September 23, 2017

Priorities find the right track in “The Lansdale Statement”

“The Evolution of Beer” — Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival

Note from CM: This is from the official website of Lansdale Borough, PA: “For those seeking a suburban sanctuary with urban sensibilities, Lansdale is an established, walkable, close-knit neighborhood conveniently centered on mobility where priorities find the right track.”

I think this statement by friend, mentor, and Lansdale resident Peter Enns indeed exemplifies Christian priorities finding the right track.

• • •

THE LANSDALE STATEMENT
By Peter Enns

PREAMBLE
Really? Another public here-I-stand “statement” that claims to set the record straight once and for all on a sensitive and complex issue our planet is dealing with? What is it with American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists?

ARTICLE 1
We affirm
that God, having given us minds, rejoices when we use them.

We deny that God intended Scripture to relieve us of this responsibility.

ARTICLE 2
WE affirm
 that Scripture, by God’s wisdom, was written by actual people in actual historical contexts for actual contextual reasons, and that such contexts are central to proper biblical understanding and application.

We deny that Scripture, which reflects the wisdom of the Creator, is simply sitting there waiting to be used irrespective of its various contexts.

ARTICLE 3
We affirm
that humans, who are created in God’s image, who are endowed with powers of reason, analysis, and an irrepressible curiosity, have thereby made enormous strides in understanding the cosmos, the nature of humanity, and the wonders of the world around us, and that many who have contributed to these strides are fellow believers in Jesus.

We deny that Scripture when handled in willful isolation from or dismissal of such strides is “faithful” or pleasing to the Creator.

ARTICLE 4
We affirm that the Christian faith, though a broadly unified and distinct tradition, is both historically and globally not monolithic in its expression, and that therefore true Godly wisdom is found in humility and dialogue among the manifold voices of the Christian faith.

We deny that (though it’s a free country) a small number of largely white males living in one moment of the human drama are in a place to make statements that claim abiding normativity for all Christians for all time.

ARTICLE 5
We affirm
that all our theological utterances, because we are not God but mere humans, are contextually generated and bounded.

We deny that any of our theological utterances can claim “plain fact” neutrality, and therefore reflect unfiltered the Divine mind.

ARTICLE 6
We affirm
 that human experience is rich and complex, presents us with numerous ambiguities, and therefore defies simple categorization.

We deny that the Creator has assigned to us the task of sorting out and simplifying the richness and complexities of the human drama.

ARTICLE 7
We affirm
 that the binaries of Genesis 1 (which includes animals restricted to living on land, in the sea, or in the air) reflect—by the will and wisdom of God—ancient, ideal conceptions of cosmic order.

We deny that the binaries of Genesis 1 “teach” that amphibians, mammals that fly, live in the ocean, or lay eggs, or any other creatures of God’s creation that do not fit the Genesis 1 binary, are outside of God’s wise design.

ARTICLE 8
We affirm
that God is the infinite and inscrutable Creator, which is itself affirmed in Scripture, and therefore we should be careful to claim to be speaking for God as if nothing could be more obvious.

We deny that God’s voice is easily replicated in our own.

ARTICLE 9
We affirm that public statements are largely written for the already convinced, are therefore belligerent by design, too often passive-aggressive in tone, and therefore are a colossal waste of time, not to mention make it that much more difficult for others to bear witness to Jesus.

We deny that Jesus is rooting for us to write more statements.

Signed,

Pete Enns, Lansdale, PA (white male)

My dogs, Gizmo, Miley, and Stassi

My cats, Snowy, Marmalade, and Baron

My rabbit, Thumper

I’m sure a lot of other people.

Comments

  1. I like his “deny” statements a lot.

  2. Having just read Colossians 4 the other day, I thought v5-6 were a good counterpoint to the “message” of the
    Nashville Statement (as a counter to it) and in line with Enns’ clever rebuttal (especially his’ Article 1, paraphrased: “USE THE BRAIN GOD GAVE YOU!”).

    “Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” (The Message)

  3. “We deny that (though it’s a free country) a small number of largely white males living in one moment of the human drama are in a place to make statements that claim abiding normativity for all Christians for all time.”

    I had to fight hard not to cheer at work.

  4. I could largely sign this. However, I would have to exclude the denial in number 4. The original apostles were the equivalent of a “small number of largely white males living in one moment of the human drama”. (I leave to others the debate about whether Jews are/were white.)

    • Possibly a valid point, but Jesus’ entourage of followers, believers and disciples certainly extended beyond those twelve and included Gentiles and women.

    • I would also say that apostles, by and large, wrote occasional letters to individual or regional congregations they served. Whether or not all their words were meant to always apply to all people in the same way is a matter of interpretation and debate.

    • Good point! American white male they most certainly were not.

  5. This isn’t worthy of a blog of this stature

    • flatrocker says:

      So what I’m hearing you say is this posting is so much more insightful than what is normally put forth here? 🙂

    • I’m curious as to what makes you say that. What elements of this post give you concern and make you question its worthiness?

    • Bob, please explain. I think it’s funny, thoughtful, biblically-informed, clever, and mostly on target. Pete Enns is one of our best thinkers and Bible scholars these days. And, rather than taking a specific position and falling into the same trap as the Nashville Statement signers of thinking that making a declaration = faithful Christianity, he provides what I think is a healthy alternative perspective: that such approaches instead exemplify hubris and miss the point of a Jesus-shaped life.

      Is there anything more compatible with Internet Monk than a post like this?

    • Michael Spencer could have written something like this.

  6. It’s a good response to the Nashville Statement and to evangelicals and others in general.

    And I know this is a big deal within evangelicalism at the moment.

    But speaking as someone now outside of evangelicalism, I have to say that in my experience most people haven’t heard about the Nashville Statement and if they did would just shrug their shoulders, either because they don’t care at all or because it’s so utterly predictable given the authors. Certainly it’s about what I did.

