Monday, October 17, 2016

Challenging tribal boundaries

I was curious to examine some history of delicensed Rev. Keith Mascord’s departure from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.  The curiosity commenced when I heard Mascord on a ABC television panel where he identified that many graduates of Moore Theological College “stop thinking” when they leave the College’s doors.  I cannot fathom that any esteemed theological college would tacitly or explicitly impart upon their students any notion that thought stops at college.  I imagine instead the opposite – that a college would impart a strong desire for a life of enquiry and learning.

free and unattributable
“I now do see that we can nothing know” Faust at the end of his life

There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth –
not going all the way, and not starting Buddha

It was in Mascord’s book ‘Faith Without Fear: Risky Choices Facing Contemporary Christians’, 2016 that I found a Mascord reference to “stop thinking”.  The reference is in a chapter that considers casualties of academia.  The casualties arise where professors dare push beyond their institution’s doctrinal positions. The institution turns on the professor and the professor is left to clutch to supporters from outside the institution. After considering some academic casualties, Mascord draws to the following comment on page 100 of the book:

“Challenging tribal boundaries is taboo.  As a result, people either stop thinking
or they become dishonest, both of which are inconsistent with scholarship and the pursuit of truth”.

Now, there is a lot to be said about that comment.  For instance, are the “tribal boundaries” of academic institutions static? How rapidly can the boundaries change? Is it dishonest to ascribe to a doctrinal position where one’s heart is not fully aligned? - that is, is the problem with the scholar not the doctrine?. 

Mascord worries me in his grab on “stop thinking”.  I fear it is like those atheists who purport to have thought beyond the Bible.  Such atheists are want to dismiss the Bible as full of fairy tales, and to dismiss Christians and God-fearing people as mindless zombies.  Mascord justifies his position by proposing that others have stopped thinking just as the atheists critique others for opting for fairy tales.  Where is Mascord’s interest in peer testing his ‘new word’ – an interest that would see the ‘new word’ robustly tested as prophesy (a process that occurs less publicly than through the publication of a book)?

“Stop thinking” seems too trite a take by Mascord.  A man does not merely “stop thinking” if he (robotically) sticks with the boundaries imparted upon him by college.  One can enjoy bountiful thinking within the wonderful boundaries of the doctrine.  One can build on work of scholars that have been before.  One can take a pastoral view and determine how to best translate the learning into meaningful action amongst members of the community.  One can think of how to best impart the teaching upon others.  One can affirm the Articles of Religion on which the boundaries are structured.  Pastor John Piper captured some of these notions in a wonderfully titled book “Think”.

free and unattributable
So, one can think within “tribal boundaries” without being in a state where thinking has stopped.


Note: all links good as at 17 October 2016

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