Abstract Rhetoric: Schism between ‘Biblical Doctrine’ & Biblical Relating
Second, I will go further: in my view God is shutting down many churches because the religion is pervaded by ‘system’ and not ‘relational wisdom’.
In one church it is the other way around, and it is growing. It is built on a social trinitarian model of God and not on a Platonic model of God – i.e. it is relational, rather than overly hierarchical and abstract. This is not to doubt the great quality of many of the Christians in these churches. It is not their fault that they have been handed down a religion that suppresses relational wisdom, and many have such wisdom despite this fact.
But if loving God and neighbour is the heart of obedience, then any sermon on sin, for example, must focus by definition on relational distortion. So, to be more biblical, it is necessary to preach more in a relational vein, and less in terms of abstract systems, and certainly less in terms of abstract systems dumbed down to pre-school levels and put to the music of jingles that just use the word ‘love’ without explaining it.
This is not the kind of environment that is likely to propagate wisdom about the way in which relational development impinges on the debate about any complex issue. When one can no longer ‘think relationally’, then one is more likely to nervously repeat the phrase one thinks one should ‘be heard to utter’ when faced with a complex issue like the church and homosexuality.
Heidegger uses the unusual phrase ‘idle talk’ in this respect to refer to language that merely perpetuates prejudices in contrast to language that reflects real understanding. As an example, I’m sure most of us have had those awkward Sunday lunches at the house of a traditionalist minister where normal conversation was replaced by ‘the doctrine test’. One dare not open one’s mouth without a ‘doctrinal correction’ being fired in your direction.
I always remember being in the prayer group of an evangelical minister in London where nobody dared pray anything beyond a few ‘approved’ phrases in case the minister fired off a ‘doctrinal correction’. This is what happens when a schism occurs between biblical doctrine and biblical relating. All manner of ridiculous relational faux pas are allowed to pass unnoticed (control, intimidation, pretence, showing off, lack of open questions, elitism, aloofness, etc. etc. etc.).
But utter any statement about the cross without nine qualifying sub-clauses that ‘cover the angles’ of possible pedantic counter-attack, and you’re in for it. To speak about any complex issue intelligently, then, demands a kind of relational wisdom almost absent from the traditional pulpit, and from ecclesial discourse and practice, and from the average Sunday lunch, because relational wisdom has been unwittingly suppressed.
It is now seemingly only found amongst some counsellors. It is truly remarkable how hard it is to get wisdom on an issue these days. I am not a relationally wise person myself, and have learned mostly through painful mistakes. Yet I am dumb-founded by how many people come even to somebody with as little understanding as me for help because their advisers don’t even know the basics. One wonders if such advisers could advise us about something as complicated as, say, the homosexuality question.