Generous Orthodoxy  

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Christian doctrine and the murder mystery

The famous mystery writer Sue Grafton was interviewed today on WNYC (our superb local NPR station). She was intelligent, thoughtful, quietly analytical. She talked about constructing a mystery novel and all the various "rules" of the genre. All things considered, she thought, the rules are "liberating." That was her word. Flannery O'Connor said the same thing about doctrine. When you know what the boundaries are, you can work more freely and more adventurously. If you have to stop and make endless choices all the time, you are overwhelmed with choices and your work has no shape. For this reason, ballet dancers still have to do their barre exercises every day, aspiring poets need to learn the traditional forms, pianists do their five-finger exercises. Knowing what the communicatio idiomatum is may not be necessary for a sincere prayer, but if your understanding of the Godhead is limited to a "Jesus kerygma" (the presentation of Jesus prevalent today--a Jesus without Christology), the entire Christian faith is seriously compromised. Not everyone needs to know about perichoresis but there was a time when those who didn't know recognized that their teachers and leaders needed to know.

(The term "all things considered" is used here not only in homage to NPR but also as an attempt to avoid "at the end of the day" which has become so tiresome. Or, how about, "in the end," or "in the final analysis," or "after due consideration," or"summing up"... etc. )