April 29, 2010

Questions I Am Pondering...

I enjoyed the unique opportunity to hear Dr. Martin Marty speak earlier this week at Samford University. It has sparked several thoughts in my heart and head, most unresolved but not unimportant. I list a few of them here for initial consideration with the hope that I can flesh these thoughts out in future posts.

1. Dr. Marty states that it is "historically untrue that our laws are "Christian" laws and that the Founders did not set out to create a "Christian" nation. That said there can be no doubt that Christian thought exerted a strong influence on the thinking of the Founders."

My response: Is it possible that though it may not have been the intent it was, however, the inevitable result?

2. Dr. Marty spoke of the harmful result of "privileging" the church citing the example of Finland where the "official" religion is Lutheranism. 94% of the population is Lutheran and only 2% attend services with any regularity.

My response: I think he is on to something significant here.

3. Dr. Marty asked, "Can the church be prophetic if it is privileged?" and then quoted John Leland (I believe) "Whoever takes the King's shekels gets the King's shackles."

My response: I have always been more than a little suspicious of the "Faith-based Initiatives" approach from government. The church can only speak to power when it is clearly not beholden to that power.

4. Dr. Marty speaks of the Deism of Benjamin Franklin and it being a poor example for the religiously passionate.

My response: While I agree that Franklin is, at best, pragmatic in matters of faith I must call to question his commitment to Deism. If I correctly understand the notion of Deism being that of a disinterested Deity, then many of Franklin's statements fly counter to that notion. One cited by Dr. Marty is a fine example, "A super-intending providence...God governs in the affairs of men." (From Franklin's speech to the Continental Congress, June 27th, 1787). This does not sound like a man who would advocate for a God who made the watch, wound it up and left it to run it's course. It sounds suspiciously like someone who believes that somehow God is engaged directly in the comings and goings of the lives of all mankind.

5. Dr. Marty noted that Franklin did indeed propose that prayer be offered at the Continental Congress but that the motion was not acted upon. The reason being that those present recognized the terrible can of worms this would open. Would the prayer be Anglican or Congregational?

My response: This is a cogent point. Though not well remembered, 9 of the 13 colonies had "official" religions. (Always an interesting recollection as they were steadily recreating what so many of them had fled, i.e. religious persecutions.) A similar point I often make in discussions of this nature concerns prayer in the public schools, who will lead the prayer? Here in the Bible belt I have a reasonable assurance that it will be a "Christian" prayer of some sort. In some other part of our nation it might be a Mormon prayer, or a Muslim prayer, or perhaps even Wiccan! Who is to decide and am I willing for others to be teaching my child, or anyone's child, how to pray?

What response do these thoughts spark in your head and heart?


Chris said...

The Dr Marty's of the world make my head hurt. Accademia has a way of making fools out of smart people. The world systems we live in has a way of holding these people up, even so called Christian institutions. I have to consider where he has studied and the progressive influences in his life. Ok, thats my head speaking my heart breaks. It breaks for the countless students he has influenced. They may be better educated but where and what is the foundation of that knowledge?

Lucy Arin said...

Sounds like Dr. Marty and I think somewhat alike. Somewhat.

I have not been writing and miss it so much. This post and another blogger I follow is making me look for the time to get back to it.

John said...

Chris, I wonder at your response. I too want for Dr. Marty to be a bit more "conservative" however I find him to be a thouroghly Christian man. He and I would not see eye-to-eye on all things (I get the impression that you and I would not either) but I do believe he is committed to the foundational principles of our faith. Namely the person and work of Jesus Christ and the nature of salvation by grace through faith.

Perhaps your head and mine SHOULD hurt a bit. I fear that far too many Christians have left all the thinking to those who do not believe. Directly in contradiction to the command to love God with all our MIND.

I would love to hear more of what you have to say here. Perhaps with hurting heads we can all come to a clearer understanding.

Lucy, always a pleasure to have you drop by! Probably because you make my head hurt! We have conversations to undertake! Oh for the time and effort to undertake them!

Blessings all!

Gwendolyn said...

I joined the Anglican Church in large part because the Book of Common Prayer is so BIBLICAL! As well as verbal, which I love.

HOWEVER I often find that people, even ordained people with good intentions, create problematic prayers when left to their own devices. So, even in 'Christian' areas of the country, I might be suspicious of a prayer if it was not the 'Our Father.' What about Hail Marys? [a joke]

For corporate prayer, I prefer prayers that have been used for generations.

It's been a long time since I read anything by Dr. Marty. When I did, I found that his challenged me to thing differently and 'out of the box' about theology and the church. That is good for us, I think, because the box can become a sel-created prison ... like that Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert gets out of jail by trying the door to see whether it was locked. [It wasn't.] Later Dilbert comments, "The lifers were the most embarrassed." We need to keep trying the door, in case we've locked ourselves in.

dadsprimalscream said...

Can a non-believer comment here? I promise I'll play nice.

Your post of Dr Marty's description of our founding fathers is the most honest admission I've seen by a professed Christian. My "head hurts" when I hear the un-researched claims that our forefathers built the nation upon "Christian Principles."

I agree with you that some of the individuals were Christian, some were deists and yet they wisely chose to keep things officially separate. I personally fail to see much of the bible in the constitution.

And yes, keeping it separate gives you the believers more strength.

I have to say I skimmed several of your posts and find this blog a refreshing and respectful testimony of the best in Christianity. I certainly don't agree with you on everything, but you try to maintain an internal honesty and consistency that I failed to experience in my former walk among religious folks.

John said...


You are absolutely welcome to comment here! In fact, the reason I started this blog was to generate just this sort of conversation. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you in the days to come!

Welcome and blessings!