapes’ and ‘phileos’ all sorted out neatly as they prepare their placards declaring that God wants to kill queers? But there is a clue here that suggests that what we are doing might not be so dissimilar from what the earliest believers were doing. Much is made (too much usually) about how special the word ‘agape’ is. The claim is made that this word is used exclusively to describe God’s love. (It’s not, if you read outside of the Bible. It is used very loosely, even to describe the way an old woman feels about her lap-dog) But the point is that the NT writers used it because it was a term that had fallen into disuse and they wanted a word to which special meaning could be attributed. They used agape, in short, because they wanted to create exactly the distinction that we are seeking in the use of kenarchy, and I suspect for much the same reason!

      • Isn’t Jesus, in the very way he came to be with us, a view from the bottom? There is nothing more ‘bottom’ in view than an infant and child, and then a poor, homeless man, no matter how many people regard him as having wisdom. And then of course, as an executed criminal. That, at least in our societies today, is as ‘bottom’ as you get. So we know God as one who chooses, in love to inhabit the bottom and see things as he looks up and not so much as he looks down (the way we understand him).

        Of course, all of Jesus’ admonitions (and later in the NT) to care for the poor and love those who are marginalized are ways that we too can learn to be like God and see from the bottom up. It counters the tendency in all of us to prefer life looking down. . . on others.

        Love the way you explain it all. And re: agape love – well my cat is teaching me lots as we journey together through his elder years. Last night was a late and expensive run to the vet as he began limping (in elderly cats with heart murmurs this can mean he threw a clot). It appears he did not. Lots of prayer last evening and today he is fine though it is back to the vet’s for fluid therapy and another exam in about 15 minutes. And on and on. He was anxious last night and kept me awake. So here I am tired but glad he is better. Thankful. This little guy has taught me more about love than any human I have yet met. So yes, he gets my ‘agape’ love. c.

      • Maybe phileo should be pheline or feline fileo!

        And yes, of course, we see Jesus in lowly form, disarming every expectation of a messiah, but also, I believe, in the fuller story, subverting just about every expectation of divinity in the process. So my stance on questions of divinity is not that this somehow elevates Jesus beyond our capacity to understand him, it is that imperialistic perceptions of divinity are demolished in his presence.

  2. I’m with you here – in many ways, probably: I haven’t been part of a ‘church’ for about fifteen years, and some of our very best friends are Iranian Muslims. I can’t abide Christian/worship music – even though my brother is a worship leader and songwriter (and I’m helping organize a ‘gig’ for him – to raise money for a good cause, I hasten to add!!) And don’t talk about ‘Christianese’! My daughter can’t stand people taking about Christian/churchy things at the moment – even God and Jesus – and yet she has God ‘all over her’ (if I can put it that way).

    I must confess I do like the cut and thrust of the theology. But here’s the rub: this whole kenarchic thing for me is sheer revelation – revelation about what God is like, as simple as that! There are, of course, many in-house theological issues raised and myriad biblical implications to work through. Yet what excites me is that if God is like Jesus and not some alternative nature, however deeply ingrained in our corporate cultural mindset, then this really is good news for all! There is a natural deconstruction of everything contrary to that, in order to place a new ‘hard core’ centre to our understanding, on which everything else – or as much as will fit – is then built up upon. It reminds me of Aslan breathing on the stone figures in the White Witch’s palace grounds in the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe: his breath spreads over each figure completely, fundamentally changing the whole thing into life in that moment. For me, everything has changed through a deep revelation in what is effectively a long ‘moment’ in my life, that now needs out working intellectually, emotionally, culturally, politically and mostly in daily-practical ways. When we talk about a kenarchy course, that’s what I’m ‘up’ for!


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