more about this sight

"you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen"...'Walk On' by U2

WATERSHED: A voice in the wilderness. DARYL UNDERWOOD.

 

The concept of Centerpoint Christianity briefly stated is:

Christianity from the centerpoint outward.

Christianity from the climax forward.

This blog constitutes concepts for a new view of Christianity that begins with what is foundational and moves forward from that point. It is based on the assumption that we are being pulled towards something unseen and pushed from a place that once was.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points.

It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

When we begin at the life of Christ and move outward as from the centerpoint of a web, rather than in a linear timeline of history, another wide picture emerges.


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« Thesis statement for Centerpoint Christianity | Main | Christianity from the centerpoint outward »
Monday
Feb182008

Foundations of Centerpoint Christianity: thoughts on metanarrative

"You want answers"

"I think I am entitled"
"You want answers"
"I want truth"

"You can't handle the truth!"

--a scene from the movie "A Few Good Men" 

you-cant-handle-the-truth.jpg

This clip illustrates the arrogance of a metanarrative gone unchecked. Look to the right under songs and articles for an intense clip! It can set the mood for "getting" this excerpt. Go ahead and watch it now.

Sometimes when we are so immersed in a way of thinking we have no idea that we are "off base". We can be like  Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson), actually surprised that our way (or metanarrative) might be questioned. Add to this the concept of groupthink and any other idea can never seep in. Such may be the case with certain theological presuppositions and constructs of the Christian faith. In this article I propose the possibility of a new view of scripture. It would be easy to dismiss this as preposterous and predictably, arrogant too...but what if...

Sir Francis Bacon once proposed that "Great changes are easier than small ones". And I agree. Of course Jesus proposed the same thing once when he said "you strain at a gnat and swallow a camel". In other words people argue about innuendo or triviality or the little stuff and embrace constructs that are simply unthinkable. "How far before we fall off the edge" type stuff when there isn't even an edge out there! So instead of arguing and debating the many small issues that Christians spend their time splitting hairs over (how exhausting is that) I want to propose we take a look at our perspective on scripture and begin in a new place.

That we look from the climax out. From the centerpoint forward.

We should keep in mind that in the 1400's all questions posed about sea exploration were based on what people knew or thought they knew about the nature of the world. All questions were based on the belief that the world was flat. So the debate raged about "how far one could travel till they fell of the edge?, where did they fall to when they plummeted? should anyone dare test God by even sailing towards the edge?" and the like.

The wrong questions based on the things they "knew".

And of course they always came up with the wrong answers. None the less they fought passionately. (For a humorous look at the history of the world click on the right look for "History of the World...)

Same with Christianity

It is the same principle with Christianity...we debate about things we think we know and never consider what may be right in front of us. A great change may be on the horizon that makes the small debates futile and silly. The change that is sweeping across the globe is the effects of postmodern thought. Some will dismiss this out of hand, others deem it outright dangerous. But to ignore it is to miss a grand opportunity. An opportunity to reassess what we "think we know" now that most things are on the table anyway, even if they seem forced upon us. But in honesty groupthink slowly changes and is forced into rethinking through circumstances all the time. Let's welcome it as from God not resist it as though God were finished when we came to our conclusions.

I am mindful that these ideas I propose are raw concepts which can be seen as arrogant in and of themselves. I get it...but at the same time we live in a time when we are being pulled into unchartered waters. It will be tough to swim against the tide. And here is the good news--perhaps the tide is right and dare we imagine --even can be trusted--as if God is actually somehow in it all.

Thesis: What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points. It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

It is important to understand the building blocks which under gird an emerging philosophical/religious construct. One of the basic blocks to "centerpoint Christianity is a basic understanding of meta narratives, personal narratives, and the grand metanarrative which can be expressed as the framing story (Brian McLaren's usage). A metanarrative is explained here:

“Metanarratives are minimally “master” narratives of the way things are. But, more specifically according to the definition often used today, a metanarrative is something that is used to legitimate a nation, society, or individual’s behavior or use of power and control.

