August 14, 2008

Setting Limits, Fighting Heresy

Although I finished this post a few weeks ago, I've had a hard time posting it. I'll give the reason's afterwards, but here's the post in full:

"In discussing the historical Jesus, Bonhoeffer explains why critical christology is important. Not everything about Christ is comprehensible, but the work of critical christology is to limit the incomprehensible, thus it determines the boundaries of "what may not be said about Christ."

It certainly is important to figure out what we should not say about Christ, otherwise our faith truly is nothing. This does not mean of course that we must completely understand the questions of "who" or "how" Jesus, but it does give us categories for comprehending the God-man, incarnate one.

In our pluralistic society one of the dirty words has become heresy, which Bonhoeffer links to critical christology. "If critical christology is concerned with fixing limits, that means it is concerned with the concept of heresy."

Bonhoeffer's notes on heresy are helpful for understanding its role and why there is a need to point it out. I do recognize that heresy often arises from power struggles and can lead to paternalism, but there is still a need to recognize what cannot be said about Christ, the limits. Heresy thus "emerges from the fellowship of the Church and not from an absence of love." To love someone in a brotherly or sisterly way means to speak the truth in love, and "if I do not speak the truth, then I treat him like a heathen."

Here's the reasons I had a hard time posting:
1) Heresy can often and is often what the "winners" say it is, thus the history and theology written by the western church does not mean its the only correct theology. Our own neo-colonial attitude toward theology in the global South and East (read nonWestern) is that we have to guide and protect "them" from heresy. We must speak the truth in love, when in actuality we are speaking are perspective on truth. In actuality, the more loving thing to do is to allow them to have their heresies.
2) We have our own heresies, so we should let others have them too. If I recall, most Christians that I know would be called a heretic by someone (i.e. Joseph Ratzinger).
3) The idea I found most resonating with me from Bonhoeffer's thought is that heresy arises from the fellowship of the church. This is what we need, for the church global and local to be connected and united in its diversity. We must have boundaries, but boundaries do not exist for the sake of judgment but rather for love. Boundaries help us know as much what we are for as what we are against.

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