Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Faith Doesn't Need to be Hyped

Astoria Pastry Shop, in Greektown, Detroit

The great Christian thinkers of the past believed that ideas about human flourishing had to jive and sync with ideas about God as the source and goal of all reality. Call this a theocentric approach. This is diametrically opposed to the sadly common strategy of beginning with what you or I want in life, and then creating God in the image of our preferences. Call this an anthropocentric approach.

Yale University's Miroslav Volf shows how the anthropocentric approach is faith-destroying. He writes:

"We cannot start with a preferred account of human flourishing and then construct a picture of God to go with it, designing the fit between God and human flourishing the way we might look for a jacket to match our slacks. We would then be consciously enacting Nietzsche’s devastating critique of the emergence of Christian morality and Christian faith as a whole. According to Nietzsche, Christians designed false beliefs about God in order to legitimize their preferred values. If we were to start with an idea of human flourishing and then “build” God to match our values, then the only difference between Nietzsche’s version and ours would be Nietzsche’s dismissal of those values as being perverse, as opposed to our upholding of them as healthy. More important, by constructing a picture of God so as to fit already given notions of human flourishing, we would be enacting one of the most troubling malfunctions of faith—divesting faith of its own integrity and making it simply an instrument of our own interests and purposes." (Volf, A Public Faith, p. 70).

I'm betting my life on the idea that faith has its own integrity and therefore does not need to by hyped; that the "gospel" is intrinsically good news and does not need a coffee bar or a light show to give it a boost or deflect attention  from its radical claims and responsibilities. (I do like coffee!)