Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Elitism vs. Reductionism

While preparing for our weekly study time with the children, I noticed something in our curriculum. We were talking about what we can do in order to live a life that God finds pleasing. And the material prompted me to display a list of ten virtues, everything from reading your Bible, praying, loving others, sharing Jesus, giving, worship, service and even listening to Christian music among others.

I wonder, how do we walk the line between being elitist and being reductionistic. Elitism might prompt me to dive deeper than what any 4th grader could go to explain that the "listology" appearing to be given can really only hinder our relationship God unless we truly live out of the knowledge that though I do these ten things, I do them out of sheer delight and never duty. And, that doing them out of duty robs me of their inherent value so that doing them out of delight is the only way that they can every be fully understood and enjoyed.

Or, I could simply reduce the gospel down to a list of things that God wants us to do to "follow Him and live a life that is pleasing to Him." And in doing so, I'd absolutely neuter the gospel of all it's worth because I am so flawed that unless I rely on his grace these lists are nothing but hindrances to me.

Perhaps I read too much into the material. And in the end, I tried, probably unsuccessfully, to easily explain that trying to put together lists of things that please God is a good starting point but sometimes very tricky so we must remember that it is our faith alone which saves us. But yet I wonder, can what is taught to our children and our youth be as theologically rock solid as the best of adult teaching or are we doomed forever to fall of one side of the horse. Either elitism (here is the gospel of Christ, sorry you can't understand it) or reductionism (here is the gospel of Christ, so watered down it ceases to be the gospel of Christ). Is there a way to have theologically rock solid teaching and teaching materials that aren't elitist or reductionistic?

If not, there should be....

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