One example of a “successful” metanarrative is that which supports modern scientific endeavor. Merold Westphal argues that in order to legitimate itself modern science “needs a story of progress from opinion and superstition to scientific truth and onto universal peace and happiness. In other words science depends on a certain construction of reality and the construct that legitimizes it is the very notion of progress. The idea of progress serves science and scientists because it supposes that investigation and experimentation chart a steady path towards a better world. Such a view, of course, attracts funding and under girds continued research, but it also provides a construct within which people view the world, its destiny and their place in it. People accept the metanarrative. Somehow we are all a part of the progress of the world towards its perfection. While science and scientists have a vested interest, if not always acknowledged, interest in the survival of this metanarrative, its consequences are felt beyond the realm of scientific investigation. The “metanarrative of progress” has given birth to the tacit assumption that our lives are better—materially, but also morally and spiritually—than the lives of those who lived fifty, five hundred, or five thousand years before us. In other words, any metanarrative shapes how we view the world, our place in it, what we value, and how we assess the significance of persons, events, or things. Not only do we think of science as making progress, but we view the morals and behaviors or earlier people as “primitive” or worse—little recognizing that the very metanarrative of progress means that in ten, one hundred, or one thousand years our lives and practices will come under the same scrutiny.

Because Metanarritives are said to legitimate any individual, enterprise, society or nation and are thus understood to underwrite self-interest, they are labeled oppressive and triumphalist. A metanarrative gains useful acceptance not because it is true but because it succeeds, through power or violence, in silencing all other metatnarratives

If the metanarrative of one nation or society is to succeed as a universal metanarrative, it must do so by suppressing the difference of the other, so that this narrative becomes "everyone’s metanarrative”. All other metanarritive(s) in time must submit itself to this rendering in time, particularly as other ways of thinking are minimalized and the controlling viewpoint gains strength, power and momentum. This can also be observed in conflicts of personal narratives or smaller stories in that one must win over the other. Most arguments travel this road until one emerges and becomes the norm. Eventually the other perception is minimalized and loses power or influence until it virtually fades away. Adherents of the prevalent view begin to look askew at any other thinking that comes from without the box of agreed upon "rightness". Much of the society within these narratives never become aware of viewing things any other way than the norm and become supporters of the conquering view-- albeit unwittingly.

Now let's use as a building block the statements above in bold italics. They explain that metanarratives are often "used to legitimate a nation, society, or individual’s behavior or use of power and control."  Take a moment to apply this idea to the Hebrew Scriptures also called the Old Testament or Tanahk. The writings come from the people of Israel to legitimize their right as the "true people of God". The scriptures constantly point to their vindication and the impending and resulting illumination for all others (gentiles, nations, islands). Not only will they, the outsiders, be illuminated but they will be judged. Add to this other implications of metanarrative "that they are oppressive or triumphalist" and you have a recipe for violence or power games, which leads to circumstances that are ripe for disaster. The only conclusion can be a final confrontation which is ushered along by the belief system of Judaism.

At the climax of this impending confrontation stands Jesus... literally at the crossroads of Judaism (more a way of life or people at this time than a defined religion) and a New Covenant or New Way which He himself will enact when it is clear He is going to die. He sees himself as the last hope of Israel, the final Son sent from the Father to implore the stewards of the vineyard (the keepers of the message which God has purposed for the earth and entrusted to Israel) to reconsider their behavior in light of the vocation they are called into, that is, to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. When it becomes clear that Israel is bent to implode upon itself He becomes the final prophetic voice and sacrifices himself in her stead. In this way Israel dies and with her the hopes and dreams of elitist position, and God is released from His promise(s) to her.

As Jesus would say "I have not come to abolish the law (think Torah here) but to fulfill (think complete or bring to fulfillment) the law". This word is culminated and closed upon His keeping of the covenant until the very end.

Paul and his letter to the people of Galatia
This, too, is the message of Paul the apostle when he uses covenant-will-testament language in the letter to the Galatians. The new covenant or inheritance is given to the children, true children,  born of the seed of the Promise to Abraham. This seed is God in the form of Jesus and the will is enacted, begun, and in reality commences when the speaker of the promise dies. A will serves as a custodian (think legal terms such as custody) until "the time is fully come" when the promise maker or speaker of the covenant passes on. This is the why? of Jesus death. In the shedding of his blood for the new covenant He is released and set free. He is God...so God is released and set free. The resulting victory of God is the downpayment, firstfruits, guarantee (all Paul's metaphors) of a new day. God mysteriously births new creation. His death actually releases something. Only then is the inheritance passed down and the will "opened".

Paul clearly saw this as the result of Jesus life. He (Jesus who is creator God able to do this) fulfilled or completed the promise in His death and released the inheritance or new covenant in his rebirth i.e. resurrection. When Israel dies the promises made to her are completed or fulfilled. The violent ending gives birth (so familiar to women) to a new beginning (noticed the language of rebirth in Jesus discussion with Nicodemus in John 3).

