I just got done listening to C. Michael Patton’s second edition of “What is orthodoxy,” and I must say I really enjoyed it. He speaks to an issue that is quite prevalent today with respect to one’s theological viewpoints called obscurantism. This basically refers to the smothering of any other theological viewpoints outside your own. It reminded me of my early years of being a Christian where I was groomed in the particulars of charismatic theology. After being taught certain aspects, you basically would test the waters of every facet of Christianity to make sure, before you could truly “fellowship” with it/them, to make sure it lined up with your theological framework. Being charismatic, anytime I had a conversation about a supposed church leader (Pastor, etc) I would always [test the waters] by inquiring, "well, is he/she Spirit filled?" And when I first accepted Reformed theology I acted in a similar way. Patton made reference to scoping certain interpretations of theological writings (commentaries) to make sure they interpreted a verse “rightly” before he would purchase it. Well, this is exactly what I did. I remember every time I would begin to read something or something caught my eye I would go right to Romans 9 to see their interpretation. If it’s conclusion was a reference to the choosing of “corporate Israel,” that would pretty much sealed the deal…I wasn’t buying it!
I can tell you this obscurantism is much more widespread than perhaps will be admitted, even by the honest Christian. Heck, I still find myself doing it to some degree. Now I’m not saying that a certain type of obscurantism isn't important when we’re talking about the major tenants. That is, I'm not saying that if you read an interpretation that denies the virgin birth, or perhaps the vicarious atonement of Christ on behalf of sinner, that you should cast an open [serious] open ear. I am saying that many sides of the faith, including the ones referenced above (Charismatic’s and Reformed folks, which I know first hand) do in fact practice a pretty high level of obscurantism and turn a deaf ear to the other side of the issue.
And this is pretty much the message we at Christians in Context are seeking to convey. We want to encourage conversation on topics and issues that may otherwise never “truly” converse. We want to tear down the caricatures of other theological view points and bridge the gap between them to seek some additional common ground. Our hope is, and I quote my colleague Norm Jeune, to avoid “regressing into in-bred theological banter that accomplishes nothing.” (duly noted)
Interestingly enough in-the-not-so-far-off-future I plan to explore a joining of theological convictions that has gained some momentum over the last few years, I’m speaking of the Reformed Charismatic’s. The fact that I have previously held (Charismatic), and currently hold (Reformed) to these views should allow me to speak about my first hand experience in both camps. My goal is to explore a little into what they believe, and to begin to start an ongoing discussion about whether there is some harmony to this and if it is/can be, compatible.