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E.R. Patient Meets the Emergent Chaplain

Comments (29)

Excellent scene. By itself, that is. I assume the TV show as a whole probably negates the point of the scene. I don't know the show, of course, being ignorant of TV shows. But the scene by itself is perfect. What a dead loss the woman is as a chaplain. Wonder how often that sort of thing really happens. (She bears a vague resemblance to Councillor Troy, doesn't she?) Too bad he couldn't meet a good fundamentalist layman.

The old man's right. Is that the conclusion the writers want me to draw?

Excellent scene. By itself, that is. I assume the TV show as a whole probably negates the point of the scene.

I'm willing to bet a token amount that the episode itself negates the scene eventually.

"I hear that you are frustrated..." Ha! Perfect example of that dreadful bureauspeak "handling" of difficult people.

Too bad he couldn't meet a good fundamentalist layman.

Why? Can a fundementalist layman forgive sins?

He can tell him that God does. Even from your perspective, George, I think that would be a good start.

Fair enough.

But it seems to me that he was looking for a more intermediate authority.

I am not sure if it's fair to tag the lady chaplain with the emergent title, and I mean that I am not sure if its fair to the emerging movement. In another clip she talks about reading Buddhist works, going to Ashrams, and is obviously very pluralistic, and comfortable with uncertainty. I understand that Emerging Evangelicals has some small affiliation with this ladies sensibilities in that they want to move beyond doctrinairilism, but I don't think they are pluralist. Maybe I have misunderstood this movement, but I thought that they were primarily interested in genuinely embodying the faith, and that on some level they are interested in overcoming the historical myopiea that seems to afflict Evangelicals, and so the Emerging movement also represents a return to history and tradition, and an affirmation of creedal formulations.

Having said all this, I wonder if Emerging is one of those terms like existential or for that matter Evangelical, which is to say a term that lacks precise definition and is often used in a variety of ways.

Anyways, the lady bugged the and certainly could not provide what that man was seeking, and if she is the embodiment of that movement, then I am concerned, but right now, I am not convinced she is.

OK, I will work on my editing before I post. In the mean time, here is the "have" in place of the "has", the "lady's" in place of "ladies", and the correctly spelled "myopia". Finally, here is the "heck out of me" that for some reason I did not originally type after "the lady bugged."

I admire your militance, George, but it might be misplaced in this instance. I think the guy just wanted someone who could tell him that forgiveness was real (and possible), since it seems his conscience was already convinced of its necessity. The priest could come later, if that's where the search leads him. Grace will supply, etc.

The actor's name, btw, is Jonathan Banks. He co-starred in a TV series of (I think) the early 80's called Wiseguy. I suspected he was good, but this scene really proves it. I forget the actress's name. She played Michelle in 24, but they blew her up a couple seasons ago, and I've never forgiven them for doing it just so's she could advance her career. She sounds less like a pastor here than a post-modern psychology major. Whatever her faith onscreen or off, she's all right with me.

Actually, it's a hallmark of emergentism--Rob Bell, for example--to speak positively about all the good to be found in Buddhism, etc., to be "pluralistic" in that sense. I can give some documentation later if that would be helpful, Anthony. Don't trust that-there movement. Not good, *at all*.

I forget the actress's name

Reiko Aylesworth.

So, all you knowledgeable guys--what happens in the rest of this episode? Does he just die without forgiveness? My guess is that they find the family of the guy that was killed by his mistake in the story he's been telling before the scene begins, and they come to his bedside and forgive him, and then he dies in peace. But I won't say I have a lot of evidence for the guess. That's just what I would imagine people would do who were trying to make it all right without actually having him ask God for forgiveness.

But it seems to me that he was looking for a more intermediate authority.

He was explicit about that, asking for a "real chaplain" who believes in a real God and in a real Hell.

Good scene.

"a real God and in a real Hell."

When time is up, the Four Last Things really make all the alternatives sound like gibberish, don't they?

"I am not sure if it's fair to tag the lady chaplain with the emergent title, and I mean that I am not sure if its fair to the emerging movement."

That may be so, but it seems to me that if an emergent type were to offer this criticism, he or she would be in the peculiar position of employing the correspondence theory of truth. Given that, my response is this: The above entry is an integral part of my personal narrative, one that should not be subjected to the cold and detached modernist understanding of "truth."

:-)

I appreciate Frank's answer.

I don't get why this character is so upset. He feels terrible guilt and is afraid of his punishment, so he expects her to explain how he can atone, even though he thinks it impossible. Yet if God isn't a loving God but a detached judgmental deity (as he fears), he should be certain that he has no hope of escaping Hell. She should have played his own game back at him and told him he was right, he was guilty as sin and nothing could redeem him. Even God is powerless to forgive a person convinced they are beyond grace, that is what his position boils down to.