    And that is what the church should be worried about. The danger is not that evangelicals and society will all somehow be corrupted; the danger is that evangelicals will become spiritually irrelevant. That is what happens when you stop telling the story of the good news of Jesus and start telling a story of laws and rules and fear.

    • Yes.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > evangelicals will become spiritually irrelevant

      The use of future tense is optimistic.

      That holes been dug, IMO. That I didn’t even hear about the Nashville Statement until my news reader collected RNS is evidence of that; the rest of the world went on without taking much notice. The Evangelical Power Block is becoming rapidly more disconnected; even if you hate them they are so droll and predicable people outside don’t pay much attention. They’ve recently demonstrated themselves to be subservient to the point of sycophantic – you just don’t worry about the guy collared the end of the leash, you worry about the one holding the leash.

    • “…the danger is that evangelicals will become spiritually irrelevant…”

      Become? I think they already are. No better illustration of that is their overwhelming support for Trump. They sense that the only relevance they have left lies in politics. Evangelicals have been reduced to just another voting bloc, another special interest group whining about their “rights”.

      • Christiane says:

        I’m still trying to sort out how decent Christian people could have supported T.
        What kind of reasoning could support someone so blatantly racist? Birtherism? please

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          I’ve talked to *many* of them.

          Most of the reasons aren’t blatant; it is more a generalized rage, fueled by their media silo. They believe all kind of vague things, most of which have no grounding in reality – which makes it hard to have anything like a normal conversation. They distrust everyone and everything; they have an assumption of incompetence about everyone and all institutions. Again, that makes conversation hard, everything is combat; any positive assertion is dismissed as propaganda [even if immediately and demonstrably true].

          Especially among men there is a deep persecution complex. The end of the huge surpluses of the Industrial Age has been superbly used by far right propagandists.

          They aren’t, IMO, “racists”; on the other hand Racism just doesn’t interest them. Which is a moral failing, but absent morality is [again] hard to discuss. Talk about Racism is viewed as time *NOT* spent talking about their problems. When you are Angry, your own problems are the only ones you care about.

        • Christiane: I have no dog in this fight. But I do have many friends who voted for Trump.

          Two words answer your question What kind of reasoning could support someone so blatantly racist? Birtherism? please

          Hillary Clinton

          • Yes, exactly.

            I’m working aboard the boat with someone just like that. He’s not racist, he’s an honest hard-working family man, 38 years in the Air Force and a great friend who will die before he breaks a promise. But two years ago, even before the nominations, when Hillary’s name was mentioned on the radio, he’d say, “That woman should be in prison!” No particular fondness for Trump until last year, when both Hillary and Trump had the nominations, then it was a lot of right-wing party line, mostly because the alternative was Hillary. Now I have to turn the radio off just before the news comes on. I value his friendship and he’s a great worker. Don’t want to lose him.

            For common ground, I usually bring up something about his kids or mine, or ask him an airplane question. And I’m waiting for the right-wing media to turn against Trump. It can happen.

          • And that is a poor excuse. Trump and Clinton were NOT the only choices. However, voters have been trained to see binary.

    • Amen.

  7. “We deny that Jesus is rooting for us to write more statements.”
    I think Peter takes himself and his words very seriously and rightly so but lest he get carried away….that’s purdy dang funny. A little self regulation there.
    Statements of faith, doctrinal stances and so forth are tricky. Faith in God concerns the eternal dimension yet our statements reflect the temporal, how we relate to the eternal from time and space. They are how we relate, all tied up, to unbounded dimensions.The tied up, the restricted and the bound must be part of the equation as that is precisely where we find ourselves and from whence we speak. “..For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We must find the unchanging in a very changeable world or from a different perspective one might say the ever expanding eternal in a very fixed, stuck in its rut, world. However you look at it there is a gulf. Even Jesus the God-Man admitted to his limitation in the human form so humility in this arena would always seem appropriate even as we assert the most essential tenets of our faith. Certitude without hubris if possible. I think Peter Enns’ crediting his animals, particularly his rabbit, as rabbits may be more in touch with their instincts but definitively less in touch with their intellects (not sure you can get a rabbit to sit or give you its paw but I may be wrong) than the domesticated animals, reflects appropriate self analysis in this regard. He’s keeping good company.

  8. Being the person I am, I particularly enjoyed Article 7!

  9. Ben Carmack says:

    Peter Enns, august Man of Science and Supporter of The Mind, apparently thinks that Middle Easterners are white males.

    Maybe he should stick to writing throwaway books and blog posts, and leave the anthropology to the pros.

    What a pretentious ass.

    • Not sure where you got that, Ben. Pete Enns was writing about those who drafted the “Nashville Statement.”

      If you’re implying that what is in the statement reflects exactly what Jesus and the apostles thought, then I understand where you’re coming from but we would have some disagreements about that, as would Dr. Enns.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        Peter Enns wrote that the Bible was written primarily by white males. It wasn’t. It was written by Middle Eastern brown and olive skinned men.

        Do I need to explain why his sneering statement is breathtakingly ignorant? Why should I take Peter Enns seriously if he is that ignorant of basic issues?

        • Ben, I don’t want to belabor this, but Pete never said that.

          • What steered Ben wrong, I think, was the part in Article 4 where Enns said “We deny that (though it’s a free country) a small number of largely white males living in one moment of the human drama are in a place to make statements that claim abiding normativity for all Christians for all time.”

            I believe that Ben’s assumption is that “statements that claim abiding normativity for all Christians for all time” is a reference to the Bible. That wasn’t what Enns intended, of course…

            (sorry to chime in so late, work sucks)

          • Ben Carmack says:

            I stand corrected.