Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Preface to All Our Idolatries: Approaching Scripture as a Mirror Rather than as Revelation

I'm out of touch with "Christian TV." I don't watch it. I am thankful for some of the programs, which give shut-ins help and hope and truth. On those rare occasions when I stumble on a TV preacher and stay there a few minutes I find myself thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with the actual good news of Jesus and his kingdom?" Sometimes there is such a cognitive disconnect that I conclude "Whatever this is, it is not actual Christianity."

For example, watch this for something that has nothing to do with Christianity. This video is not making fun of Christianity since what you see here is not actually "Christianity." Call it, as Soren Kierkegaard would have, "Christendom."

James K.A. Smith, in his Foreward to David Crump's Encountering Jesus, Encountering Scripture: Reading the Bible Critically in Faith, writes:

"In some places, the Bible actually functions as a bookend to uphold the status quo of American civil religion or whatever sort of domesticated spirituality passes for "Christianity." In a sense, that grotesque dinner table prayer in Will Ferrell's NASCAR parody, Talladega Nights, ends up functioning as a back-handed Kierkegaardian critique. While we all purport to be praying to Jesus the Christ,  risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father, instead we end up praying to whatever domesticated version of Jesus suits our tastes and preferences. So everyone around the table starts to share: "I like to picture Jesus as..." This is the preface to all our idolatries. And it functions as a debilitating filter when we read the Bible. The Scriptures are no longer revelation; they are simply a mirror. Instead of encountering Jesus there, we simply see ourselves. This is what Kierkegaard liked to call "Christendom." And in his delicious Danish irony, Kierkegaard warns us: it's hard to read the Bible in Christendom." (vi-vii)