Saturday, August 18, 2007

Where Have All the Crosses Gone

I have jokingly referred to myself, on account of my persistent lack of faith, as the only Calvinist who is not part of the elect. This comment is quite innocuous coming from a greenhorn theologian like myself, however, I have recently been privy to a number of disturbing theological comments made by Garrett-Evangelical staff and faculty. Future seminarians beware.

Perhaps the most harmless statement occurred today. I asked a Biblical Studies professor to explain why I missed an entire letter grade on an essay question. Their response, “It was too theological.” I rejoined, “Isn’t good biblical studies ultimately good theology?” A pause, then the professors response, “Not in this class, I’m looking only for the context.” Harnack seems to have won the day, and the historical critical method lives on.

The second incident happened during light conversation with another faculty member a few days ago. While discussing a range of topics the professor jovially remarked that for him, the word “orthodoxy” is pejorative. His comment was made without malice, but struck me odd for a professor working in a seminary. Are there not Religious Studies departments for such minded professors?

The final was by far the most disturbing. A group of students recently wanted to display a cross in each classroom. The students presented the issue to one of the higher administrators at Garrett-Evangelical. The administrator showed great reluctance toward the idea, because, as was quoted back to me, “Some see it as a symbol of torture.” The predominant symbol of the Christian faith might offend people in the confines and corridors of a Christian seminary? Is Christianity so susceptible to Foucaultian deconstructionism that renders all action into inevitable power plays? How can one not witness if one cannot point back to the cross? And perhaps most importantly, as a good friend of mine offered, isn’t the cross ultimately an ironic symbol. Original a symbol of Roman oppression and torture, that through Christ was then appropriated as a sign of resurrection and eternal forgiveness? To see the cross as a symbol of torture is to stop reading the gospels at the dereliction of the cross.

Paula Cole wrote an unfortunate song entitled, “Where Have the Cowboys Gone?” This one hit wonder, inspires me to muse, where have all the crosses gone? Some seminarians should be downright furious and dumbfounded at such developments. And I would even suggest, take appropriate action.

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