Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Truth Project and History

In our latest installment of The Truth Project, Dr. Del Tackett tackles the topic of history. After viewing the video, I have to admit that it wasn't what I thought it was going to be (a thought shared by one of the others in the group I watched it with). He said, afterwards, "I thought there would be . . . I don't know . . . more history." The topic title is a little misleading.

Tackett camps out on the frequent Old Testament admonishment to "Remember," looking at numerous passages where Israel was told to "Remember" different events of its life (Sinai, crossing the Red Sea, the Passover, etc.) Beginning here, Tackett states the imperative that we remember history correctly. He spends a good deal of time blasting revisionist history, offering passing insight into his conservative political position as he mentions secular liberals seeking to remember American history differently than the way it was written (basically taking God out of it).

I really like the premise of the topic. "Remember" is such a critical aspect of God's desire for his people. I was astonished that in the entire topic, he didn't mention the Eucharist once to my knowledge. What more key thelogical concept can there be t0 remembering than the communion celebration - "In remembrance of me." This shocking oversight is troubling.

However, the bigger difficulty I had with the history session was its thoroughly modern intepretation of history. He spends a few minutes debunking post-modernism and its lack of a meta-narrative. There's no doubt that the lack of meta-narrative in the postmodern world is cause for concern. However, I strongly disagree with Tackett's solution, which is to hold on to a modern worldview . . . which I think pretty quickly unravels when considering this topic.

Postmodernism, we are told in the video, jettisons the larger meta-narrative in obsession for the smaller individual narrative of the individual. Instead of realizing the great opportunity this offers, Tackett and those contributing to the discussion, bemoan the situation. However, he offers no answer to the problems postmodernism has challeged. Instead, he utterly ignores them as though they don't exist.

I find it truly ironic that he accuses the "world" of myopia when that is exactly the problem I see inherent in his belief system in regards to history. He has a great moving moment in light of a painting of the Pilgrims and talks of the great sacrifices they made to follow what they thought of as God's will - coming to America, expanding the kingdom he even says. What a great people they were, following God's will even to the point of death from the elements. It's interesting that he determines that this is the meta-narrative, the guiding story and following of God's people that will lead no doubt to where he's headed with the session entitled the "Great American Experiment" looming. It was God's will that this nation was founded. Upon the great principles of God. Perhaps that discussion can be had in political circles - but NOT theological ones. I believe that the founding fathers of our nation are irrelevant to the proposition of the church and her relationship to the culture within which she lives. America has baptized the church instead of vice versa. We have become so incredibly self-centered in our discussions of theology and politics. We must repent and overcome this. This point is made incredibly well by Rob Bell in his latest book Jesus Wants to Save Christians (I plan to review that book when I finish it up.) Theologically, we have to deal with the narrative of all people.

What Tackett fails to acknowledge is that the Pilgrims landing on this shore began the process for a much more heinous narrative to unfold as one of the most persecuted and oppressed people in the history of the world who would be massacred. This, too, must fit into our metanarrative. It does not, I contend, fit into the picture that Tackett is painting of history. Instead, it is his perspective that is, indeed, myopic. He sees only the history of his own people, failing to incorporate the story of others . . . which is the great gift of postmodernity. It forces us to consider the story of others. We very well may claim to have a meta-narrative that others can fit . . . but, more likely than not, it will have to be altered in consideration of the others.

The world of postmodernism is not a clean and cut world and it makes those schooled in modernity, like Tackett, very afraid and worried, and, unfortunately, defensive.

And . . . a last just unbelieveable word. Tackett actually tells the audience that the only date he makes his seminary students learn is 1859 - the year that Darwin published The Origin of Species. Wow . . . and he's accusing others of myopia?


Andrew said...

Great summation. You mention the myopic viewpoint the presenter has - I think that is the Achilles’ heel in so much of his thinking. Because he cannot see or respect other views, he cannot begin to see what his presentation looks like to those who do not already buy into his line of thinking. Consequently, the video serves just to stir up the troops, but not really bring any new energy.

Sherry said...

Yes indeed, they are preaching to their own choir. No new energy, as Andrew points out. This reminds me that for some "new" or "other" information may be heresy?

I am sad that with such sure and pronounced opinions there cannot seem to be ongoing conversation or dialogue. It is especially painful because the shut down of communication exists within my own dear extended family.

The Metzes said...

Thanks for the comments. I've been watching each of these videos within a small group setting and really fight the tendency to be overly negative. Truth be told, I appreciate what Tackett is attempting to do, and I know his motives are good - I think that gets lost too often in these conversations. I continue to really wrestle with the way forward in this discussion. In many ways, like you say Andrew, it's that myopia and narrow-sightedness that makes conversation so difficult. If you've got it all figured out already and you're just holding on to the "right" answers, there's really no room for improvement or growth. Too often the accusation is conforming, but I think there's a very important distinction to be made between growing and conforming. Hey, let's learn from each other - no matter where we've come from!

I found the following excerpt from an article in Relevant Magazine's newest endeavor called Neue, it's written by Jim Hoyle,

"We are on a constant learning curve. We travel and meet crews from other boards. New cultures from foreign lands help inspire and keep our minds fresh and our hearts challenged. We hate the feeling that nothing is happening, and are willing to pray long and hard until things do. We love other fellow searchers of truth, but are not so keen on those who think they have arrived. No such thing as permanent anchorage here. We respect the creative gifts and skill each crew members contributes. We are very aware that we cannot sail this vessel alone. We also recognize the unique quest each person has been called to, and will do our best not to get in their way, even if we don't always understand or agree with the way they do it."

Seems to be a better way forward for me!