DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“JUST PLAY WITH US!”

Written by: on January 25, 2018

I feel a little star struck.  It was a joy to interact with the author himself, Dominic Erdozain, on our Cape Town advance. It’s even more intimidating to prepare for a synchronous discussion where I need to sound informed.  Just as Dominic’s children pleaded after his time intensive writing efforts (“JUST PLAY WITH US!) I, too, was ready for a cognitive break after applying reading techniques included in How to Read a Book, The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading” by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.  Dominic Erdozain’s text, The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx was a challenging read.  The content for this non-Theologian (yes, I claimed to be a Theologian after reading Grenz and Olson Who Needs Theology but now I’m not so sure) was difficult to process and synthesize since I don’t have extensive theology background.  I was inspired to learn that David Bebbington (author of Evangelicalism In Modern Britain and renowned expert on evangelicalism) commented on some of Erdozain’s individual chapters.  Nevertheless, here’s my attempt at an educated response to what some reviewers deemed as “helpful,” “electrifying and potent,” and “a real gift”.

“Modernity is a war of religious ideas, not a war on them.  Like almost every figure quoted in this study, Marx criticized Christian cultures for not being Christian enough.  Secularization was an accusation before it was an aspiration.”[1] Dissecting secularization and its impact on morality is a theme throughout Erdozain’s text.  According to dictionary.com, secularization is defined as “to make secular; separate from spiritual connection or influences; make worldly or unspiritual.” In my search for a gem of wisdom, this statement written by a reviewer resonated “Modernity, it is argued, is therefore not primarily concerned with the disintegration of religious ideals; rather, it is characterized by the internalization and practical value of those very ideals. In the end, religion is not a detached intellectual concern; rather, it is a matter of how love is directed or misdirected.”[2] I think most would agree that the application of love is an ever-present concern today, especially with regards to refugees.  Clearly the refugee dissidence is leaning towards a secular paradigm rather than a paradigm of love.

The scale of the perceived and/or real economic, social, and cultural problems regarding refugees coming to or living in the United States seems overwhelming. Christians are often at the core of this debate in regards to their belief in the value (or lack thereof) of globalization and the fear of integration of persons of different culture and religious faiths to this country.  What, then, can biblical theology and Christ’s teachings hope to contribute to these complex debates? The question is a challenging one for faith communities, even with the separation of church and state.  Conservative Christians are guilty of leaning on the secular arguments of “economics”, “it’s not our responsibility” or “they (the refugee) could be dangerous” while left leaning (and even some agnostics or atheists) may have better expression of love through a justice paradigm.  The most fundamental ethical issues turn on human dignity, regardless of race, religion or any other identity markers of those who are seeking asylum.[3] One thing is certain, there will be a day of reckoning…and we (as individuals and as a country), will need to speak to our beliefs and actions on the care and concern extended to refugees.

While there were extensive positive reviews of Erdozain’s writing, two critics (Dr Charlotte Methuen and Vincent P. Pecora) were harsh: “Once again, Erdozain’s insistence that doubt must be rooted exclusively in conscience seems as overly simplistic as the suggestion that doubt arose from a clash between science and religion.”[4] and “There are some deeper problems here as well. Erdozain’s notion of “conscience” depends on a crypto-normativity. In general, as in the young mystical Luther, a cast of mind that leads to an assertion of the rights of the individual in the face of repressive religious hierarchies is celebrated by Erdozain as a beneficial expression of conscience.”[5]  Erdozain eloquently defends his text to Dr. Methuen and speaks to his intentions in this rebuttal “But I am suggesting that, within such a confluence, we can distinguish currents of moral and theological dissent and it is these that fall most destructively upon some central Christian doctrines.” [6]

How do I most significantly connect with this text?  Unlike Methuen who states “Erdozain has made a fascinating contribution to understanding the religious and theological context of the rise of secularism, but conscience too is not the whole story,”[7] I see the intrinsic and extrinsic value in exploring the moral and theological dissent regarding conscious, Christian doctrine, and the matter of how love is directed or misdirected.  I think the relevance of this discussion is timely – Refugee tension manifests in many forms including public policy, program funding, laws, individual and societal attitudes, political party, and at the core – people’s hearts to love others.  What’s fascinating and sad about this tension is that Christian Americans can be found leading the dissention…a dissention that has been present for thousands of years.  Today’s churches have taken the comfortable path to love (and some will argue that it’s not even comfortable) – feed the homeless at the food pantry, mentor a low-income child at the school, love your fellow church members (even if they are difficult).  But God discusses a far more radical love that would require us to step outside of our comfort zone and take great risk.[8]  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:29

 

 

[1] Erdozain, Dominic. The Sould of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelieve from Luther to Marx. loc5642

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Doubt-Religious-Unbelief-Luther/dp/0199844615

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/10/02/4323707.htm

[4] Dr Charlotte Methuen, review of The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, (review no. 2031). DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/2031

[5] Vincent P. Pecora; DOMINIC ERDOZAIN. The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx., The American Historical Review, Volume 122, Issue 4, 1 October 2017, Pages 1300–1301, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/122.4.1300

[6] http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2031

[7] Dr Charlotte Methuen, review of The Soul of Doubt: the Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx, (review no. 2031). DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/2031

[8] Bass, Diana Butler, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (NewYork: HarperOne, 2009)

About the Author

mm

Jean Ollis

9 responses to ““JUST PLAY WITH US!””

