In the third and final post of this blog series, I would like to discuss the important notion of critique and how it relates to the Christian doctrine of Redemption.
The notion of critique has originally to do with the idea of correctly assessing and suggesting a remedy for a given crisis infecting the public life of a given society. Making critique a key part of one’s engagement with the world – one’s participation in redemption – is a very Christian thing to do. Indeed, it is rather Judeo-Christian in that the prophets of old were essentially the equivalent of a modern-day social critic: they stood (sometimes literally) on the margins of society, looked into a given malaise of sin in the community, and offered a critical word for the health of its people.
In Ecclesiastes we read that there is a time for building up and a time for tearing down (cf. 3.1-8); and tearing down is not just physical: it’s also intellectual. But the intellectual “tearing down” is not done for its own sake. Almost anyone can say what is wrong with a given state affairs. Rather, critique is different from mere complaint in that true critique – i.e., Christian redemption – is a “tearing down” which ultimately seeks to edify or “build up” – i.e., to redeem the goodness, truth, beauty that has been lost.
In closing this series, I would like to end with three very practical principles of work of Christian Redemption. A theologically and practically Christian way to redeem the world with GTB is: (1) by Appraisal not Absorption (Ro. 12.2); (2) in Between war and wonderment; and (3) in and through Communities. First, by appraisal not absorption – we are called to be in but not of the world; yet neither are we to be afraid of the world (cf. Jn. 17.15-17). For this reason, we should be willing to learn how to speak (what Alasdaire MacIntyre calls) “second-first languages”: that is, learn how to speak in a language and tone that others (non-Christians) can understand (cf. 1 Co. 9.22b).
Secondly, between war and wonderment – if you were to finish this sentence, how would you: “You only live once, so …”? Many might say: “so enjoy life!”; others might go for: “so labor with all your heart!” The wise person would say: “live between the war mentality of ‘going hard’ and the wonderment of enjoying life for all it’s worth.” To the work-aholics among us, I would remind us that even God rested and was refreshed (cf. Gen. 2.2; Exo. 31.15-17). Finally, we ought to redeem in and through Communities – just as St. Paul had his disciple Timothy and his encourager Barnabas (cf. Acts 15.36-41), we also should learn the value of redeeming in teams.
So may the Christian doctrine of Redemption be both an important theological truth to learn and a crucial work that is lived out. And I hope these blog posts are helpful in encouraging you to learn and live out this aspect of our faith.