For our consideration we need to understand the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to a time of radical vengeance born out of generations of oppression by the "goyim" or gentiles of the world. The gentiles represented all competing metanarratives in the world. When Christianity simply attaches itself to the Hebrew metanarrative, as if it is only the continuation of that story, and uses similar language in a triumphantalist manner it sustains this interpretation of "how life is to be Jewish" and sets the stage for what we have seen throughout history in the crusades, colonialism, and dogma. These times  of dogmatic oppression have become embarrassments to thoughtful Christians. And they should be. This difficulty is why Paul is so opposed to what is happening in Galatia and wishes that those who are attempting to sustain the Hebrew metanarrative in an oppressive way would "go all the way and emasculate themselves". It (continuing as though the Hebrew story is the "right" story) is a threat to the true gospel and indeed another gospel altogether.  But this simply aligns with the point of metanarrative and its usage which is to silence all others. When taken to its ugliest conclusion it explains the why? in which, for example Hitler's dogma could somehow manifest and gain momentum in one of the most advanced societies in its time. The people were so confident in their success and rightness that they felt entitled to subjugate lesser groups.

In fact, it becomes your vocation or right or call to do so.

Hitler was able to seize this reality and convince people of the rightness of their cause... and all other ideas or explanations were systematically silenced in order for the one "true way" which we might call the metanarrative of Nazism to emerge and flourish.

It was their God ordained "duty" to purge other metanarratives and the Jewish story among others was deemed disposable. Of course that was, and is, grossly untrue. 

When people believe they are special all others become somehow less and disposable.

They become second class. And Paul rages against this idea that there are Greek and Jews, male and female, slave and free. There is simply one playing field and all are invited to play in the kingdom. It is the universal invitation of God. Paul will not allow the gospel to be silenced by the circumcision party.

A metanarrative gains useful acceptance not because it is true but because it succeeds, through power or violence, in silencing all other metatnarratives…

When Christianity is seen as a continuation of the Jewish story (on a linear timeline) certain interpretive problems manifest which I believe are challenged within the framing story of "centerpoint Christianity" a name I have adopted for these new (at least to me) ideas.

What was Jesus really "up to"?
We need to recognize that validating the OT metanarrative by its very definition seems opposite of what Jesus was up to. Jesus was expressly concerned "with ruling as the gentiles do" rather than from a servants heart. He was about inclusion more than exclusion. He was more about centered values than constructed boxes that served as a boundary for those in and those out.  He was opposed, for example, to Peter's violent reaction in the garden of Gethsemane when he bears the sword and cuts of Malchus' ear. Jesus knows that "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword". How does He know? He has lived through it with Israel. Those aren't just words but a conviction he believes. In reality this is what he came to warn Israel about in relation to Rome, she must know that using the sword or force and violence to rule will lead to yet one more disaster. In the words of Benjamin Martin, a character played by Mel Gibson the movie named "The Patriot" we should not simply trade "one tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away". This is what it would mean to seize power by force and suppression. Israel would be no better than Rome, or Babylon, or Assyria, or Great Britain, or the United States...or any construct centered on power as its foundation.

In fact, Jesus models this "new way" of combating metanarrative by "turning the other cheek" and submitting Himself to a horrendously violent death on a tool constructed to get the point across to any who resist the Roman metanarrative which was built upon the idea that if you "trifle with us this will be your fate". Indeed the historian Tacitus declared that Rome had created a wasteland and called it peace...such was their tendency to control by intimidation and violence. The tool they used as a symbol of intimidation was a cross, a convincing tool, that would be carried by the violator outside of the community, to remind the community of what could happen to them if they do not "submit to their ways". I

t was the kingdom as Caesar had envisioned it. Jesus came to challenge that story with another story.

This death of Jesus was no doubt, initially, a sign that evil had won, the innocent was a fool, and justice was a pipe dream. In reality, however, this story being enacted in Rome was and is reminiscent of the short story of Esther told in the Hebrew scriptures. In that story Mordacai would have gone to the gallows had injustice prevailed. The surprise of that book or story, and indeed this new story of Jesus, is that the one who constructs the tool of violence the one who in the end tastes of that which he intended for the innocent. Death by death destroys death. This is the way we can understand the narrative of the gospels. The death of Jesus was a final blow decimating the dream to the disciples on Friday. It appeared final. It seemed convincing and absolute. It all surprisingly changed on Sunday when a new day dawned and the curtain parted revealing a new beginning.This is, in Paul's words, the unveiled mystery of God kept secret throughout the ages.

The unveiled mystery is in the resurrection. The centerpoint of time...the climax of the Old Covenant promises.

