Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hanging in the Hallway

A post over at the Evangelical Outpost has as good an explanation as I've seen of what I think evangelicalism ought to be. Lewis' hallway metaphor, though not designed with evangelicalism in mind, captures the situation well.

It seems, though, that there are a lot of people living in the hallway nowadays. Living in the hallway has its downsides, of course, but the hallway has its own unique culture. It seems to me that it's often full of exciting people, people who are perhaps oddballs in their own rooms.

I met my wife in the hallway, in one of those mainstays of evangelicalism known as parachurch ministry. Once you fall in love with someone from another room, it complicates things. Heck, once you come to respect someone from another room (which hopefully happens antecedent to falling in love with said someone), it complicates things.

The hallway is laid back. People who would *freak* *out* if a woman started talking in one of the rooms are cool with her talking in the hallway. It's the hallway, man, it's no big deal. There are some women who talk in the rooms, but people tend to avoid them when they come into the hall.

As you can see, I've run out of things to say on the topic. We can be done now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Neo, I Renounce Thee!

I want to apologize to Stanley Fish for the post that referred to him as a Crypto-Neo-Calvinist. I was being arch/ironic/trivial/unearnest, but I felt chastened when I read his series of articles about being tagged with the term neoliberal. One of his points in the articles is that neoliberal is a term without a clear definition; it's a term whose main purpose is to deride the opponent ("Take that, you accursed neoliberal"). It's a term maliciously assigned and never gladly received.

I realized after reading his article that by using the term Neo-Calvinist, I had endorsed a similar rhetorical ploy (albeit ironically). I could hide behind that ironic distance, but I want to come clean. I'd like to renounce the word, and while I'm at it, I'm considering renouncing any ideological term beginning with "neo."

You may be wondering, Where the heck is this coming from, Chaka? Let me explain. Neo-Calvinist was floating around in my head because I had recently read Scot McKnight's post on the Neo-Reformed (HT:Between Two Worlds). I have to say, McKnight's description of this ideological group resonated with me. After spending my college years in Minneapolis (where John Piper has a distinct presence on the evangelical scene) and subsequent years in one of the centers of evangelicalism (the Trinity-Wheaton nexus), I think there is validity in McKnight's picture of reformed complementarians trying to squeeze out "the rest of us."

I say that without malice. I say it as someone who has been blessed and nurtured by a very reformed, very complementarian church (one of the founding elders was Wayne Grudem, who could be McKnight's posterchild for the Neo-Reformed). As much as I have benefited from people and churches associated with these positions, I have also felt from them a pressure to set these positions at the center of Christianity and push other positions to the margins (or off the page entirely).

I'm trying to say here that I have sympathy for McKnight's portrait without positioning myself as an opponent of reformed complementarians. However, I feel convicted that I have at one level already positioned myself their opponent by using the term Neo-Calvinist. Like neoliberal, neoconservative, and perhaps all neo- prefixed ideological categories (perhaps originally including neo-orthodox?), to use the term is to judge those so termed.

The recursiveness is satisfying for insiders and frustrating for outsiders. I instinctively knew what McKnight meant when he wrote, "Those who were all riled up about the blurb are the NeoReformed -- ironically, they were wondering who I had in mind when I used "NeoReformed" in the blurb." From the inside, it is obvious who the opponents are; they make themselves known by their opposition. Yet from the outside, this seems like a massive strawman argument.

By the way, the term fundamentalist, in my opinion, falls into this category as well. That's why I prefer to use it only of those who would use it of themselves.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Which Our Narrator Chickens Out at the Seafood Counter

I like to pride myself on my provisioning abilities. I.e., I know how to plan, shop for, and cook quality meals at low cost. One of my primary techniques is to let the sale items in produce, the meat counter, and the deli direct my planning.

Another technique is to do some of the processing myself. I already have a great set of knives (thank you to my colleagues in the Special Order department at Marshall Field's for your generous wedding present!), so my policy on chicken is: buy them whole for $1.00/lb, cut them up myself, and find a way to cook every piece. (Though I haven't made schmaltz yet.)

These principles at times require fortitude. This week, Valli (the Platonic ideal of a grocery storeTM) had whole trout on sale. And asparagus. I quickly found a recipe that used these foundational ingredients and put them on the shopping list.

There I stood at the seafood counter, staring into the aghast expressions of the trout. $2.99/lb for the whole thing. But just a few feet over, at $5.99/lb, were the trout fillets. Hmm . . . fillets don't look back at you while you cut them up. And I've never really attempted to fillet a fish . . .

It was then I discovered that the price of my self-processing principle was about $2.00.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Overstepping My Bounds

I can't resist linking to this. As a Protestant, I suppose I have no right to judge whether or not someone is Catholic enough to be Catholic, but let's think this through:

You don't think the pope is God's spokesman.

You characterize the Catholic hierarchy as "the hierarchical institution set up, not by Jesus, but by men who hijacked his name and in many cases perverted his teachings."

You see the hijacking starting with Paul's first letter to the Corinthians [!].

Hmm . . . you may actually be too Protestant to be Protestant.

I like to think of most categories in terms of prototypes and marginal members (x is prototypically Catholic, y is more marginally Catholic) rather than in Platonic terms (x is a member of category Catholic if and only if x has quality y). But still, I wonder what possible qualities McElvaine could have that make him even marginally Catholic.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stanley Fish, Crypto-Neo-Calvinist?

Stanley Fish continues to defy my perception of him. I would expect to read something like this on Justin Taylor's blog, or John Piper's: an explanation (even a winning explanation) of God's grace and forgiveness as wiping out the debt of bankrupt human beings. Fish is a Milton scholar, of course, so it's not shocking that he knows Reformed theology in depth. There is a little bit of scholarly distance in his tone, but I'd say he presents the point of view appreciatively, if not in outright earnest.

I'm only sad that the radio spot and Christian financial planning books mentioned aren't the ones published by my company. :)