Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sandlin response part 2

Part 1

The next thing I want to point out about Sandlin’s article, The De-Intellectualization of the Reformed Movement, is the complete and utter lack of respect if not out right contempt for the “pastor”. Sandlin is arguing for more giant intellectuals, and that is okay to want giant intellectuals, public intellectuals, but it is not okay to spurn the pastors of the church in the process. This statement is the first hint that something is amiss.

We were not "shepherded" into the movement; we were tractor-beamed into it by the force of ideas.

I do believe that some people come to the Reformed faith because of the consistency of it logically, or because they see the ‘force of ideas’ that are coming out of it. But does that mean we should mock or put scare quotes around those who were ‘shepherded’ into the Reformed church? Certainly not. Can we not minister to people in different ways? Not everyone is the same. I do not need to prove that the Bible favors shepherding people. That really ought to go without saying.

The critique from Sandlin gets more specific in his last section entitled, ‘The Pastoralization’. That entire section is a derision of pastors. Sandlin means to specifically attack the modern leaders of the Reformed Church who are in his mind Pastors or popularizers, but his attack reveals more than that.

The pastoral concerns — concerns, to be sure, from a Reformed perspective — will predominate. The life of the mind will be pushed to the periphery. Calvinism will be reduced to the institutional church, to the "5 Points," to devotional books, to seventeenth-century reprints. It will become therapeutic recovery for exhausted and jaded Arminians. What it will not be is a virile, creative, living, world-engaging intellectual force.

While it is nice he admits pastoral concerns are nice, he separates completely the pastoral concerns from the life of the mind. And this is how I think his attack goes to far. If he thinks that Popularizers are not good for the church as a whole fine. But this attack is not upon popularizing the message. The only fragment of a sentence that can be seen as an attack on popularizing is the ‘5 Points’ comment, which he explained earlier was a term of derision for those that over simplify Calvinism. Devotional material cannot be seen as bad. Should not leaders produce devotional material. Should not pastors be devotional? Is teaching others to be devotional a bad thing? Is it a good thing that Sandlin approves of intellectual leaders who could not write a devotional book if their life depended upon it? I do not think so. I can agree that the church should not be mainly a place of recovery for jaded Arminians, but how can one object to the church being a refuge for such people? I am not sure, but Sandlin appears to object. His comment about the 17th century reprints actual belongs in his earlier paragraph, and his attack on the institutional church is just confusing? Should we be encouraging the non-institutional church? What is it that we do not like about churches? One can only assume it is because they are too ‘pastoral.’

Sandlin then continues his assualt and goes overboard once again.

We should not be surprised that this reduction of Calvinism should occur in a deeply postmodern age — an age that eschews rigorous thinking and sharp distinctions, that delights in "community" and warm emotions, that craves not truth but "relationships." In this way, despite their antipathy to postmodernism, the new non-public intellectual pastoral Calvinists reflect a concession to today’s "postmodern turn."

Now it is true that post-modernism hates truth and prefers relationships. But does that mean that relationships and truth are really against one another? No, of course not. The church can have both, and should have both. Of course intellectual leaders and book writing can only have truth and has nothing to do with relationships or community. However, the bible has different views. We are commanded to come together and worship and not neglect the communion of the saints so that we can provoke one another to good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). It seems the author of Hebrews believes that relationships and community provoke people to good works in their life. Their life in the world. Sandlin of course disagrees:

How can we have a virile, creative, living, world-engaging intellectual force when we lack virile, creative, living, world-engaging intellectuals

Again Hebrews seems to answer this question at least in part with community and relationships. Sandlin thinks such ‘pastoralization’ a bad idea.