My whining derives from the fact that I am convinced that Protestantism really needs to develop its own self-critique if it is to avoid becoming just another idiom for secular values of whatever kind we choose. It seems to me that the clear alliance between political philosophies and the church which has existed in various forms since the time of the Reformation and, in each instance, appears to be regarded as `natural' rather than `cultural,' cries out for solid, evangelical types to reflect critically on culture in a way that goes beyond the anodyne appropriation of the latest secular trend. It's a provocatice suggestion, but I think reflection upon the differences between, say, Marx and Weber, and an understanding of where both men went wrong, is probably a good place to start. At least then we start from a
point which reminds us that people are more than linguistic constructs, that life is more than language, that the biggest con-trick out there is `culture' presenting itself as `nature' (read Romans 1), and that the reasons why we think the way we do are intimately connected to a whole host of factors which go beyond the mere intellectual. And that, incidentally, is one of the reasons why good church history is important; it should train its students to think cirtically and holistically about the world in a way that will allow them to engage that world in a critical and holistic way.
As I led a discussion on the Crusades today and the problem of Christians promoting violence (whether in the twelfth and thirteen centuries or the twenty-first), my goal was summed up in that last sentence. If I can simply help my students think critically and holistically (which means, of course, thinking historically) about contemporary claims, then I would have accomplished my main task--which is nothing less than helping students gain wisdom and insight into God's (and human beings') ways in this world.