The resurrection was the surprise of God on par with the surprise ending of the book of Esther. Not only does Jesus somehow turn the tables on death but death itself, much like Hamon, is nailed to the very construct of violence that it lived by. When we begin with the centerpoint and look back at the Jewish story it makes sense as a framing story that is headed somewhere. Esther is illumined for us not so much as a story of Jewish superiority as they acknowledged it, but a reminder of the ultimate surprise and victory of God over all that is evil, that preys on innocence. Such is the victory of God.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points. It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

This is done from the backdrop of a particular time and event in history which according to the Christian framing story is central. The event is the cross and resurrection as a fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and the inauguration of a new time which is mysteriously called the "kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven" by Jesus.

While avoiding pitfalls and associations of oppressive metanarratives the message can be heard afresh and embraced by the postmodern culture. Perhaps the time is ripe for this message than at any other point in history. perhaps God is pulling us towards the new horizon. History is not "ignored or rewritten" but is relegated to its place as something that serves the unending message rather than dictates it. This is not trifling with Christianity as central as some may argue... but it does reinterpret old ways of viewing scripture and its purposes. 

References (2)

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Reader Comments (4)

I understand that a meta-narrative is an all encompassing and self-progressing belief system...and at certain times and societies in the progression of mankind, this meta-narrative has crushed the truth of God's design. It has simply won because it has the loudest voices, bigger stick, and branished support of those whom most likely will benefit from the selected meta-narrative remaining in the fore front of thought, culture, and self imposed morality; and establishes itself as the "better not to be disputed" truth. Unfortunately, its (the meta-narrative) acceptance of this self proclaimed truth becomes the widely believed truth which holds offense to anyone who dares to hint of a challenge to its validity. Somehow in the crusade to compel others to accept the meta-narrative, (because after all, how could this meta-narrative not be true) the promoters of the meta-narrative have caused any silenced true-narrative to find itself hidden under the residue of the dying (in God's Kingdom), yet ever strong in the meta-narrative system. As the true narrative (God's design through Jesus) attempts to emerge, not through the meta-narrative, because it would then be tainted by the residue of the meta-narrative, but to emerge apart from the meta-narrative. It must now disavow itself of anything seeming similiar of the meta-narrative, lest it be consumed back into the process emerging unidentifable as a true narrative, but hidden once more in the landfill of the meta-narrative. God's design (true-narrative) cannot emerge through the old Hebrew system (meta-narrative). The Jewish usefulness has come and gone, therefore a new design must emerge totally devoid of Jewish tradition which has slowly through group think practices of meta-narrative become the expected and accepted way to the truth. AND IT IS NOT. The Jewish meta-narrative, claiming to be from God, in it's self made proclaimation, could not be further from the truth. The Jewish system, in order to self preserve, resulted in losing all and being pruned from the true vine.

February 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPsych Professor

'the promoters of the meta-narrative have caused any silenced true-narrative to find itself hidden under the residue of the dying (in God's Kingdom), yet ever strong in the meta-narrative system."...I am not sure what you are getting at here...can you try to explain it as simply as you can. Also, please don't understand me to say that metanarratives (larger stories) are always wrong. They are just what they are. Daryl.

February 18, 2008 | Registered CommenterDaryl Underwood

Those in power and empowered through the strongly established meta-narrative are smothering the dudes with the real true-narrative. The residue of the dying represents those who are attempting to follow the real thing, but instead are following (unfortunately, in good faith) the meta-narrative.

In all of this, I think there is an element of the heirachy of the followers. Some in power may know they are not promoting the truth, yet desire the power so continue the story. Some in power are just ignorant to the truth so continue in the meta-narrative. Some begin to question, but are easily crushed. Some are shakey and vacillate back and forth. Some are the dying or dead....simply defeated. The ones with the true narrative find themselves smothered under this pile of Jewish residue. The don't need to crawl to the top of a useless system because they will drag up with them the garbage of the pile. So they must totally crawl out the side of the pile, leave the others to their own demise. They must establish the true story, distant from the Jewish pile.

February 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPsych Professor

So what's the 'true' story Psych Professor? I don't buy that there is a 'true' meta-narrative I believe there is truth in them but I'm not biting on the fact that there is one 'true'. That idea that I have the 'true' story is what has got us in all these problems.

When the jesuits came to Michigan they were telling the creation story to a tribe of Indians.. when they were done the indians decided to tell their story of creation to the 'Black Robes'. The jesuits threw a fit and called them godless and heathens to teach such hearsay.. the Indians were perplexed because they liked BOTH stories and didn't see either of them as the 'truth'.

Just my thoughts.

drew

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdrew

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