He's not "upset," as if he was stood up for a date or didn't get his meal on time after ordering at a restaurant. He is guilty, and he knows it. What he fears is that God will give him what he deserves. What he fears is that God is fair and just and has not condescended himself to provide grace for our forgiveness. The chaplain tried to dupe him into believing that the guilt is not real and that he can save himself. She patronized him and then was offended that he didn't think it was a favor. She is a counselor for what C. S. Lewis called "men without chests."

She should have offered to him the opportunity to reach out to Christ. Instead, her prescription was postmodern pablum. He saw right through it.

He wanted to fall naked before a just God and ask humbly for his grace. She thought it was beneath the dignity she doesn't believe he really has. She handed him gobbledy-gook, and he refused it.

Mr. Beckwith - It seems to me an implication of what you are saying is that I have to choose between a correspondence theory of truth or personal narratives, and I am not sure that this is a genuine dichotomy.

Traditional systematic theology divides objective (what Christ did for our salvation) and subjective (what we must do to appropriate the salvation he offers) soteriology. Following this blog, it seems to me that generally speaking this community knows quite well that during the first Seven Ecumenical Councils objective soteriology was articulated and affirmed, but subjective soteriology was not. My point in drawing upon this time in Church history is to connect with the objective and subjective poles of our existence as Christian. Genuine Christianity asserts that Jesus is the Savior-that there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved (objective soteriology). On the other hand, traditions (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant) and denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite, Baptist, etc.) have different doctrines regarding the subjective dimension of salvation. Moreover, within these traditions believers have different and unique testimonies about how God met them, how they came to faith. It seems to me the fact that Jesus is Lord and Savior is something that our creeds and doctrines must correspond to, but that there is a lot of latitude regarding our personal narratives, which express how we came to see that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

As far as I understand, the Emerging movement wants to affirm the objective dimension of faith: that Jesus is Lord and Savior. However, it also wants to give people room to work out their faith and their coming to faith, and it doesn’t want to give the impression that assent to the nuances of doctrine is the substance of faith. I hear them saying that there must be clear boundaries in articulating who Jesus is and what he has done, but within that boundary there is freedom to articulate personal significance. Connecting this to the lady on the E.R. episode, I don’t imagine her saying that there is any kind of clear boundary regarding who God is.

Having said all this, I am (perhaps obviously) working out and processing all of this, and Lydia has challenged, even warned, me regarding the Emerging movement. So, I think I need to do more research and come to a better understanding of the Emerging Movement. Since in my current understanding the female chaplain was not a good expression of this movement, but rather just a garden variety New Ager.

Well, first of all, I think speaking of "subjective soteriology" to describe the differences between (say) Protestants and Catholics doesn't really do justice to the debate and gives the wrong impression. There are disagreements among denominations about the objective facts on these matters, even if those disagreements do concern how we appropriate Jesus' death.

Beyond that, I recommend the following links, to Mark Driscoll (or in one case a summary of his remarks), a former McLaren protege and present critic of the emergent movement. Note for example Rob Bell's dismissal (in _Velvet Elvis_) of the importance of the Virgin Birth and his shrug about what it would mean if we found that Jesus had a father named Larry. Or McLaren's and Bell's endorsement of a book called _A Brief History of Everything_ by Buddhist (among other things) writer Ken Wilbur.

http://fromtheashesblog.com/?p=438

http://www.sebts.edu/Convergent/GeneralInfo/

And then there is this supposedly reassuring bit from _A New Kind of Christian_.

there is so much that is false in other religions. But you know, there’s a lot that is false in here,’ he said, pointing to his head and then his heart. ‘and in here to. My knowledge of Buddhism is rudimentary, but I have to tell you that much of what I understand strikes me as wonderful and insightful, and the same can be said of the teachings of Muhammad, though of course I have my disagreements.
"Wonderful and insightful." But this quotation was actually used to calm worried Christians, because, gee, he says there's a lot that is "false," and he has his disagreements. Hurrah! To see how un-reassuring this passage really is about endorsements of non-Christian religions, try replacing "the teachings of Muhammed" with "Satanism" and see how it plays.

Reiko Aylesworth.

Ah, a fellow connoisseur.


Dr. Beckwith,
I apologize for the long response, but in the interest of being thorough, I will tackle this piece by piece.

He's not "upset," as if he was stood up for a date or didn't get his meal on time after ordering at a restaurant.

He ends up red faced and screaming at her, pretty much any normal description of being upset.

He is guilty, and he knows it. What he fears is that God will give him what he deserves.

Sort of. What he fears is that God will not take responsibility away from him. God has to make him blameless for his own sin. In the meantime, he feels compelled to torment himself over his unforgivable sin. That is where the contradiction is, his fear that what he did can never be forgiven, and complete misery that it will not be forgiven. If it can be forgiven, he should not be consumed with misery over it, if it cannot he should be fearful about it.

