Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Christian Literacy: Understanding the Best and Worst of Western Civilization

Being a faithful witness to Jesus Christ means being literate in a distinctive way. Primarily, it means having a meaningful understanding of the Bible, church history, and theology. Secondarily but still importantly, it means having a meaningful understanding of Western civilization. There is, of course, a complex relationship between the subjects of these two meaningful understandings.

To rightly understanding the history of Western civilization, we will want to understand it in terms of the Chalcedonian Formula. We have, first, a history of salvation, of the presence of God in the history of the world and the West, from creation until today. Second, we have the history of Olympianity, of the presence of six false gods in the history of the world and the West, from the rejection of God by Adam and Eve, followed by the rest of us, until today.
Following the Chalcedonian Formula, we don’t want to attempt to understand either history in isolation from the other. The history of Western civilization is not reducible to church history. We err when we think that we may rightly ignore all that happened in history outside of churches and Christians. God’s presence has never been limited to the Church and Christians nor has all or most of what the Church and Christians have said and done witnessed to Jesus.
At the same time, we don’t want to understand the history of Western civilization in isolation from church history. Current understandings of the history of Western civilization which ignore “religion,” or societal and personal commitments to God or gods, wrongly attempt to do this.
Following the Chalcedonian Formula, we don’t want to attempt to understand both histories by mixing them together into one tidy narrative. We do this, for example, when we interpret both histories through an Olympian worldview, see everything in terms of a struggle for power, and confuse virtue with success. Or when we attempt to smooth out any differences between biblical and Olympian narratives by blending the biblical story of creation with evolutionary theory. These two narratives are, and should remain, distinct. Or when we confuse the people of one nation, such as America, with God’s Chosen People and then confuse the history of America with that of the Kingdom of God.
Following the Chalcedonian Formula, we want to keep these two histories in their proper order. Priority always goes to God's work in our world and to the biblical narrative of that work. We seek to affirm all that witnesses to that work and to learn from all that doesn’t.
This website has been my effort to help myself, you, and others to develop the Tufluvian literacy we need to share God’s light, love, and life more clearly. On the “Bible” page I list, in biblical order, essays that speak about that normative witness to Jesus and its meaning for us today. On the “History” page, I list reflections on important people, places, and events, and on literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music, in chronological order. By reflecting on these together, we may yet provide Jesus with the five loaves and two fish he needs to feed 5,000 others through us!

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.