Move Over Paradigm, Make Room for W-w

In response to the Pew report that has Christians scrambling to say it’s not as bad as it seems (an overview is here), Ross Douthat opines that three w-ws compete for outlooks in the United States:

Many Americans still … accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.

But this biblical world picture is increasingly losing market share to what you might call the spiritual world picture, which keeps the theological outlines suggested by the manger scene — the divine is active in human affairs, every person is precious in God’s sight — but doesn’t sweat the details.

This is the world picture that red-staters get from Joel Osteen, blue-staters from Oprah, and everybody gets from our “God bless America” civic religion. It’s Christian-ish but syncretistic; adaptable, easygoing and egalitarian. It doesn’t care whether the angel really appeared to Mary: the important thing is that a spiritual version of that visitation could happen to anyone — including you.

Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message — the common person as the center of creation’s drama — remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.

So where does this leave Roman Catholics who are not squarely situated in the biblical w-w? I mean, if Mark Shea is right and that Protestants don’t have the Bible without tradition or the church, then Roman Catholicism doesn’t fit in Douthat’s scheme of w-w’s. Or is Ross a compromiser who has spent too much time with Protestants and can only think of the Bible as an authority and so needs the true paradigm that only Bryan and the Jasons provide? Or could it be that post-Vatican 2, Roman Catholics in the U.S. are really more at home in the spiritual w-w — “the divine is active in human affairs” (the pope speaks about everything) and “every person is precious in God’s sight” (human dignity).

That leaves evangelical converts to Rome to sweat the details.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Move Over Paradigm, Make Room for W-w

  1. It’s hard when your whole story is ” our numbers ” are the best, and then you dont meet expectations. Pride comes before the fall , in other words.

    It mirrors what I see in corporate america. When times are great, we are all golfing at resorts with the CEO.

    When times are tough, you better hold on to your favorite flat cap.

    Peaks and valleys, in other words, in RCism vs. the biblical view we see in Proverbs of steady plodding. Or the Christian life as endurance, and not victory after victory 24/7, if that makes sense.

    Good post. Thanks.

    Like

  2. I mean, if Mark Shea is right and that Protestants don’t have the Bible without tradition or the church, then Roman Catholicism doesn’t fit in Douthat’s scheme of w-w’s.

    This is even more incoherent a thesis than usual.

    Like

  3. Tom, I think Darryl’s point is that first w-w:

    Many Americans still … accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.

    is where Catholics should find themselves, as opposed to the Oprah/Osteen w-w or the secular w-w. Don’t you find it a bit ironic that Douthat uses the Bible as the basis for this worldview and not the church, and hence Darryl wonders if Douthat is spending too much time with protestants. Think a little more on it, and get back to us.

    Like

  4. Don’t you find it a bit ironic that Douthat uses the Bible as the basis for this worldview and not the church, and hence Darryl wonders if Douthat is spending too much time with protestants. Think a little more on it, and get back to us.

    If that’s his point, it’s a category error.

    First of all, when one is speaking to a general audience that includes [sola scriptura] Protestants, one includes as much Bible as possible, since Protestants know little of actual Catholic teaching and what they do know is probably wrong.

    As for the estimable Mr. Douthat, he’s discussing sociology more than theology, and legitimate scholars should be able to tell the difference. [He is not a theologian.] I bring up Protestantism’s 1000s of sects not as pollworthy, but as a necessary result of its “every man a pope” theology.

    I don’t care if 1.8 million members of the Presbyterian Church [USA] believe in ordaining “married” lesbian couples. What does concern me is that this theology has taken over that church. A “theological society” that can’t make that distinction should change its name to something more more honest, like Forget Us, Catholicism Sucks Worse.

    Like

  5. Tom,

    The Bible and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are mutually exclusive?

    And you’re going with the latter?

    You need to love us like Douthat does.

    Like

  6. vd, t, so how are Roman Catholics biblical. No Mary, no gospel? That’s what the apostles taught?

    You’re now in Mark Shea territory?

    Risible.

    Like

  7. Golden State advances to the next round. MVP Curry over 30 pts last night, woot!

    I don’t care if 1.8 million members of the Presbyterian Church [USA] believe in ordaining “married” lesbian couples.

    Hey now.., that’s the church my grandma has been in since a child, her grandfather was an elder in the old UPCUSA in Michigan, and now her parricular megachurch in Walnut Creek (www[dot]wcpres.org/) is leaving the 230+ year old denom for the baby Evangelical Covenant Order of presbyterians, as my mega church down the street already has done and many more continue to. Pray for Christ’s church wherever she may be. We Presbyterians covet the prayers of all those who profess the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    Who’s next?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s