Monday, August 3, 2009
The Shack - But...
"But it helps us to see things in a new way by breaking our preconceived notions and boxes."
When dealing with the Shack, I think we have to consider the implications of our assumptions that newer is better. That preconceived notions are probably wrong, and that breaking stereotypes and reforming our opinions in order to get rid of our current ideas about God is good.
The reality is that new ideas should be handled with extreme caution. I believe that our default position should be a historic and traditional one unless we have compelling reason to believe that a change is necessary. If a change is necessary then we should proceed with the utmost caution, trying to take into consideration all the possible reverberations of our decision and understanding that the change will probably affect things to a depth that we do not yet know or understand.
Breaking boxes can be good or bad. preconceived notions can be right or wrong. Old ideas can be relevant or irrelevant. Change in itself is not a good or a bad. However if we are trying to abandon millenniums of church tradition or political tradition or cultural tradition, we should err on the side of caution. When one person stands alone against the way things are he may be very, very right. However he may be very, very wrong.
There is nothing evil, there is nothing even close-minded about defaulting to a traditional way of understanding until you are obliged by overwhelming evidence to see that you need to change. To stand by what always has been is to acknowledge that you are not smarter than thousands of years of scholars and theologians. It is to acknowledge that seemingly small changes in doctrine or practice can have implications that we may not see for a hundred years.
To accuse people of fearing the unknown may be quite true. People ought to fear uncharted waters. That does not mean we do not sail into them, it does mean that we should examine every wave with a critical eye. That we should question the implications of every statement. That we should understand the ramifications of every turn of phrase.
So many things look so nice when they are introduced as a new and better way to do things. People try to bring in hate speech laws because they think about how nice it would be if people only said happy things all the time. It is the people who understand the past, who look beyond the carefully chosen examples to see the ugly possibility lurking within, who understand that there is a reason why we have a tradition of freedom of speech. These are the people who have what it takes to uphold justice.
People come to everything with preconceived ideas. The free speech people come with the presupposition that justice and an open and free media is more important than hurt feelings. The hate speech law people come with the presupposition that freedom from hate and discrimination is more important than the rights of a few racist fanatics to say whatever vile thing pops into their mind. What needs to be shown is that someone’s preconceptions are wrong, not to fault them for having them. Not to fault them for defending them. If we went into every debate with a clean slate, no preconceived ideas, then we should be in a terrible mess. You go into a debate on economics with presuppositions about math, and how the system works. Otherwise you would be lost.
Our goal should not be to throw out the old categories because they are old. Nor to break boxes simply because they are there. Our goal should be to determine which boxes should be broken and which should not. Which old things are good and what are bad.
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton very badly, If you see a gate and say "That has no purpose let's tear it down", I shall certainly not let you tear it down. When you have found out what it is for then I may let you tear it