20) Truth Be Told vs. Truth Be Lived | Dr. Brian J. Walsh

Quick! What's the opposite of "true?" Did you say "false?" What if the opposite of "truth" is not "false," but rather "alienated?" This week, Mark discusses "truth" from the work of Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat in their fantastic Colossians Remixed. An ancient Hebrew - and therefore Biblical-worldview - understanding and use of the word "truth" is better defined by the English words "loyal" or "faithful." That means when we talk about truth, we're not talking about something provable or propositional, but rather an extended relationship between two or more engaged subjects. And that makes the statement "______ is true" not so much an empirical claim, but rather an intimate experience to be lived.

Then Mark sits down with Dr. Brian Walsh, author, farmer, and professor at Wycliffe College. Brian shares the story of his early years and how he first came to know Jesus people and the gospel. He then talks about what motivates his theological reflections on the music of Bruce Cockburn, and expounds on how we've lost our way in handling ancient texts, how to get back on track, and how to handle tensions and contradictions between Biblical texts. He then shares his convictions around "owning" one's worldview, how to evaluate our collective worldviews, and how worldview can interact with one another. Finally, he turns to the question of what is wrong with Empire, how a Christian worldview must subvert empire, and what it means to be faithful to a new vision of what the world can be. 


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Notable Quotes from Dr. Brian Walsh

"I was drawn to a cultural apologetic. I became a Christian on Yonge Street and not in my high school philosophy class. And so what I wanted to know was, 'Does Jesus give me a vision - or what later on I would come to call a worldview - to see my world more clearly and to engage my world?' Because it was pretty clear to me that since the Word became flesh and as Peterson says moved into the neighborhood, then we need to know the neighborhood in which the Word had moved into. So I became very interested in culture."

"Cockburn himself is open enough as an artist that he knows that once a song is out there, he doesn't have final say on its meaning. in fact, the song might mean something different even to him at a different point in his life in a different performance context...."

"The church fathers, they interpret these texts allegorically in incredibly fanciful ways. And I am enough of a Protestant not to like what they did, but I still look back and say, 'But gee, they were having fun!' And the text was open the text was alive. And it seems to me that in a Modernist framework – a modern rationalist framework – we want to nail texts down to a set and determined meaning. Well then you've done a couple of things. One is you've nailed it down which means it can't go anywhere. Its stuck. And another thing is: it's no longer a live text; it's a dead text."

"I've had students in the past say, 'Well, I don't read the Bible anymore because I already know what it says.' Well, if you know what it says then you haven't read it. As one of my rules of interpretation: if the Bible always mirrors back to you what you already believe, you are misreading the Bible. Also, if the Bible never pisses you off, you are misreading the Bible. So modern Christianity and sadly Evangelicalism is at the heart of all this stuff – wants to nail down a text and wants to come to final meanings, and then ends up with a dead text that can no longer speak newness. And what can you do with the dead text? You can go kill people with it. It then becomes a text to hit people over the head with."

"Another way to put this in which we wouldn't need to use these heavily loaded words - fiction and myth - is to simply say, 'It's a story; it's a true story, but it's a story like any good historical story. A historian tells a story - doesn't just record data. That's an archivist - records data. No, historians are storytellers. And so what we meet in the Bible is a whole bunch of storytellers, and sometimes they disagree with each other. Sometimes it's not that they disagree; they are just telling different sides of the story. That's why you have four Gospels."

"Isaiah and Micah they are pretty clear in their vision of what God's covenantal world should look like. This is a world in which swords should be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Joel disagrees. Joel reverses it. Joel knows exactly what Isaiah and Micah have said, and he says, 'No, in fact what we need to do is to take our pruning hooks and make spears; we need to take our plows and make swords. Because there is a holy war afoot and this is how God's kingdom is going to come.' And so you look at it and think, 'Well there is an interesting debate among the prophets!' We can allow some of these debates to just be there. There they are. Sometimes we have to find a way to come down on these things. Jesus comes down. Jesus says, 'I'm with Isaiah and Micah on this one. I'm with Isaiah and Micah. Which doesn't mean that Joel has nothing to say to us, because on the day of Pentecost, you really need Joel to make sense of all this babble going on.... It's all a question of the dance of interpretation."

"It seems to me that all human beings live with some sort of vision of life - some way in which life makes some sort of sense. And if you don't have any way of making sense of life, then really suicide is the tragic option. Or severe psychosis. So what I'm saying is, it's not so much a matter of, 'You gotta stop and think it through and decide this is going to be my worldview.' But I am saying that human beings need to come clean with themselves and with each other and say, 'Yeah there are certain things that are foundational that I believe. And can I give you a good rational argument for those beliefs? Well no, of course not.' Is there some neutral set of criteria by which we can evaluate each other's beliefs? No."

