Win Win

James K.A. Smith interviews James Davison Hunter here, and then writes about him here. Let me give you a sec to get those read.

The same sorts of things that I have raised in my reviews of both Smith and Hunter could be said again here, but let’s not. Suffice it to say that after we have catalogued all the different screw-up factions in the Church, we are left with, and perhaps this is not a surprise, James Davison Hunter.

And the whole confusion behind this is captured by the title of the first article I linked.

“Neither Triumphalism nor Retreat: A Conversation about Faithful Presence with James Davison Hunter”

Get that? Neither triumphalism nor retreat, as though those were the comparable choices in a “neither left nor right,” or “neither heads nor tails” sort of way. But look closely at it. Neither triumphalism nor retreat.

I could make sense out of “neither advance nor retreat,” which means we are staying here I guess, and I could make sense (albeit less sense) out of “neither triumphalism nor retreatism.” Those would be comparisons that made some sort of sense. But having to choose between triumphalism and retreat makes me think that I am being asked if I want to be as tall as an oyster is round. It doesn’t matter how many times I go over the question in my mind . . .

Triumph is victory, and triumphalism is having a bad attitude about it. So why not the former without the latter? Retreat is a tactical decision to fall back, and retreatism is a disposition to do so whether the circumstances call for it or not. So we could compare two kinds of bad attitudes, or we could choose between two directions to go, but why are we being asked to choose between a direction to go on the one hand, and a bad attitude associated with the other direction to go on the other hand?

So if the point is “faithful presence,” I want to conclude with the question — why faithful presence? Not looking for a Sunday School answer here of “God, Jesus, Bible,” but rather asking about the teleology of faithful presence. What is the point? Some might say that the point is to change us, not the world. Smith comes close to that in his review. So the point is to get our white little hinderparts into heaven when we die. Then there are the worldlings who want nothing to do with the heavenly things, and just want to make sure that their bill becomes law.

I suggest a compromise. Let’s try to really change the world (without adding an ism to the triumph) and let’s try to get our white little hinderparts into heaven. Win, win.



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