Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor
[Back in the first installment of this diary, I interacted with the Emergents' fear that evangelicalism's entrenched, conservative church culture is just not reaching a young generation. Deep in writing my own "Patron Saints for Postmoderns" course, book, and blog, I suggested that the time might be ripe for telling and hearing stories—in particular, stories of our "foreparents" in the faith. Why not turn to the historical cloud of witnesses and see how they engaged their own cultures? That would seem to be one good way to learn how to translate the gospel for our own cultural moment.
[In the second (most recent) installment, I defended this idea of translating the gospel for new cultural situations against one potent objection: that such translation involves a dangerous compromise. When we set out to do such a translation, say some critics, we are allowing sinful human cultures to set the terms of the discussion. We are adapting and compromising Christ's essentially countercultural message in illegitimate ways. The church, as Stanley Hauerwas and others argue, should be its own culture. My answer to this objection was to try to bridge the "translators" and the "separators" with a kind of ecumenical position that sees value in both approaches.]
Perhaps, if you have read the first two installments of this "diary," you are ready to launch into a lifetime of fruitful biography- and history-reading. But some of you may still be standing on the path, obstructed by one more roadblock: the postmodern claim that the cultural frameworks that have formed us as individuals so strongly condition and define us, that the experiences and ideas of people from other cultural frameworks (that is, other places or times) can ...