A Theory about Evangelical Grumpiness
Yesterday one of my friends on here linked to a post by Carl Trueman. It was critical of the emerging church movement. (On a side note: are we still talking about these people? Boring.) Anyways, at one point Trueman said of this movement:
Truth as assertion, truth as rest, was out; truth as journey or conversation was in. The thrill was not in arriving; it was in the traveling itself. It is, of course, a view of truth which sits perfectly with the coffee house Christianity of the comfortable West; I am not sure if it could have inspired the Apostle Paul to remain confident through all the trials and tribulations he had to endure in the first century.
With that comment, Trueman shows precisely what is wrong with evangelical theology in America: it has no room for truth as journey. For what it’s worth, I’m against what Trueman is against: I don’t think truth is a linguistic construct devised in community. But I also don’t think truth can be directly equated with the “assertions” we make about God. These assertions do have a take on reality, but they aren’t truth with a capital ‘T’. Truth with a capital ‘T’ is Jesus Christ.
Quoting Ps. 105: 3, St. Augustine talked about seeking the truth in De Trin. XV (among many other places!):
Now it would seem that what is always being sought is never being found, and in that case how is the heart of the seekers to rejoice and not rather grow sad, if they cannot find what they are looking for? He does not, you see, say “Let the heart of those who find,” but “of those who seek the Lord rejoice.” And yet the prophet Isaiah testifies that the Lord God can be found provided he is sought, when he says, Seek the Lord and as soon as you find him call upon him, and when he draws near to you let the godless man forsake his ways and the wicked man his thoughts (Is. 55:6). So if he can be found when he is sought, why does it say Seek his face always? Does he perhaps have to be sought even when he has been found? That is indeed how incomprehensible things have to be searched for, in case the man who has been able to find out how incomprehensible what he is looking for is should reckon that he has found nothing. Why then look for something when you have comprehended the incomprehensibility of what you are looking for, if not because you should not give up the search as long as you are making progress in your inquiry into things incomprehensible, and because you become better and better by looking for so great a good which is both sought in order to be found and found in order to be sought? It is sought all the more delightfully, and it is found in order to be sought all the more avidly.
So truth will always be journey and conversation because the truth is God’s eternal Word, whose depths we will be plumbing throughout all eternity. When we start thinking that truth amounts to the propositions and assertions that we pull out of the Bible (as important as these are), we think of truth as something we’ve mastered. This makes life boring, and I think this conception of truth is what makes conservative Christians like myself grumpy. So next time you wonder why some evangelicals are so freaking grumpy, I’m guessing it’s an overly propositional conception of truth. Try to converse about this with them, but don’t be surprised if they can only make assertions.