  1. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Hey Jean, lovely post. I, too, this there is a lot of connection with the idea of conscience and the Christian response to refugees. I think that we need to call into question–ie DOUBT–if the current religious response is actually aligned with the teachings of the Bible. What would it look like for churches to “get out of the boat”? Might your project offer opportunities for that to happen?

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean,

    I am such a klutz! It never clicked in my mind that the Dominic in Cape Town, was this author! I did not get to talk with him personally, but now that I read your Blog, I remember him talking in front. Wow, I am slow on the uptake (grin). Thanks for reminding me who he is.

    Loved your quote, “I think most would agree that the application of love is an ever-present concern today…” and then you connected it to your dissertation problem, refugees. Well done!

    I am having a hard time, once again, connecting this book to my topic of Dave Ramsey’s FPU, but I will continue to learn from you in how you are connecting yours. Thanks for modeling it well.

  3. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, great insightful post. Like Jay, I failed to make the connection to CapeTown. Duh.

    You listed a quote that read, “Modernity is a war of religious ideas, not a war on them.” I had to read this a few times to decide how I felt about it. I think I am always in the analytic mode of thinking when I read about anything religious based. I seek out my understanding of Scripture and try to determine if I agree or disagree with what I am reading, but have started to realize that agreeing or disagreeing is not the only lesson I can take away. History is a great teacher, and even though I may not agree with someone’s perspective on things, it does not mean that I cannot learn from their methods of thinking. The war of religious ideas seems to be the one historical lesson we as scholars will never be able to escape from fighting (armor of God stuff for Mike); from the early conflict between Jews and Apostles to the conflict between Peter and Paul, all the way up to today where the numerous denominations are always fighting over the idea of spiritual right. I am pleased that we are not getting each other executed for disagreeing with us though. How do you see the church benefiting best from subject matter like that found in this reading?

  4. mm M Webb says:

    Jean,
    How is your son at the AFA? I think of him often and wonder how he is doing in his academic and squadron-cohort challenges.
    Excellent discussion on secularism and religion and how you relate or connect to those two Erdozain themes. I especially like your passion for the refugees who are seeking freedom, a new start, religious independence, asylum, and much more. When they say the mission-field is coming to the West, it is true. Our own neighborhoods are now where the least reached people live, who need the love and light of Christ more than ever.
    Jean, we commission you to continue your charge and advance the Kingdom of God, extend the cup of water to the least of these, and shine Christ’s love into the religious-secular contexts of our modernistic-globalized world.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb
    P.S. I just arrived in the Middle East for another market place ministry adventure!

  5. Jean,

    This was a beautiful quote which you uncovered: “Religion is not a detached intellectual concern; rather, it is a matter of how love is directed or misdirected.”

    We moderns and postmoderns love to diss religion, hating its excesses and abuses, and forgetting what it is that religion actually does. Google says Religion = Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence,’ perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind.’

    But it isn’t a binding together by force, but of love and of relationship or covenant. We are connected to God because of Love. Now, what do we do with that love, but give it away… to refugees and others…

    PS. I hope Dominic will play with us on Monday!

  6. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jean,
    Really good job of connecting the reading with something you are obviously passionate about in refugees. I will admit I have struggled on both sides of the fence and I will tell you why. I absolutely think the US should help as many refugees as humanly possible, but I have had dealing with people who have crossed borders illegally. In fact, one who was drunk hit my wife’s car with my sons in it a few years back. Luckily the only thing that was damaged was the car, but the anxiety from the call, to the fact there was no recourse for us (insurance) was very frustrating. I had also found out he had been arrested and sent back to Mexico multiple times and had just come back. I write this to say it’s a difficult thing, no easy answers. Just like the difficulty of the origins of modernity and doubt. This book really forces one to look at philosophers and those held in high esteem with a different eye, don’t you think?

  7. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jean, thanks for connecting this to the refugee crisis and your project. I am curious what your project/dissertation entails at this point. Are you looking at other countries and their treatment of refugees? After reading Jenn’s post (and I saw you did as well) I wonder if some of the countries in Europe who have excellent care for human rights and a Christian history would have something to say to the US, particularly the church, on how to care for these people well. What do you think?

  8. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Jean,
    I enjoyed reading your post, partially because you bring out the awe and wonder of hearing the argument that Erdozain is making. It really is kind of a fresh, theologically challenging and freeing idea, isn’t it? As you quote from the book: “Modernity is a war of religious ideas, not a war on them.” I think it takes a kind of theological imagination to consider what this would mean for us today. What are some of the areas of our common conversation today in the US (or globally) that are really theological in nature? Where do you see this insight from the book playing out today? It seems like you identify some of those around issue of immigration or refugees, or the general state of “Conservative Christians”.
    The more I think about it, the more these theological/religious questions and debates are really showing up, among believers and doubters alike.

  9. Greg says:

    Thanks Jean for continue to keep the refugee crisis in our face. It is such an easy topic to dismiss as far away and someone else’s problem. The “day of reckoning” that will come for all of us to explain what we did with our time and faith should drive us out of love and not fear of a vengeful God. I wonder if in rural middle America the refugee crisis is something of a challenge to motivate people of faith to rally behind?

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