What he fears is that God is fair and just and has not condescended himself to provide grace for our forgiveness.

Which if true, means that he has placed his own fears about God's nature above the reach of God's grace.

The chaplain tried to dupe him into believing that the guilt is not real and that he can save himself.

That seems to me to be reading a whole lot into this tiny episode. Maybe further on in the show she confides to someone that she really was trying to dupe this guy or that his guilt was imaginary, but I very much doubt it.

She patronized him and then was offended that he didn't think it was a favor.

She tried to help him as someone who made a choice he severely regrets and he blamed her for treating both the original choice and the consequent regret as his own. His "woe is me" tale of needing absolution is sound and fury, one way or another he has to make peace with what he did.

She is a counselor for what C. S. Lewis called "men without chests."

By telling him he first has to be willing to accept the reality of forgiveness, which is not the same as saying he deserves it.

She should have offered to him the opportunity to reach out to Christ. Instead, her prescription was postmodern pablum. He saw right through it.

He saw that his salvation could not be obtained with a simple prescription, and he blamed her for it.

He wanted to fall naked before a just God and ask humbly for his grace. She thought it was beneath the dignity she doesn't believe he really has. She handed him gobbledy-gook, and he refused it.

He wanted to be washed clean of sin before asking for grace. She respected his dignity by explaining that hard questions don't have easy answers. It is true that what he wanted was reassurance against the possibility of damnation, so in that respect she failed to give him what he wanted. On the other hand, he wasn't willing to do the first thing to actually commit to that possibility of mercy.

Lydia - I agree that subjective soteriology is not the only place that accounts for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. I made that distinction to help reinforce the idea of a clearly drawn boundary within which there is freedom. The Nicene creed is clear that Jesus is God incarnate and that salvation is in him. As you indicated, however, when looking at that biblical testimony theologians throughout history have articulated a number of theories or models regarding the nature of salvation and particularly the atonement.

As I finished typing my comment and reread it, it occurred to me that I evaded (unintentionally) an issue that Mr. Beckwith's comment either implied or pointed at. If I believe there is a boundary, then by what means do we draw that boundary? It seems obvious to me that a boundary can't be a subjective product, nor can it merely be the product of social construction. All of this impinges upon epistemology. So, what I am trying to work out underneath all this is the relationship between the revelation of God and the means we use to make sense of it. I don't have a clearly definable epistemology, but this much I do believe:

-God has revealed himself to us
-we are accountable to him and what he has revealed
-a purely subjective epistemology and/or hermeneutic effectively makes us the authority, and therefore it has to be rejected

And yet, I do think that by virtue of our finite nature and our falleness, we have to be very careful and humble regarding the doctrines we formulate, which effectively draw lines around who we include in the community of faith. I mean, I don't think we can appropriately account for three fractures in the body of Christ (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, & Protestant) and an additional shattering within one of those fractures (Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Methodism, Baptist, Pentecostal, Mennonite, Church of God, Plymouth Brethren, Non-Denominational, Joe: who disagreed with the senior pastor and went out and started his own church, etc) by the idea that some people are just better interpreters of Scripture and the rest are heretics.

When I was talking about Emerging Evangelicals I was referring to an article I read in Christianity Today that delineated three stages of Modern Evangelicalism where the most recent stage, called the young Evangelicals, who I think were also called Emerging, were referred to as a movement toward history, tradition, and a recovery of liturgy, symbol and sacrament. This sounds like a good thing. On the other hand, if this movement is also, in some weird way trying to embrace tradition and straight-up pluralism, then that is definitely problematic. Again, I wonder if the term Emerging is being used to cover too much and that perhaps there needs to be distinctions made between movements that are not really the same but yet bear the same title. Anyways, thanks for pointing me to further resources.


Anthony:

Where do I start? Much of what you say seems to be the result of your own experience in the Evangelical world. Maybe I'm wrong about that. But here's why I think that way. First, you seem to see the recovery of liturgy, symbol, and sacrament as under the choice of communities and individuals. But this is a very modernist view of religion. If you really want to recover these things, then you must abandon the idea that you get to recover them. They are not under your control. You must place yourself under them. For to treat them as if they are instruments of your choice is to diminish their significance. In the body of Christ, no one part gets to choose what it is. To think that, is to place yourself at the head, which is a part that's already taken.

