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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

"Resistance" as Will-To-Power

Saturday, November 25, 2006

When an institutional power is at odds with the values that your community holds and the ability to reform that institution also lays outside of your community's power, you have two choices: You can either submit to the powers that be and accept gradual conformity to its values or you can organize to resist.

So begins a post on the blog Classical Presbyterian (CP), written by a Texas pastor named Toby Brown. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, Brown is a colleague of NPH's, yet the two blogging pastors probably have little else in common. Such is the state of the PC (USA), for good and ill.
Brown wrote this week about "resistance," the effort that he is now committed to, having "lost," along with fellow militant conservatives, the intra-church fights over constitutional issues (whether Brown and company "lost" anything is a seriously suspect claim by itself, but his sense of defeat points up a major flaw in the decision-making system traditionally employed by the church, a difficulty that the PUP report so maligned by those conservatives prominently discussed: the creation of winners and losers).
The premise of this resistance, as evidenced by the above quotation, is that the values of Brown's congregation are at odds with the institutional structure of the church and that the church has taken away the ability of such congregations to reform it. NPH has serious difficulties with this assertion.
First of all, the assertion that the values of a congregation like Brown's are at odds with the institutional structure of the PC (USA) gives up, immediately, the langue of "right," "good," and "true" in exchange for the language of "values." This is a cultural capitulation against the likes of which Brown would rail were it to pertain to sexuality or church property.
Lesslie Newbigin writes about western civilization's captivity to the thought forms of modernity. He notes that,
"Claims to speak meaningfully about right and wrong are discounted. Instead, one speaks of 'values.' These values are a matter of personal choice. They express what the person who holds them wishes to see enacted. They are precisely expressions of the will."

Brown supposes that the "values" held by himself and his congregation are at odds with the larger church to which they both belong. Further, he asserts those values to be "classical Presbyterian" values, derived exclusively from Scripture (he talks about "equipping the saints with the truths of Biblical faith"--a thoroughly modern view of Scripture: Scripture as an infallible repository of "truths" to be unflinchingly applied to life).
What this claim demonstrates more than anything else is the utter refusal on the part of Brown and those who agree with him to engage in anything resembling a meaningful conversation about the "truth," about what is "right" and "good" for the church. Because they have chosen their values already, and chief among those values is a refusal to change one's mind, the value of steadfastly "taking a stand" in the face of conflict. This is just as much of a cultural accomodation as anything Brown and Co. openly despise in the larger church, if not moreso; it pervades everything they believe.
NPH believes that he is part of a church that is committed to discerning truth and goodness, not just asserting "values." The "resistance" of colleagues like Brown is easily recognizable as un-true and not good, because it is little more than a strategy for imposing one's will on others by refusing to yield, even by refusing to talk. It is a capitulation to culture, albeit to the culture of modernity, not the one we live in today.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:04 AM


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