"Are [all worldviews] created equal? No. Some of them are damned bad. The worldview that believes that the trajectory of history is towards civilizational progress defined in terms of economic growth and technological power and scientific control is a disastrous narrative."

"Empires are always insatiable. They're always greedy for more. There's never enough. There's never enough wealth, there's never enough power, there's never enough control, there's never enough land."

"We just celebrated a couple of days ago the 200th birthday of Sir John A, MacDonald. Well the guy was a social Darwinist who believed that the aboriginal peoples of Canada probably could not be civilized and therefore should be eradicated. That is the foundation of Canada. We often look to our neighbors in the South and say, 'Your foundation is in slavery.' Our foundation is in genocide."

"Empires always have narratives that justify themselves. Always have narratives that basically say, 'This is the way the world unfolds. We are at the cutting edge of history.' It doesn't matter whether it's the Egyptian narrative or the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Romans or Western Europe or the American Empire today and global capitalism - they all tell the same kind of a story. And the Bible is written, as Walter Bruggeman puts it, always in the shadow of Empire from Page 1. The Genesis story is a counter-narrative to the Babylonian creation myths. From Page 1, the first major city that we meet is called - surprise surprise - Babel. So the Bible is constantly written over against Empire and the Bible gets stuck. Especially with Solomon and the monarchy. When the people who are called to be counter to Empire start acting like an empire, they start living like an empire, the church become stuck when it becomes an empire."

"Somehow we continue to live with this myth… that because we are white and Western, somehow this was still a Christian culture. It was never a Christian culture."

"I would say being post-Christendom is a very good thing; it creates the possibility of the liberation of the church."

"What's the big deal with Empire? Well, partially it's that the Bible is always written in the shadow of one Empire or another. But I think also Empire would be a way of describing how humans engage in history-making and culture-forming and civilizational constructs when they do rooted in idolatry and not serving the creator God. They always will take on Imperial form. It's the nature of sin - when sin takes on historical and socio-culture and economic shape, it always takes an imperial kind of character. It always has an insatiability, it always has a way of describing itself as good, it always is going to be violent. Always. It's always going to be rooted in violence. Because what we see in the biblical narrative is as soon as there is that declaration of independence in the garden... within one generation, we're in a culture of radical violence where brother kills brother. And then by the time you get to Genesis 6 - we're only six chapters in - we meet the most devastating verse in the whole Bible: where God sees that there's nothing but evil continually in the imaginations of the hearts of human beings."

"The biblical creation story as opposed to all other ancient near Eastern creation stories - Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite... the biblical creation story is a story of primordial peace - there's no violence in Genesis 1. It's this beautiful unfolding of a world."

"We're bearing witness. We offer an interpretation of what it means to be clothed in Christ as Paul talks about in Colossians 3. And we say, 'How will that shape the community? How would that shape a political vision? How would that shape an economics? What does it mean to have an economics of kindness and gentleness? Well it sure as heck doesn't look like the structures of global capitalism! Global capitalism is rooted in violence. So what does it mean then to try and live a life that as much as possible secedes from global capitalism."

"When it comes to economics, all of these mutual funds and really the heart of financial interactions around the world every day is actually financial transactions that have nothing to do with goods and services for anybody. It's all the financial markets. So it's money chasing money to make money. And it seems to me that Christians should have nothing to do with money that chases money to make money. Money is to serve people. So if you have money, you need to invest money in a way that serves real people with real needs. And that could well be that you're going to invest in a business that produces real products that people need. But money chasing money is the heart of an idolatrous economics."

"Wine Before Breakfast is a community that takes seriously that we are homo liturgicus - that worship shapes who we are, shapes our imagination. So we engage the Scriptures and celebrate the Eucharist every week and allow resonances to happen between the Scriptures and the contemporary canon of pop music. And the whole point of Wine Before Breakfast is to help shape the community that imagines the world differently and lives the world differently."

"We know that following Jesus is the path of the cross. We know that following Jesus is a path of suffering. We know that we live in a very very broken world and that we are very very broken people. So lament is a really central part of who we are. We just let the shit out and we name it for what it is and we sing it out we pray it out and we go to the Scriptures for liberation."

"The Kingdom of God is a party. And rejoicing and celebrating is really important.... What's the hope? I guess the hope is that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Son and he will reign forever and ever. There is the hope....  It's one of the reasons we break bread and drink wine every Tuesday morning. And something that is often a refrain found in the Eucharist is: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. And you repeat that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. And we live with that as our foundational story. And that's a story that gives us profound hope."


Next Week's Episode 21

Guest: Josh Brake, founder of Kutoa