Second, I agree with your suggestion that we should be careful and humble regarding doctrine. But I don't think that we formulate it. It's already been done for us. This is one of the reasons why I became Catholic last year. I was just tired of my own autonomy, and I thought it best to fall at the foot of the cross and be taught by wiser souls than me--Augustine, Aquinas, Newman. The liturgy, the sacraments, the apostolic office have ancient roots, far older than the Reformation. You are certainly free to incorporate the best of these in your low church congregations. But as long as they are under your control, they cannot rise higher than mere symbols. I know that some of my WWTW colleagues will disagree. So, I will leave at that. My point is to try to communicate to you that even your apparent rejection of Evangelicalism is driven by the categories of Evangelicalism itself. The key is to break out of the circle entirely and entertain the possibility that the traditions and liturgy you find so attractive may very well be correct, but like flowers dependent on soil, cannot be torn from their roots without eventually killing them.

Mr. Beckwith,

"If you really want to recover these things, then you must abandon the idea that you get to recover them. They are not under your control. You must place yourself under them. For to treat them as if they are instruments of your choice is to diminish their significance."

Wow! I have to process your statement. I think I was trying to say something like you said above when I said, "a purely subjective epistemology and/or hermeneutic effectively makes us the authority, and therefore it has to be rejected" I realize that autonomy is a problem, but the implication of what you are saying, which your own turn toward Roman Catholicism also expresses, is that if I want to effectively deal with this issue then I too have to make the same journey. This maybe the case, but in processing this, I would have to consider the claims of Eastern Orthodoxy, which historically, apostolically, and sacramentally seem to have just as much weight as Roman Catholicism. But then there is that split around 1000 AD. So, who currently embodies the fullness of faith? Also, I am tempted to agree with Jaroslav Pelikan that the Reformation was a tragic necessity.

In the end, I realize that it is not about what I make or construct, even when that construction is drawn from history and tradition, but a matter of submitting to God's authority. Of course there is a long polemic between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism regarding the relationship between God's authority and the Church. For now, I will say that the common Protestant assertion that God's authority is vested in his word, the Scriptures, doesn't resolve the problem of autonomy since the issue of interpretation remains. This is of course why both Romans Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are so attractive.

For the record, I'm willing to be something perhaps faintly akin to what Anthony calls "humble" about some of the differences among Christians (especially eschatology, for example), much less humble about others, and not humble at all about the differences between Christianity and other religions. When we start saying, "There is a lot of falsehood in non-Christian religions, but, hey, I'm wrong about a lot of things myself, I'm sure," that downplays the importance of the divide there, which must not be done.

By the way, Frank's answer to Step2 was great.

That was kick ass... but how did the hollywood story end... making him out to be some intolerant fool that's gonna be dead soon so we can all go into the new age light??

Dr. Beckwith:

I can't help but jump in here! First off, the clip is powerful and illustrative of the weakness of the objective claims of moral subjectivism; it simply refutes itself and is nonsense.

I too concur that my conversion to the Catholic faith was a refusal of seeking my autonomy. I was a Protestant minister with the Baptist General Conference who converted in 1996. Jesus describes this act as a "dying"...a death, which is at first quite painful. But this is a necessary first step; the joy does come! At first, I resisted the thought of becoming Catholic for it meant I had to quit being the "star" of my own horse and pony show and stop incorporating certain doctrines and practices of ancient Christianity according to my designs. "Christ must increase; I must decrease." It also meant I had to face the scorn, ridicule and rejection that would most certanly come from those who see Catholicism as a detour from Christianity, including my immediate family. Baptists get bent out of shape when their pastors become Catholic! It took over a year of agony before I had enough courage to face the death of my autonomy. And it was as painful if not more so than I thought, but OH THE HEALING! A seed needs to die before it can bear fruit.

Ironically, while entering the Catholic Church with my autonomy still in its death throws, sophisticated Catholics who dubbed themselves as "liberal" or "Big Tent" Catholics seemed content, or even proud to pick and choose the facets of Catholic teaching that suited them. They questioned my need to convert at all, including some priests, who thought I was being a bit too "Roman." I became discouraged for I could see that the "autonomous Christianity" I battled in Protestantism was alive and well in many of the Catholic Church's members. Providentially, I found, through the help of Scott Hahn, a wonderful Opus Dei priest in Brookfield, Wisconsin who gave me the spiritual direction I needed to help me identify and deal with Liberalism.

As Kingdom subjects, we no longer have the liberty to invent, re-invent, re-constitute or recover the historical Jesus for our own means and objectives. We bow in obeisance to Jesus in His Church. To those who refuse to bow but still profess themselves as Catholics look at this with complete disdain. Subjectively speaking, it was and still is life-giving and liberating because objectively, this is the reality of how Jesus works in the our world! Praise be to God!

Thank you for taking the time for us on this blog site and allowing me to share my experience.

Dr. Beckwith,

Your "March 2, 2008 9:47 PM" comment is tremendously helpful. I hope you have an opportunity to expand upon it in your upcoming book (I understand it is about your conversion).

'Erin go brea'

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